Essays

Hurray, America is Number One Again (Essay)


 

Today is Wednesday and I don’t work till later so have some free time. I did not feel like cooking and had no errands to run. I did bring my Netbook because I did know some free time will be on hand. Today is not a good nor a bad day. Wednesdays in retail and restaurant business are always mixed. Sometimes they are very good and sometimes very bad. There is hardly any in between. My personal theory has been that customers are confused. Certain things happen toward end of the week and others are pushed toward the beginning of the week but the middle is not fixed. Sometimes, much happens by plan or chance and the opposite at other times. Today is a normal Wednesday for me except chances of rain is 80% but no rain in sight for now.

I see everywhere in social media how exciting it is that America is finally number one when it comes to wine consumption. America is always happy to be number one and many times number one can be something meaningless or bad in short or long term. Wine consumption has significance on many scales. One thing to consider is it has been on the extreme decline in countries where wine is a mainstay of the culture and diet. It is great to see it has come down so much that America (a non-wine drinking country by history and tradition) is finally able to achieve number one! What does number one mean in this case?

It means many things and the public hardly know anything of what it can mean except that it must be good if everybody else is doing it and if a lot of it is good. That is typical provincial American thinking that is most commonplace in this country and is widely recognized as one’s right to an opinion. Unfortunately, most Americans do not know that on a bona fide scale of measurement, how few of them would even qualify as “people!” but that is all well as long as one lives in the United States and gets so much support by the media and the popular culture on being right and doing right by being what one is. What is an opinion of who is qualified to have one (so it matters and is LEGITIMATE) may fall within the realm of the field of philosophy but would probably better be explored when studying rhetoric. It is no surprise that the most important topic of “rhetoric” as an academic subject of study (one which was and is the domain of the best of human persons) is only available at TWO American universities. Berkeley and I forgot what on the East Coast still offer Doctors of Philosophy in Rhetoric (whatever that is to an American!) The idea of an opinion is besides this piece but worth mentioning that hardly anyone who lives and walks and talks on the surface of the Earth within the boundaries of this country is able to have a “qualified” opinion on many subjects if any. And that is what America is built on. The make belief that one knows and knows best and should take action based on makes this country what is. In wiser domains, one would seek an “authority” for a “qualified opinion” so one would not take action based on wrong understanding if any. In America, everyone is exempt from such standards and is entitled to making up whatever garbage one wishes and presenting such as an “opinion.”

That is another story but today in a non-wine drinking country, a great accomplishment has been made. The main contenders in the drinking game of how many empty bottles have been abandoning the bottle for alternatives across the generations and it has reached a point that somebody else can reach the heights of this field by counting more empty bottles. Whatever that means? What does it mean? Why does it matter? Those are questions you can ask and seek answers if this is your field.

I remember a few years back, a local magazine had criticized (on behalf of local California wineries) the sommelier at a famous local restaurant for refusing to carry California wines mostly on the grounds that alcohol was too high for dining. I had to send a note of support that day and I could not not agree more. The topic has been exhausted and needless to discuss but the issue remains the alcohol is too high in some local wines. That is a chronic problem which becomes significant on a day such as today. America is now world champion in the highest number of empty bottles and definitely determined to remain there. That means more empty bottles of wine are needed and the public now have a popular culture mandate since America has finally “arrived” that Americans should not be left out. They have to do their share of their drinking wine so they are in. Otherwise, they will be missing out and everyone knows that. This mindset may have been established in high school through peer pressure and advertising but is 100% alive today. Will this have a serious impact on any scale besides emptying warehouses of wine cases? Yes. As any opportunity always is misused and abused, this one will be also. The smarter minds in the business have already figured out how to exploit such an opportunity. Americans have no tradition of drinking wine and need to find one fast. Where does that come from? It comes from America and thus is American. Who makes such traditions? That depends.

But when it comes to drugs (alcohol being one), it is a job for a celebrity to push it. One day when Americans have grown up and become “people” they may be able to agree it is a “qualified opinion” of “experts” that a celebrities primary job is basically to sell the highest profiting commodity to the most vulnerable segments of society (it is also known as selling drugs to children as an example and which music and media star does not do one’s share? Only the backward country music people. Everyone else knows how to live and what is the good life and help the public follow.) America’s wine drinking tradition and how-to will most likely appear (by help of giant distributors and multi-national alcohol companies) through hip celebrities who will teach Americans how to drink, what to drink and so on. Stories of cool people and their cool drinking happenings will be abundant soon and what of it? Lots of empty bottles will be the measure of good life as it is with beer bottles and was chronic smoking at one time for another generation. There is no possibility that this golden opportunity will be missed and America will not become a wine drinking country for good. Americans will learn how to drink from all the wrong people and those “high alcohol” wines that scared many in the business will be the “norm” in no time resulting in populations of good Americans who are dependent on alcohol by drinking the wrong wine the wrong way. There is a big warning sign there for anyone who is in the business for the long run and cares for the health of the non-existent “food and beverage” industry (at least locally in Northern California). Alcohol abuse will turn the country against wine in no time and wine will be the enemy in no time. All the efforts made in education and promotion of qualify wine from various regions of the world will be lost once the society finds new numbers supporting the damage being number one is doing. That will arrive in no time and soon a sommelier will be no different than a drug pusher by offering and promoting wine to the general public. It won’t be long that people scoff at the long and hard training and education to become a professional who pushes wine bottles onto people! By then, everyone will know what “wine” is and what it DOES. Their worthless opinions will answer all questions once again. The field (for the lack of a legitimate industry) of food and wine may face a very serious challenge in only a few years if popular culture is allowed to determine too many things relevant including what is “proper wine consumption” for an American. I know I won’t raise a finger to help since too few care except for those outside of the field who oppose and are waiting to kick the ass of the people in this business being good or bad people. It is up to the top people in the industry to “think” a little and possibly offer “qualified opinions” on what they think proper wine drinking for Americans should be. I think strict rule of two glasses daily (across population and not for industry people) by themselves or drinking wine only with food in more quantities will be a starting rule of thumb. It takes a lot more to save the American public from their “opinions” which they have a right to and the evil of the business world who have had plans for decades how to exploit such an opportunity when and if it arrives. It has. America is number one again and is only good for THEM as usual.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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On Being There and Doing Enough (Essay 19)


