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Updated: 06/02/05

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Thursday, 02 June, 2005

Here we are in the first week of the Great Commute of 2005. I took the train to Atlantic City on Friday afternoon and commuted back into town Tuesday morning. The weekend was nice - still a bit cool, but we got out and rode bikes everyday, went grocery shopping, sat on the beach, went out for dinner, cooked lobsters, watched a few DVDs. Oh and went to see "The Return of the Sith".

I have put all of my spoiler comments here - not that I am a huge Star Wars geek, but I felt the need to take Mr. Lucas and some of his characters to task. If you want a very, very funny, tongue-in-cheek thumbnail review (with spoilers), check out Bigarmwoman.com. For example:

Anakin - "My darling love who I love because she is darling."

Padme - "I am pregnant. And weepy. Very, very, weepy."

[That does pretty much sum up all of the Anakin/Padme scenes.]

We drove in to Philly yesterday morning. Traffic was horrendous - next week, Gary will drive in the afternoon rather than the morning. He got his car inspected, ran some errands and took the kids out for dinner. I went home after work and was accosted by Suki who said that she is really not happy with this new arrangement. I did a few chores around the house and we hung out for the evening.

Mom called and said that Dad's identity had been stolen! Someone had redirected his direct-deposit pension checks - certainly sounds like an inside job to me. They were on the phone with the credit bureau and pension folks trying to get things straightened out before they leave for Japan today. They'll be gone for two months.


Lots of talk in the press about the French (and now Dutch) rejection of the European Constitution. I suppose if the United States were trying to get its act together now, we would be facing the same self-interested ego issues, but the whole EU experiment is a real can of worms.

Speaking of self-interest and France, here's a nice little terrorist practice that has not been widely reported:

'Wine terrorists' make streets run with Rioja

Cheers erupt as 30,000 bottles worth of Spanish wine gush out of the hijacked tanker, pumping a blood-red river down the street of a village in the south of France.

In front of our eyes, the region's wine "terrorists" - blamed for a string of recent bomb and incendiary attacks - have struck again.

Clearly shaken, the tanker's Spanish driver looks on as about 100 angry wine-growers force his younger assistant to unscrew a silver wheel on the tanker's roof to release its pungent load.

"I count myself lucky," says the driver, Francico Paque, 42, who was asleep in his cabin earlier when masked militants blew a hole in his diesel tank with a shotgun and set the leaking fuel on fire. "If I hadn't been woken by the explosion I could have burnt to death where I lay," he says.

Mr Paque had parked his vehicle for the night outside a wine merchant in the village of Clermont l'Hérault, near Béziers in Languedoc and Roussillon - the most productive wine region in the world.

He was supposed to deliver the wine in the morning. Instead, members of a shadowy group of extremist producers known as the Crav, Comité Regional d'Action Viticoles (Regional Action Committee of Wine-growers), decided to pour it down the drain.

There is a deepening crisis in France's wine industry, fuelled by dwindling consumption, a glut in national and world production, and competition from New World and other European wines.

So when you cannot compete, you destroy your competition. That makes sense. Of course, certain states here are effectively holding the wine drinking population hostage to their own self-interests - *cough* Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board *cough* - wanting to make sure we give them their 24% tax on lousy wine. However, I haven't seen them resorting to violence. Yet.

Gendarmes arrived too late to chase the gunmen, but could still have saved 25,000 litres of Spanish wine. Instead they watched impassively from their blue van as the foamy red liquid splashed past.

"You have to weigh it up," a gendarme said. "We have opened an investigation into the shooting, of course. But as for the wine, we have to think of public order first. These vintners are furious. They still have almost half of their wine from last year's harvest in their cellars, so when a local wine merchant buys a truck-load of Spanish wine and not theirs, they need to let off steam. I cannot oppose social action."

When an irate breakaway group of protesters marches through the front door of the wine-dealer to collar the owner, the police still do not act. The owner, a middle-aged woman who has run the business since her husband died last year, bravely faces down the protesters.

"Yes, we buy Spanish wine because it is cheaper," she says. "We cannot afford to buy local wine - our margins are so low because of the wine crisis that we have no choice, or we will go under. We are all in the same boat."

So not only do they steal and destroy, but law enforcement looks the other way while they do it. Since, after all, one can't oppose social action, can one?

I really enjoy wine. I have really enjoyed my trips to the wine regions - including the Bordeau area of France. But I pretty much stopped buying French wine during the last couple of years: for both economic and political reasons. This gives me another reason not to purchase their wine. In our cellar we have some great bottles from the US, Australia, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, Italy. And even three bottles from France. But I don't support terrorism, so after those three are gone, I think that will be it until France proves it can act like an adult.

[About a lot of things.]

Quote du jour:

"Mixing one's wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably."

-- Bertolt Brecht (1898 - 1956) German dramatist, poet

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