Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let's try this again

I haven't posted in quite sime time, but a recent vacation led me to thinking about sharing my thoughts again. This time it's about wine. We traveled to Kingsland TX to do a little fishing and to visit some Texas wineries. We love the Texas wines and have traveled the state to taste what the grape has to offer. We visited 7 wineries on this trip and averaged purchases of three bottles per winery.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, where am I going with this blog? Mostly it's going to be about wine, it will be a  journal, if you will, of my trips and enjoyment of mainly (but not always) Texas wines. I am not a wine snob, in fact, a few years ago I couldn't tell you anything about wine. But as you sip and visit with different winemakers and sommeliers you begin to learn something. I still do not think I know that much, but it's like that art statement: I may not know much but I know what I like!

This last week was a blast, visited some new wineries for us and then ended the week with the 6th Annual Texas Reds Festival in downtown Bryan (thoughts on that later).

On the first day of our travels we stopped at what was a new vineyard for us. Perissos is located just north of Kingsland on Park Road 4, connecting Inks Lake State Park with Longhorn Caverns. This was a leg of the trip that we had taken with each grandchild as they turned 8. Our youngest is now 15, so that places us in the area about 7 years ago. I don't remember them then but it appears from their website that this was their first year to have wine. So that seems about right.

This will be my opinions of the wine and why I enjoy them, I hope not to be judgmental but I want to give my true impressions of the  wineries and their wines. I hope as I go forward I will have copious notes so I can refer to our impressions as we visit each place. On our first stop to Perissos we had packed our Wine Notes books in the luggage which was in the back of the truck, don't think I'll make that mistake again. You forget the mental notes you make and the writing on the tasting slip is very small. So anyway we're pulling into Perissos and it is very impressive, it is in a small valley following the Colorado River and is just beautiful. Their vines were full and luscious and as we turned the road to the winery we noticed each row had a sign of what grapes they had planted, quite a variety. It is worth a trip just for the scenery.

I really expected to be about the only one here, but we were in for a surprise. This vineyard seems to be a destination place for a large Austin component. A large party was going on and we were last to arrive! We were met at the door by a delightful lady, who introduced herself and asked if we were ready to taste some wines. We tasted 3 whites and 3 reds, all were good and ranged from slightly sweet  (the Sweet Lucy - a white blend) to a nice dry Sangiovese. The place was so busy we were sharing a list of the wines with a couple from Tyler and didn't have anything to make notes on.  I do remember thinking it was a great venue and some good wines, the one that surprised me was the Rousanne, a wine/grape I had not tried before. Later in the trip I discovered the Rousanne is normally used as a blending grape and is difficult to grow and maintain. I do remember thinking it was a refreshing wine and would drink more.

The good part of the trip to Perissos: It was a great venue, has great soils, a beautiful valley and beautiful vines. The wines were all above average for Texas wines. The not so good part, the wines are pricey by current Texas standards, the Sweet Lucy is $24 and the Tempranillo-Tourigo was $45. I did purchase the Sangiovese for $38 and will savor it later as it puts on some age. I know that reads as a contradiction, the wines are above average and above price - but they are slightly more above price than above average flavor, that being said, I will drop by here again, with my notebook next time!

Drink and enjoy. Next up: McReynolds and West Cave Cellars.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

First Friday

Those that live in Bryan/College Station are at least aware that First Fridays occur. Those that live outside this area may wonder about some of my tweets. As I seem to always mention being at "X" on First Friday. Those that follow my tweets will know the places I frequent.

From the TV of my youth, we saw places that had a downtown square, like Mayberry, where people met, walked and visited. And it's wonderful today to visit some of the smaller Hill Country towns that have maintained that downtown square. But the large cities had let their downtown go. Bryan was one of those cities that at some time in its past had a vibrant downtown area but as urban sprawl occurred the downtown area fell into disrepair.