 

Today is Saturday and I am off work which is a very good thing. I spent the morning doing not much besides eating, drinking, watching movies and when I did do something it was that I went shopping. I cannot say I have had a productive day nor that it has been a waste. I am happy to have the day off and not have much to do. I was reading through my twitter this morning as I do daily and one advantage of using my favorite twitter program “UberTwitter” is since its layout is well-designed and I notice everything 100% and read everything 100%. I find this an important factor because I would never read as such if I used twitter on my laptop or netbook nor did I do this when I only used the Blackberry’s standard twitter application. One single application has features (including design, colors and sizes of things) that make me read through everything. I find this important since I would hardly care what goes on in my twitter if I had not been using UberTwitter. One exciting thing that happened today was I noticed a familiar logo and a short tweet. I am very sure I have not missed many of earlier tweets because I read through almost everything. Guild of Sommelier is a trade association which operates as an organized body of professionals who are or aspire to function as wine stewards and at similar positions and are not shy of facing bona fide standards for education which can be thorough and difficult. In short, people are not attracted to Guild of Sommelier just because they like wine. I somehow was delighted to see a tweet from the Guild of Sommelier and I could have replied to their training question with what I remember of Punt e Mas (spelling?) but instead had to reply by complementing them for being around in the twitter universe. That was this morning and I have been thinking about it on the side since then. Why was I excited to see their tweet? What difference does it make to have them around floating in the middle of all the tweets that go around? What is going on anyway?

Twitter is a social media platform that has become very famous for several reasons. Most people subscribe to popular definitions because culturally they are trained to repeat and follow what the media, the famous people and everyone else tells them what anything is. Public is trained to expect and adopt some flawed definition from sources they are trained to receive them from. Twitter is basically no more than a micro-blog and succeeds and fails where micro-blogs do. I know many people who have tried and found tweeting to be very difficult and not natural to them while others thrive. The biggest misconception about twitter is the conversation platform. Statistics show very clearly only a tiny percent of users participate in conversation while the giant bulk of twitter activity is simply broadcast. A twitter account holder issues tweets and others follow to read. That is the practical function of twitter: Broadcasting. The other ignored fact about twitter is the platform by nature relates the account holder to many more strangers than people one is associated with. Twitter is a place to socialize with strangers compared to Facebook where one socializes with known others and because of this information can be shared with anyone. I am not sure how much socializing goes on except between specific account holders who not only know each other well or relate to each other very well but have enough levels of activity to be around and socialize. What really goes on twitter is broadcasting. Billions and billions of tweets go out without stop and numbers show these tweets are without a doubt one way broadcasts rather than extensive socializing.

What is the consequence of so many broadcast stations going off at the same time? An individual can connect to many many sources of tweets as resources for what goes on in one’s corner of universe. What is known in this space has a great deal to do with the people who send the tweets and the quality of the content. I try not to follow too many people (106 presently) so I can read the tweets consistently. I also have personal and professional rules for whom I follow. Many of the people I follow tweet sporadically while some live on twitter. I have diligently read thousands and thousands of tweets by folks I do not know (except through our twitter connection) simply because the quality of the tweets were good. I have also censored (cut off, unfollow) many because what was tweeted simply made no sense or was not worth following. Some very active twitter persons have too much fun being on twitter and use twitter as a chatroom. Their only problem is getting others to play with them. One last group, I could care less for is anyone who turns off color and goes in that direction. My twitter list is basically a group of people I follow in the wireless field and another group I follow in the wine field. The few others who flow in between have always been there or I have a good personal reason to follow. Another interesting thing about twitter is some tweet a lot and all the time while others tweet never or sporadically. There is no middle range of tweets amongst those I follow. Some have very high number of tweets and others have very few.

