November 15th, 2003



I woke up in plenty of time to get things arranged at the house (dinner for Ericka, the dog and the cat; no, not all the same dish) before heading out to have dinner with minnehaha, cakmpls, her husband and daughter at a little wine bistro south of the Cities over near Northfield (In a town called Dundas for you Carleton and St. Olaf grads.) called "Fermentations."

I was a bit amazed at how far out the place was. It was well into 70 mph territory on the interstate and down a dark, twisty road a piece before you got to the city limits and then a bit more at 30 mph until you reach it. It needed better lighting for its sign because, by the directions I had, it should have been a block further along and I only figured out where it was because I was pretty sure it wasn't in the big garage where I thought it was and there weren't too many other street corners in town to check out.

After we got seated we got the wine lists. I'm no connoisseur of wines (I flipped straight to the scotch and found they only had the Talisker for single malts, probably the 12 year old; not bad but nothing special) but thought the list looked pretty extensive. You could buy their wine by the bottle, glass or "flight." The latter is samplings of three different, related wines.

Figuring that how well the wine went with the food would be part of the experience and good information for future visitors, I looked over the list and decided to go with something red. I'm fond of merlots and have been known to enjoy a cabernet now and again. So I picked Flight #10 "European Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Meritage." The specific wines were: 2001 Mas de Gourgonnier, 2000 Chateau Rozier and 2000 Chateau Kirwan. My uneducated palate figured they were the advertised Cabernet, Merlot and Meritage in that order. minnehahaB opined that they were likely blends of those grapes.

Well, a quick Googling proves B right: "The 2001 Mas de Gourgonnier Réserve is not only very different from their regular bottling, it is without a doubt the best wine they have ever made. Completely dominated by its Cabernet and Syrah components, which make up a big chunk of the blend...," the 1999 vintage of the Chateau Rozier listed on as a blend, and the Chateau Kirwan spoken of as containing a "high percentage of Petit Verdot."

Still, I've had enough Cabernet and Merlot to recognize the types when I taste them, and the first two fell into those categories in their delivery to my palate.

Most of our party waited on choosing wines until after seeing the food menu. The menu was two simple pages. Appetizers on one leaf, entrees on the other. Nicely, they had recommended certain flights of wine to go with each course. So one could either do as I did, pick a flight and then pick food to go with it, or pick food and find commonalities in the flights recommended to choose your wine.

As we were helping minnehaha to review the place, we basically ordered their entire menu between the six of us. The dishes that went with my wine were a pesto and goat cheese tostini for an appetizer and leg of lamb for an entree. The goat cheese was mild and got overpowered by the pesto and the sun-dried tomato served on the tostini with it. It looked pretty though and came with a nice balsamic-based sauce that, unfortunately, was difficult to mop up with the hard bread. I wasn't too impressed with any of the appetizers, though the scallops that cakmpls ordered had an interesting sauce with leeks in it.

The entrees ran the gamut of main dishes from pork to grouper to chicken to London broil with a side trip to fettuccini. One thing that probably made them easier to prepare and serve was that each was served with a combination of similar side dishes. You got either mashed potatoes or a potato cake-thing. And you got either green beans or carrots. Unless, of course, you got the fettuccini, then you got shrimp.

I liked my lamb very well; its surface was surprisingly seasoned and nicely crusty. The chicken had an interesting wild rice stuffing with plenty of pepper. I didn't try the pork and the grouper and the London broil didn't stand out to me. The fettuccini was really the star of the table. From a distance, it looked like boxed macaroni and cheese stretched out into flat noodles; that is, as if it had a cheddar-based sauce that was not quite the right color. Tasting it, though, you found that the color came from sweet red bell peppers. I'd guess they'd been roasted before being made into this sauce because the flavor was so rich and earthy. I don't imagine the shrimp added much to the dish; it was wonderful all on its own.

Dessert came in due course and we split three different ones among the six of us. A pear poached in red wine. A spice cake. And a lovely little chocolate concoction that was part mousse, part hot chocolate. It had an interesting texture that was like a gelatinous cake. It had structure but also smoothed easily on your tongue. It was served warm with a scoop of home-made mint ice cream and was the easy favorite. The spice cake ran a close second, though and the pear was nothing to sneeze at.

Overall, I think Fermentations would make a nice place for a spendy date or to have dessert and wine or cocktails. It's a bit of a drive for us here in the Twin Cities, but I'm sure the people of the area enjoy having a restaurant of that quality close by.
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Morons should not be allowed to do proof one

After my lovely meal (see the previous posting), I made it home in ample time to do the evening preparations and get to work.

Initially, it appeared that there would be little to do this evening. This morning was the filing deadline for 10-Qs so I was expecting, if anything, that work would be slower than it had been all week.

Well, that thought came to a screeching halt with the appearance of a job that was due at 5:00 a.m. Only 117 pages. In our house style, except for the covers. It is "cycle 2" which means that some work was done, a proof was delivered to the client and this represents additions or edits to that previous work. A bit unreasonable, but doable.

Then I sat down to get it prepared.

On proof one, whomever worked it did not bother to make up a "specs" file. This is where we note anything odd that we might want people working the job after it has come back from the client for edits or additions to know about the job. So this is a bad start.

Then I noticed that the files they created for the cycle one were in files named "DI" through "DU." Without getting into too much detail, let me just say that we have file naming conventions so that if you want to find, say, the table of contents of a job, you know to look in the BG file. Well, these letters are reserved for the main body of the document but were being used for the financial reporting section. They belonged in the "F" files (which makes some sense, when you think of it).

So I had to go through and rename these files before I could get started on what I had to do. Annoying.

So I start breaking the rest of the data into appropriately-named files. When I got to the new DU file, I discover that the last chunk of pages of the job are intended to replace the existing financial information. This is something that's usually noted on the job instructions. I didn't have to rename those files I spent a chunk of time renaming; I merely had to "bury" them (basically save a copy and delete). Wasting my time on a tight deadline job. Fume.

On top of this is the graphics wanted for the job. Nothing big, a company logo and an organizational chart. The operations center that sent in the job, however, neglected to tell anyone that they'd want these graphics. More delays. More hassle.

Well, the last few files are being proofread now because I have amazing co-workers who can crank through pages like nobody's business. I'll probably have the whole thing ready for Quality Check by 4:00 or 4:15, and it will probably make that 5:00 due time or only be delayed a short time.

Not that they deserve it.

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I don't get it

I suspect that the United Way is a decent enough organization. They help a lot of people, I bet.

What I want to know is what they are giving to corporations in order to get those corporations to pimp for them?

At Merrill, it's not so bad. You get a form and are told where and when to turn it in if you want money deducted out of your paycheck to go to the United Way. (My lead handed mine to me and it hit the recycle bin in one smooth motion.) You can target the money to a particular group the United Way serves, if you like. Still, they interrupted us during our peak to give a little rah-rah speech to everyone on the floor about donating. We were in the middle of a rush job and just stopped. (We did get donuts out of the deal.)

At ADC, it was heinous. There were United Way coordinators. They were given a batch of envelopes addressed to specific employees. You were harassed for a week about turning in the envelope; they wanted 100% return, even if you weren't donating. These coordinators were frequently your boss. If you didn't turn in the envelope, someone from HR sent you email asking about it.

So does anyone know what the corporate gain in this state of affairs is? Do they get a tax deduction for spending the time and money to raise their employee contributions? Do they get a kick-back from the United Way? Are their children being held hostage for donations? What?
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