Thursday, March 16, 2006

Of Wine, Books, and Reading for a Head Cold

It seems colder and wetter than normal in San Diego these days. And that always leads to the great nemesis of the wine drinker, the head cold. Mine seems to have come by way of a three year old. “Gracie just has allergies” said her mother as her sweet child coughed, open mouthed, at all and sundry. In fact, now that I remember, I had been nursing her on my hip only a day or two earlier when all this coughing had begun and I had said to Gracie then, “You aren’t going to cough on me are you?” To which the child replied “Yes” and promptly coughed in my face.

Fortunately I have a powerful weapon against this type of assault – Fisherman’s Friends. And they seemed to be working. Miranda predictably came down with a cold. But I was OK. A little sniffly. But OK for four or five days. It finally caught up with me. Probably on the day we visited Orange County. Strangely prophetic, perhaps!

So there I was at home, feeling miserable, and wondering when the weather would begin to warm and I would feel better. With wine never far from my mind, the chill in the room reminded me of J. P. Donealvy’s Leila: Further in the Life and Destines of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman and the sentence on page 16 that reads “Announcing in sepulchral tones the year of vintage as he poured the decanted premier grand cru Margaux with its bouquet shrinking back in the glass from the cold.”

I didn’t fancy rereading Leila, excellent thou it is. I could perhaps begin James Halliday’s Wine Odyssey, or the recently purchased Jamie Goode’s The Science of Wine. But did I want to start something new when the pile of books beside the bed had volumes like A Wine Journey along the Russian River by Steve Heimoff, and Appreciating Wine by Philip Hills that were yet to be finished? Besides I wanted to reread George Taber’s excellent Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine again, as well as Elin McCoy’s The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste. They should be read in that order to get a solid grasp of the recent history of wine in America.

Also in the unfinished pile was Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack. But I think I know how that one is going to end. Besides I didn’t really want to take up anything long because I wasn’t planning on spending a lot time lying around. There was Playboy. I can always find something in there that catches my eye. This time it was Michael Ruse on Faith and Reason in the April 2006 issue. I followed that with Michael Specter’s piece Political Science in the March 13, 2006 issue of the New Yorker. Two excellent pieces on the growing conflict between science and religion and the all too obvious battleground of red and blue politics. Yes, I think one can be justified by responding with an open mouthed blank stare after reading that the USA supports the vast majority of Nobel Prize winners and yet over 50% of the population does not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. I know I stared at the ceiling for a long time after I digested that information. Of course it might have just been the cough medication taking hold.

To regain some composure I thought about flipping through my own recent contribution to the scientific literature. Autoantibodies and Autoimmunity: Molecular mechanisms in health and disease. As the editor I wrote in the Preface "This book would not have been possible without the outstanding contributions of a group of highly talented and internationally respected authors." On a cold day, when you have just read how science is threatened by people who have a literal belief in another book that contains numerous errors in translation, its comforting to know that you have intelligent friends in many countries of this world.

Of course we scientists aren’t without humor. Miranda suggested I add the following to the end of my book bio. "He and his wife Miranda, a veterinarian, share their lives with three Standard Poodles, and four cats named after famous Irishmen." I wonder if J. P. Donleavy would be amused by that. Not that he’s Irish, but the Irishness of it might warm him a bit. Perhaps stir a little flavor from the glass of life. I’ve a feeling a lot of people could use a little warmth to reassure them that there is something good beyond the cold and dark and unnerving.

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