Many of the sources that I follow share specific topics very closely and in real time. Those who follow their tweets have some level of interest in what is said and also follow the same topics to some extent. A big problem with a medium such a micro-blog is too much independence. Micro-blog differs slightly from a blog in that anybody can issue posts without any controls. Since too many people are actively making blogs and issuing whatever they please, the success of a blog is measured by numbers. There are so many systems in place to measure and compare whatever can be counted in the blog universe. Twitter has done very well likewise because one can see many numbers as part of the platform and identify oneself with these numbers. One consequence of this erroneous system that is tied to ego is anyone can act and behave (if not declare oneself) as an authority on something by simply making posts and tweeting them if enough people follow. Twitter provides a captive audience of followers and the general public for each person holding an account to issue posts at. A person can develop an identity of some type here and live here in one’s own twitter universe (or dimension). I have no opinion of what right or wrong may relate to the identity created within twitter universe but can tell you since the first day I started using twitter I have suffered the fact that a twitter account holder can name an account whatever and claim to be whatever followed by issuing whatever tweets one wishes of any dubious content and others have to take the time to find out the real value of such broadcaster. Authentic authorities (those whom relate to your topics of interest) are difficult to find on twitter because unless one knows the person to be an authority through other sources, the twitter system provides nothing but flawed and if not deceptive information on identity and qualifications. The other problem that is probably more harmful is since twitter has been around long enough, almost everyone who is doing something (including the qualified of any field) have a twitter account but this does not mean any activity or enough activity is registered on that broadcast. This has been my biggest problem. I have found twitter to be a good medium for very limited applications but it does serve several purposes within those limitations. If only I can find the “right” people to follow and if only they posted “enough” tweets to be a person of value in terms of contributing to others’ knowledge, I will be able to get plenty of real-time information and valuable insights by simply glancing and scrolling through my tweets when I have a few minutes to spare or have nothing else to do. I have found that finding the “right” people is very difficult but I have found MANY. My next problem has been that only a small percentage of the “right” people issue enough tweets to be sharing with the field and those interested in the topics. They do their contributions elsewhere while having an identity by a twitter profile. That is why I was so excited when I noticed a tweet from Guild of Sommeliers.

I read through so many tweets simply because a good percentage of my time is fragmented by activities and is available only in chunks of a few minutes here and there. This time is very efficiently and effectively utilized by having access to good resources on twitter. A very large number of the very short tweets can be read in only a few minutes and if they have any content of value, those few minutes are extremely well-spent professionally. Ideally, a person interested in a topic should follow a good number of resources (people, organizations, etc.) who post tweets of value and this person should be on top of many many things by the few minutes of reading one does here and there. It is possible for one of so many to also provide some tweets of value in return when possible. This carefully created universe of specific users creates an opportunity for people who work in fields such as technology and wine to be able to keep up with the multitudes of little things that occur and shape the industry without any hindrance. Guild of Sommeliers made my day by posting one simple question to get the ball rolling on a field question but also turned from being one of those few sources that have authority, credibility and value to one that shares enough to benefit others whom are at the mercy of any John or Jane Doe who claims to be an authority of the field and happens to tweet enough to keep others interested.

Personally, I have never liked twitter and have suggested more than once that one of the bigger technology companies should make a micro-blog platform similar to twitter but be limited to professionals sharing thus saving us from twitter and its many rivers of none-sense tweets. That has not happened yet but what has happened is since many of those who are more qualified in various fields are finally present on twitter, the next step can be accomplished by expecting them to share enough (even if in short tweets occasionally) so the rest of the field can keep up with their progresses. Since the first step is practically complete, the second step can be accomplished and what Guild of Sommelier did today was just that. They are sharing. They and others of qualification will change the field (even if in a hypothetical micro-blog universe or dimension) by simply being around and sharing. This is a great lesson for others to keep the field going in all arenas. Each arena has its own dynamics. Micro-blogs have many limitations as do other mediums but within those limits, it is possible to contribute decisively. Since almost everyone is on twitter, sharing is the stage we are at and hopefully others will learn from Guild of Sommeliers. I am curious how many of them would automatically contribute actively if a good software match (as UberTwitter in my case) could be made for what device they use? I would say all.

(P.S. This piece was written within the guidelines for my writing for my blogs which involves certain third parties input. I have cleaned up this piece slightly and created paragraphs for ease of reading. This is more in consideration of the people mentioned who would expect a piece involving them at least be easily readable. In general, I am expected to write a first draft without correction (which can turn into an extremely long piece with no breaks and very difficult to read at times) in support of the thesis that raw thought (given that it is valid and of value) is of significant value by itself even if not touched up (changed) for presentation and especially if not changed at all from its raw format. This piece deviates from these guidelines by being slightly cleaned up. I promise it won’t happen again.)

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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The Best Food Writer inĀ America. (Essay 18)


 

food critic

(Photo from Google Images)(I just did a search under name and this is the top photo on Google! for the search)

Today is Thursday. I just spoke to the ticket lady at the Transit Store and found out I had my days mixed up. Today is not Friday. I am too excited for Friday so the week ends. I have to buy a big load of dress shirts this Saturday. Our dress code has changed and have option of jeans but I think casual business is still the norm for business to exist in the long run. Jeans and polo shirts are great one day a week or for events but customers subconsciously gauge the person and dress shirt with whatever pants as adhering to business norms. I may be wrong but don’t think so. I managed to lose plenty of weight last year and need smaller shirts now. I have several new apps on my Blackberry that really help with many things. Vayyoo is a very cool app for doing social media except has its advertising signature that is so big one cannot post to 160 word sites!!! I emailed my complaint. The app is good itself for now. Drivesafe.ly must be on every smartphone. It comes handy for driving but also notifies of all text messages and emails upon arrival if one wears a Bluetooth. I like that. It keeps me from checking my phone for messages, etc all the time. I have a separate phone for my social media stuff that arrive as text messages but important stuff go to my Blackberry. I keep the emails and at end of the day I can switch the number of words read by Drivesafe.ly from 25 to 500 and make it read them to me. Most of the emails I am interested in are about wine releases and such. One can fall sleep reading them as would when reading an insurance policy. I find the software much more productive than myself reading through okay and junk emails. I ordered a stamp with basic contact information which should arrive someday soon. That goes on the back of my business card. Since my head is so big on the card, there is hardly room. I made the card so I can change location information since I find it unwise to stay at most retail locations for too long. My card has worked out well so far except I can give out more much easier now. I expect to get more business through referrals than the casual retail routes. I hate to admit the number of things wrong with our retail setup. In short, it is made for retail and not sales in general but can be made to work. I have to also admit I get plenty of business advice (that costs a great deal and not available to average retail employee) from outside and chances of success for my activities are higher than the average retail employee. The experience and knowledge I gain will be invaluable for developing my own businesses. I should be starting in that direction soon also since everyone is calm again and not worried. That tells you how wrong people are about economy and life. I read a few days ago that a local food writer of notorious rep has been named the top writer in America!!! I thought as bad as he is, this country is either has lowered itself to the lowest to think our non-name friend (yeah right) is its best or that he is on his way out and this is a ceremonial title. That is usually done (lifetime achievement blah blah) when someone is retiring or ill and has little time to live. I did not make that standard. America likes to celebrate as many things as it can while possible. I also asked around and got a very good insight from someone with access to more information. All I can say is one can get such awards by paying the right sum of money!!! Our friend is the worst writer in America when it comes to food but he is also the frontman for a powerful local special interest and they want to keep him up so he has influence in choosing his replacement and the special interest will continue its grasp on the local scene. I can say more but won’t be the information I got and my own musings. Anyway this famous person claimed a few weeks ago we have boomtime in local restaurant business!!! Now I read somebody admits 290 restaurants closed in one year locally and so on. The bottom line is most people have no clue what goes on in the real world but can be good temporarily since business climate stays stable if one is to enter business. I am not worried about staying in business. That is when experience pays off but the initial stage of a business is very costly and that is where I am. I have also started my wine journey again and I need to land myself someplace where I can taste what goes through the market. That is really my level and not studying with students desiring paper awards. I will be ready and forced to take the exams in time but think the right path is not through exam study groups (unless one is very close to the exam time) but through the field itself given one knows enough to go through and actually be able to retain knowledge. There has to be a way to do this without going from tasting to tasting and likewise. When I originally studied wine, I was told after my courses if I were to attend closely to the local wine regions and wineries I would rise to be a specialist. I eschewed that suggestion since local wines have reputation but not the universal status locals deem. We were not even taught more than the very basics of California wines. I am thinking that may be a good crash course only for the reason that local winemakers (California) are the only people I can think of who will actually support learning about wine and winemaking for the sake of wine. They have to deal with wine beyond a bottle and a label which is how deep the understanding of wine in most local circles is. I may try that. I forgot the tasting yesterday. I have to try something that works always.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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What does a Court of Master Sommelier credential really mean? (Essay 17)


 

Today is Sunday. I did my laundry and the weather has turned warm. I did have enough time left to take care of a few things. I did have a talk with the person running the group for the Advanced exam and won’t be going there any more. One has to have the aspiration to be a master sommelier to study wine. That is one way of looking at the whole thing. I do agree it is very easy to train people who are learning from scratch and very hard to train someone like me who has had a great deal of training but think studying to become a master sommelier is a poor approach for several reasons. Most importantly, difficult studies require the person to dig deep into the topic and specific boundaries of knowledge are not realistic. One can study wine for the sake of studying wine but have some direction in mind versus following step after step to pass an exam. I used to follow the latter system and did very well in college until I took a Human Relations course at College of San Mateo. I was taught a new way of studying in college. In place of playing the grade game, one can seek to acquire knowledge while keeping the academics in mind also. That is how my grade averages went from top honors in junior college to flat B in university. The desire to acquire knowledge makes one abandon many of the necessary steps that lead to the highest scores. This approach does not eliminate the need to follow the steps to the academic goals but keeps the original goal in forefront of activities. I think that is what studying for an Advanced exam is about. Personally, I think anyone who opts to become a master sommelier or master of wine is likely to rank on the lowest when it comes to a desire for knowledge. Both credentials were designed to acknowledge a level of achievement and not be a way of becoming a type of person. The advanced sommelier or wine diploma are both what one needs to be on one of the highest levels of the field. The goal ought to be to become an advanced sommelier which requires the highest knowledge and provides the opportunity to gain from the field and develop knowledge. The exact same thing can be true of wine diploma. Is the master credential a practical goal to shoot for rather than the equivalents without the attention? I like to use an example from someone else about how many enter academics with the goal of becoming a PhD or Doctor of Medicine. Many do achieve these goals and we know from real life knowledge is one of the least determining factors in reaching such goals once aimed from the start. Politics, academic games, and many other unrelated factors are what determines the final success and not knowledge. We also know from experience the majority of those who are medical doctors are better avoided and the majority of those who attain a PhD are good for a stable teaching job and little other contribution. The question remains again is there a difference between the person who has from the start sought to become a master of wine or master sommelier and one who seeks to acquire knowledge within academic guidance? I think the answer is the former plays any game to reach that final goal while the latter will continue to acquire and develop knowledge before and after the formal announcements. I think it is inherent in the structure of all these advanced programs and credentials that the highest levels were reserved only if those at the top of the field deemed a person is one of their standing and not by way of some examination. I think the implied thing is one type of person will produce while another will do whatever to achieve a formal standing. My own question is should I be seeking to become a master of wine or master sommelier before participating in studies in such directions make sense for me and others? My answer is no. The idea of a university (not American which is German model) is the meeting of the minds allows one to develop ideas and knowledge. Any advanced study follows the same format and a qualified participant can develop a mind from such interactions and studies while tailoring everything to succeed at some examination is a political objective and not the true goal of a serious study. It is worth mentioning there is no knowledge without the qualified individuals dedicating the time to development of such knowledge and very little may be developed by those who sacrifice knowledge for the sake of some formal gain. I think my point becomes only those who are qualified to participate in the field and hopefully contribute something should be allowed to enter such studies and not those who seek some official credential. Such participants will deal with the realities of the field of wine and the structure of the community will lead them toward formal examinations also. Those who seek to enter a community with the ultimate goal of earning a highest examination credential have motives beyond the realities of the field in mind. That makes me think a better way to study wine for the sake of knowledge and the realities of the field is by studying it at an advanced level through structures not aiming for fashionable or profitable credentials. I can probably learn French, German and other wines much better through bodies which specialize in such studies (for the sake of the knowledge and skill) rather than some final credential. The knowledge acquired will probably put me on par with the best of the candidates for such exams but again how many of those who achieve the exams will actually contribute to the field versus carrying some badge of honor? I also believe another thing that studying for an exam and acquiring knowledge do not go together. One ought to study the topic and master (???) the knowledge before one seeks to develop for an exam. I think the former step is ignored by the way of accepting the presence of the multitudes of those aspiring for the highest credential at any cost! If the credential is to retain any value in the long run, it ought to denote substantial inherent value. How can those who are not seriously dedicated to the subject and its study foremost maintain or increase the value of such credential if all that matters is the passing of an exam? I think it is best to separate the two completely. The study of wine should be a completely separate topic and many who seek such study and succeed will be able to return to the field and contribute. Some of these will choose to prepare for some examination. This examination has served as both the ends and the means causing much confusion. Those who seek a paper with status will hardly be willing to undergo the heavy burden of such study with no political victory at the end in the form of a piece of paper with some worldly value. Frankly, that is what makes or breaks the fields. The quality and quantity of qualified individuals depend on too many factors and ought to be carefully controlled or the field will decline with no end in sight.

This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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Why Every San Francisco Restaurant May Go Out of Business Soon? (Essay 16)(Advice)


 

I found nothing interesting in the food news to read or write about today. The most significant event of last week still is on my mind and I expect more to happen. Last time this was going on, the trend went on for several weeks until the cries of agony were heard in all circles beyond food and restaurant and things slowed down. Many believed that the complaints had little to do with the slowing down but the editors were afraid too much harm was done in too short a period of time and could be questioned on television or other media and their defense would be weak for such unprecedented chain of actions. The theory of why it had taken place was far easier to believe to their loss and I agree with those who think the editors had to put an end to the process in anticipation of significant public reaction and looking back I would say their timing to stop worked. What was not clear was whether the trend had died or was simply postponed.

The restaurant owners of the city of San Francisco lay claims to many notable things within their own industry but one has been out of their reach and that is the ability to effectively confront and challenge any out-of-control media person who may go on a rampage. One may say any writer can reach such a point and do much damage but the truth is the damage done is relevant to the credibility of the person. A restaurant writer can be effective in demoting or promoting an establishment or idea only as far as one is able to give weight to one’s words. Independent folk (such as myself) will find it hard to achieve such status because they are only heard as long as the audience finds them worthy of being listened to and if one cannot earn the audience’s ears, one cannot do any good or any harm. I personally have had good luck in this area and have been heard consistently. I would like to think my audience finds me worthy of being heard because some good is done as I have never intended to harm even though writing (shit) about certain people in high offices has been a regular activity in my realm. The non-independent folk, such as media writers, play a different game. They benefit from their positions. A newspaper or television personality can choose to go on a rampage and do great damage unless stopped at some point by the editors of the establishment. This person, unlike the independent media writer, can not be automatically shut off because their positions owns a large enough audience who have to listen regardless of the content.

An established media writer will write and if doing harm, will do harm and will be heard because of one’s ‘position power’ as I was taught in Organization Behavior management courses. An independent writer exists as part of an informal network and has authority because the audience gives this person authority by choosing to listen to such person. This is one of the basic definitions of authority. One can be found in a position of authority because others CHOOSE to listen to the person and follow the directions. The entire process may be informal and non-standard but works perfectly everyday in the real world. This person has little power to do harm unless gains too much credibility (is that why SOME are apprehensive at any place I visit?). On the other hand, a dependent writer exists as part of a formal network (i.e. job at a business, organization) and has authority because the job owns a certain audience and what the person in that job capacity does will be without regards to the effects on such audience. Even if this person loses all other credibility, the position power still entitles one to enough power to do the job which can mean do harm. This person can have too much power to do harm (unless literally stopped by a third party such as the editors of a newspaper) and no wonder one has to be anonymous. One may say the veil serves many good reasons, as I myself have defended in the past, but also serves to be an advantage if one seeks to harm with no end in sight SOMEDAY.

I peruse many sources of information in addition to other non-conventional means of acquiring information. San Francisco Chronicle has been one of my least worthy sources for as long as I can remember. My entire daily routine is limited to clicking the link under my bookmarks or typing the address sfgate.com/food and clicking to go there. God knows how many times I have done this and how much time has been wasted in my readings of those pages. My routine has shrunk to simply glancing at Michael Bauer’s blog daily. I read the title and think. I read the first sentence and maybe the first paragraph. Sometimes I skim through and look for what I may be interested to read a sentence or two but usually I skim the whole blog post in 1.5 to 2 seconds before I arrive at the last paragraph to read the first sentence again. The only other thing, besides the photographs I glance at, is the comments. If the post had some sense in it and was not totally mad or unreadable (2 seconds is all it takes to find out), I actually read through some of the comments and sometimes write something. I have been a favored person in this area since of all my intelligent or crackpot comments, I was only once blocked! I have always enjoyed the number of people who thumb down my comments since I know the wonderful Chronicle staff are always present in that crowd and suffered much confusion when people root for my comments! That has been my entire experience of reading Between the Sheets blog on San Francisco Chronicle AFTER I was wise enough to find out Michael Bauer is a bigger joker than I am and one should not take what is written there seriously. A very intelligent fellow told me once that much of America is fake and nobody would ever believe because it has got so big. His example was the Constitution of the United States was written as a JOKE originally but was taken as seriously as possible afterwards. Who will believe such tale? Nobody unless you know the person and qualifications. Who would believe Michael Bauer may be a crackpot lunatic writing what may be one day compiled as the samples of worst food writing ever? Nobody. The biggest disadvantage in this area is one has to read through much and be familiar with much and nobody is unless had to come across and follow the line of thoughts as I did by nature for writing a Discovery Blog which exists to such ends. This is another story but the bottom line in my experience has been a stop at MB blog can be a short experience and knock you off your track of serious thought. This I have followed with a click on the ‘Food’ tab to see the main page of SF Chronicle and glance at their articles. I hate to admit I still find some of the articles unreadable as in having been written without a real audience so they can make sense. I strongly believe a computer can be programmed to write better articles daily at less cost and make greater sense. Artificial intelligence is no novelty. Military is not the only beneficiary and in areas where time is an issue, programs take over all tasks. The computers not only run the entire financies of United States but also write the needed programs, repair them and so on. Each day brings trillions of transactions and events and no human can intervene effectively and efficiently but machines can keep up. I think time has come to allow machines to write food and wine articles and nobody would complain because they know who wrote them and the better staff will have their own niche to write. San Francisco Chronicle has great writers in this department and my only complaint is their contributions are incidents rather than regularities (except for cheese). These folk will never go away and even if they did, they will be brought back under some other guise. The rest of our fine local paper is a horror story, at least, in food and wine section.

It was only a few days ago when I was quickly navigating this ‘Food’ tab and only by accident happened to see a negative mention of Kokkari. The only reason I happened to see it is because that is where I look for the Scoop which has about 1 minute of interesting information once-a-week. I clicked the Kokkari article and did my skimming but returned in shock to the start 2 seconds later. The article sounded like somebody was trying to kill Kokkari. I looked at date and that was fresh of that day. I looked at the name and oh it was him. I began reading and jumping and stopped at the bottom. Kokkari now had two stars. Kokkari now had two stars. I am not saying Kokkari is anything on any scale since I never defend nor attack what is not specifically in my hands. I ate at Kokkari once but knew much about them indirectly because of a business connection. I knew enough to compare Kokkari to many restaurants and always thought their 3 star ratings had some good will incorporated in the scoring but was not undeserved. Kokkari now had two stars.

I have tried to make sense of the star system on many instances and have written essays about it and one way I have simplified it for my own sake has been that a credible writer’s system, such as Michael Bauer’s for a long time in the past, is valued if one can somehow calibrate his scores against one’s own interests and expectations. I thought of Bauer scores as a 2 meaning if one visits this location, something really bad ought to happen during the dining event. A 2 in my book, after reading so many reviews and analyzing why one got 2 and one 2.5 and one 3 and so on, was a strong indication that the establishment did not have their shit together and will inevitably disappoint greatly in one area of food, service and so on. Some establishments are consistent in what they always fail and what they always deliver and they often receive a 2.5 though not the best definition for 2.5 score. A score of 3 in my understanding means the establishment has their shit together and not only do a good job in all areas but are consistent. One can visit them on any day, any time and under any circumstances and nothing terrible will ever happen though they may be weak in one or more area depending on what is going that day. A score of 3 does not mean the location is GREAT in contrary to what the general public may assume. Kokkari is not a great restaurant unless one is having a casual conversation. Kokkari is a good restaurant. It stands for many things not needed to mention here and most of all can be summarized as a place that delivers. A great many of the great many who dine at large restaurants such as Kokkari do not expect the greatest dining experience. They expect the cuisine done right, the service done right, the dining experience to be fine and the bill not to be painful. Kokkari delivered this many hundreds of thousands of times in the City of San Francisco and added something GREAT to the experience of dining in San Francisco. Do all the contributions they have made count as much when weighed on a scale against any unpleasant experiences of dining there? Does Kokkari disappoints so many times daily, weekly, monthly for the Michael Bauer experience of dining there recently to be a true representative of dining at Kokkari? That question can be answered in many ways and I leave the answer to you. I will ask however, does Kokkari happen to fit a pattern of Michael Bauer rampage of giving scores of 1 to 2 to established restaurants within a short distance of Embarcadero Waterfront since his now forgotten unveiling? I think it does. I think one can draw a line of connecting the locations and eventually have a loop or belt of carnage that makes little sense. How do these places link together? I heard rumors of money paid to get Michael Bauer and his photo surfacing somewhere in the media and who can prove and not prove it but cash-for-service has always been the old San Francisco way of doing things and may be true. Why would Bauer pick on these specific restaurants? I don’t know. Are they tourist traps and need to go for the best of San Francisco dining? I don’t know but if so why Kokkari and why not the other places right on the water which brag about trapping anyone? I know Bauer is afraid of anyone who is connected and if politicians go there, or old money is around or owns the place, Bauer loses his apetite. That I know. Bauer targets any and all innocent folks from his track but if they can bite back, he is nowhere to be found. Gavin only has a few places left around and that was with help from the fine dependent writers who helped bring the scores for some of his places up little by little. Some say all places that get zero scores (for all practical purposes) are also of non-alliance with our fine mayor but not necessarily against him. Is this some clean up to make room for more politically-correct restaurants? Mayor loves Medjewel and the Kokkari incident will boost a possibly friend in Sens. Bauer is afraid of gangsters and nobody blames him for not going back for years to restaurants reputed for mafia connections (in San Francisco? who has heard of that? but is true), strong political connections and newly-arrived but definitely overseas gang expansions. Does that imply some connection between the Mayor, the Bauer and the problems of San Francisco? I don’t know but think it is only a conspiracy theory except for the restaurants being fronts for illegal setups which is a part of SF history. Gangsters are real and do bite back. Innocent restaurants are real and don’t bite back. What does all this come to? I haven’t found a clear definition of the problem or the situation to think of a clear solution or explanation but do agree Bauer has done some unfair harm and will not stop. A miracle may take place and Bauer give REAL scores to some, which would confuse the situation more, and then we have to assume he is only wrong about some of his crazy scores. What is for sure is Bauer will strike again and has not much standing in his way. I waited days for Eater.com to actually mention the Kokkari situation. SF Chronicle has basically bought Eater by taking the man away and Eater will be a nice docile and politically correct restaurant website from now on or looks such for the short term. There does not seem to be much resistance from that direction and the city gave up, after the fall of Gavin last year, leaving us with San Francisco Chronicle which can do no wrong unless too many people scream at the same time. What is left, for what it is worth, are the independent media who may dare to speak, in the absence of others but not necessarily always will, and be of some value when Bauers of our world go mad. Their high and polished positions enables them to be strong adversaries even when they make little sense in their actions. My suggestion is to keep the independent media alive though independence often goes against the nature of many fake restaurants of San Francisco and what they really do. The industry as a whole can benefit from the potentials of indpendent media in the long run and it is no fault of mine that wine blogs are hardly more than daily issues of garbage in many words and details. The possibility that something of value can surface exists within this realm of media that is not controlled and continues to contribute. On a personal note, I should have been more active in the industry and my own inactivity was in part due to making incessant changes to my crazy blogs but when the time arrived, I realized the restaurant industry are SHEEP in the true sense of the word. They exist as a set of routines followed daily that together make up a business and remain open to any and all such external (and internal?) negative forces and incidents. I believe independent restaurant media, such as mine, by nature provides some level of resistance to the uncertainties of the business field and I believe the restaurant establishment is so rudimentary in thinking, they have no clue how the world has changed and what they are up against thus not understanding why it is important to be receptive and supportive of independent media. The pay-for-help-us media can be bought by Chronicle, for as little as the cost of one salary, and the industry will not have that to use. What is left is true and honest that works and CAN but won’t necessarily do what the industry demands. This last group can save a day or more someday when trouble comes and it will. The industry lives in the past thinking money paid will save them and they know what they are doing for they have done it for so many years. Times have changed. They put Gavin and Getty out of business (and they can pretend to come back as many times as they want). They will put as many out of business as it takes to get everyone to agree their Special Interest groups run San Francisco. If life does not go their political (correct) way, they will have Bauers and others like him doing their bidding do all harm possible. San Francisco belongs to the ever-growing Special Interest of its own and the restaurant industry lives in the years past. They cannot pay and get out of this one. Political people are somewhat crazy and don’t understand business. The world has to say and go their way and that is that. Once enough INNOCENT restaurants are killed off by Bauers and the like, the industry will wise up and agree the old days are gone and this whole thing is new. How about being a step ahead and supporting independent media. Independent folk can bite as hard as Bauer does and question everything. That is the always-proven productive effort against organized crap such as Special Interest. The lesson for you today is to use your brain and be receptive to the true independent media. Why do I have a feeling everyone will do what they have done in the past and I will be writing in near future of what wrong was done to many other innocent businesses or people. I have never told anyone in my life that ‘ I told you so’ but have told many so.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

A Solution to Food, Wine and Hospitality Problems Has Been Found (If Was Ever Lost) (Essay #15)


 

The year 2010 has arrived and everything start anew or not. The restaurant and wine industries of California have been having a not-great couple of years. Many people and causes have been blamed and the next few years may not look any better. I was just in the process of reviewing my stuff from last year and I came across something I had marked. I cannot speak for most of California, from experience, but as far as the city of San Francisco, I strongly think the industry should put out some kind of handbook for the people who work in the related industries of food, beverage, wine, restaurant, hospitality and so on. A person who is more than a simple employee in any of these industries has to work toward being a professional and this requires more than professional training and work experience. A good deal of knowledge that is not specifically related to food or beverage has to be acquired and utilized by any such professional (not basic employee). The process of accessing the available resources and staying up-to-date can take a great deal of time. I know from personal experience by doing this. The outcome of such difficult process is the low number of people who do strive to be professionals in the true sense of the word.

The industry needs to put a handbook out, at least, once each year that is not a food and wine training book. The problem with this process is the political side-effects of it. Many establishments operate and remain by breaking the law and working under or against the standards. If the number of people who are well-versed in all aspects of the industry increases, the number of establishments which appear legitimate but are shady in many ways will decline in proportion. The bottom line is the SF restaurant entities will fight to stop or modify such handbook for the obvious political reasons. The city establishment is extremely corrupt so no help will arrive to keep the process legitimate. I personally think a large body, even if political, can do a better job of this than a local political body. National Restaurant Association is a political lobby and special interest but has the resources to do a fairer job than the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. A review of the people who run GGRA will tell anyone who impartial they are and what direction their decisions will go. I do not think the restaurants, the establishments, and associations located in San Francisco can do the job. A bona fide handbook will raise the standards of the industry up a huge notch but will result in fundamental changes in how business is done in the long run. The local industry is ill and has always been. We have been seeing its worst in the past two years and if it becomes truly healthy (which has never been), many who have done EASY business in the city will be in a new world of business. They will not help make industry healthy.

I think a university, located outside of San Francisco, and its politics in conjunction with the local unions and non-political associations (such as CMS or WSET for wine) can do a fair and impartial job. Universities do this on a regular basis for many fields and can do for our industry. A good handbook will be very thick and probably will be 500 pages plus. I think it is best published in a binder with loose pages once-a-year and new updates should be made available online for readers to print and replace pages in the binder and be up-to-date until the next edition. Many things related to the industry change regularly by on an irregular schedule. The handbook will be obsolete in a short time unless updated as changes occur. A good handbook should provide answers to all the questions a ‘professional’ working in food, wine, beverage, hospitality, and restaurant (and many more businesses) may have while working in Northern California Bay Area. Any person who does one’s homework and has been in the business long enough will acquire a good part of this knowledge together with much garbage provided by local media such as San Francisco Chronicle and local restaurant websites.

An impartial and qualified body can put together a complete handbook (which will be large in size) not only as a reference but also as a way to organize the industry. One of the reasons the industry has been and gets sick is because it had just been put together and was not thoroughly thought out at some point. A business should have a solid business plan. The business plan serves several purposes. One purpose is to fund the business and start it by providing a roadmap. That is what people think of a business plan but a more important function is to serve as an owner’s manual. The person who runs a business ought to be able to consult the business plan at times to figure out the best course of action because the plan is supposed to consider many things and provided proper ways to deal with them. The industry needs a business plan that can be consulted by the professionals in the industry. This business plan best can appear as a professional handbook and has to be thorough to cover everything. Such book is not a training volume about food types, cooking, wines and service, etc. It ought to cover all the boring government and industry regulations related to industry and keep them up-to-date. It ought to provide all reference people, addresses, phone numbers and etc. It should have a huge glossary that answers hundreds (if not thousands) of questions that people working in the industry should answers to and do not. It should cover history of the industry locally accurately. It should map out the industry accurately so business can be done. The task of putting such volume together is done for professional bodies and are used by professionals working in the industry. The volume serves many purposes and must be put together by qualified people and special interest must be kept away. NRA, GGRA, wine lobby and so on are not friends of the industry contrary to what people may think. If they cannot write the handbook, they will try to influence it by offering money to the university (in grants or research money) to influence it indirectly. The final handbook will still be much better off than if written by the university, even if influenced by the corruption, than by the special interest itself.

A handbook such as this serves to provide useful and accurate information in good and bad times for the professionals and everyone working in the industry. Publishing a handbook takes a long time and the information will be obsolete. That is why the actual handbook should be a work in progress and kept online. It will be difficult for many to read it online. The solution is to have a printed copy for sale but print it for a 3-hole binder because the information will be going out of date within one week and pages have to be replaced. The owner of the handbook can get the pages online and print to replace them thus having an accurate handbook always. The volume can be available as ebook for computers or kindle. An electronic volume can be updated a thousand times each year and would not matter in any way. The information will be always up to date and useful. The nature of handbook which covers such huge industry results in a huge handbook and that is what it really takes for one to function as a PROFESSIONAL in the local industry. I think the task of creating and keeping up to date can be done simply by going to the RIGHT people at the right university OUTSIDE of San Francisco. No impartial work can be created in a corrupt city run by criminals pretending to be city officials and employees. It has to be done outside the political realm of San Francisco and protected from special interest interference and money meddling as much as possible. What is most important is not what goes into the volume or who writes the volume (just go to the right university and it is done) but WHAT DOES NOT GO INTO THE VOLUME AND WHO DOES NOT HAVE A SAY IN WRITING IT.

An industry handbook of all necessary information for professionals working in the food, wine, hospitality, beverage, restaurant and hotel industries will serve as a daily guidebook in handling what matters may require decision-making by these individuals. The end result is a healthy industry for everyone involved with the industry. That is millions of people.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

Are We Afraid of Success? (Essay #14)


I read a good little piece about fear of success. It is interesting how a change in economy changes the overall attitude toward many things. Success is not as popular a subject any more because the general environment has changed to be biased against it. Actions are more likely to result in the opposite in today’s economy than in a good economy. That makes many people defensive and cautious. I think cautious has always been a good rule. I was raised on the cautious side and so is anyone who has had something of value that may be lost. Cautious is the attitude to maintain while success is the attitude to acquire something. Today’s environment does not promise success and caution may be a better attitude toward business and life. Are people afraid of success in general? I assume so. The human mind develops patterns based on experience and changing these patterns can be difficult later in life. That is a big difference between the young and the old. Humans learn to stay within the realm of certainty as they have learned by life experiences and the quality of life is dictated by the extent and the quality of experiences within this realm. Any attempt to go beyond the boundaries and try new things is likely to result in a bad experience. Humans learn to avoid this by staying within the boundary. That has proven to work well and gives the person control over life and its quality. Some of us are socialized by family, friends, schools and society to learn everything needed to live within a closed realm of our experiences. The sum of our experiences can make for a life that is very successful or otherwise. Higher education and income usually reflect in the next generation as automatic achievement of a good quality of life by providing the experience base the second generation needs.

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