Like many cities, there are always "mom and pop" businesses located downtown because of cheap rent, or even owning the building during better times. Starting several years ago the owner of the Frame Gallery, a downtown Bryan business, decided she needed to generate some buzz to make people aware of her store. She decided on the First Friday of the month she would stay open until 9:00 pm and offer free wine, snacks, art and music. Her husband is an accomplished drummer and had played with several local musicians so she had a great venue planned.

As she started to draw a crowd she convinced other downtown businesses to join in on the fun. She even joined with local artists and created an "Art Step" that now occurs three times a year where local artists use different stores to display their art normally with music and good camaraderie.

The city of Bryan began about the same time (or a little earlier) helping businesses to refurbish their businesses. The city also redid the main street making it more pedestrian friendly. This also encouraged more businesses to move into the "old downtown" area.

Our downtown has enjoyed a great revival. There are some excellent restaurants, a boutique hotel (Grandma and I just love to stay there!), many varied businesses, and nightclubs. I could go on and on about the businesses because they are the lifeblood of downtown but I would forget someone and feel bad. It is a great place to shop for that unique gift, enjoy a fantastic meal, or have a great glass of wine.

Bryan has done something that is to be proud of. It has revitalized its downtown area and on First Friday you have people parking their cars and walking the streets to have a relaxing time.

I am a baby boomer and as such we had already abandoned the downtown concept by the time I was old enough to be out and visiting. So it is not a reliving of my past but a past of America that was almost forgotten. I will not miss a First Friday and, in fact, have made downtown a destination area for anytime I'm out and need a meal, a unique gift, or just to feel a part of an earlier America.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What you learn.

When I was in high school I decided to take typing, mainly because the class was predominantly girls and I was a teenage boy. I enjoyed the class and earned a passing grade. Since that time I have attended numerous seminars, obtained two college degrees and learned a lot of ways to do things. But it still amazes me how much I use that old typing class.

I went into the army in 1970 I met with the "counselor" I asked him what my scores indicated my army career was going to be. His response "Oh, you can just about do anything you want." Prior to that I was working in radio as an announcer (loved the job, hated the pay) and asked if they had something like that. He searched and found "radio telephone operator" which we decided was what I needed. After I finished basic training I was surprised to learn that a "RTO" was the guy wandering through the jungle with the radio on his back (this was at the apex of Vietnam). I quickly volunteered to take on the Radio Teletype Operator training, at least there you were in a truck and had metal sides between you and hostiles, and you weren't at "the front line". I worked hard and excelled at the school, kicking my typing speed to an all-time school record.

I was assigned to a tank battalion and spent a most of the time at the motor pool and working on the communication trucks before I was offered the company clerk job because of my typing speed. This was great, I worked in an office and got to hear what was going on before the rest of the "grunts". Typing definitely got me through my two year hitch in the army. When I left the army my first job was operating teletype for the local Ford dealer - they were "state-of-the-art" in parts inventory and I spent a large part of the day entering parts numbers.

I went back to college (god bless the g.i. bill) and finished my undergraduate degree. Out of college I went to work for a major oil company that encouraged involvement with local professional organizations. I volunteered for editor of the newsletter, based on my typing, some journalism, and a publication I helped edit as an undergraduate. I had a ball and discovered Apple Computers! Spend a few years looking for oil and editing guidebooks before the bottom dropped out of the oil industry. I went back to school and finished my master's and tried my hand at teaching. Again loved teaching but hated the politics (pay was so - so). I was looking for a job/career and wondered into a local copy shop. The fact that I had bought a mac to complete my thesis, had typing skills and was willing to work cheap landed me in desktop publishing. We started out with a couple of Macintosh Classic and a couple to part-time students and have grown to 4 Mac Pros, a couple of Mac Books and a couple of Mac Book Pros and a staff hovering around a dozen offering full service design. It's been fun to learn and it also gives me a chance to teach as I train new students every year in the art of desktop publishing.

It's interesting that a typing class I took back in high school has stayed with me through my entire life and has contributed to a full life with lots of fun. You never know when you learn something how you're going to use it. Sometimes it's just great to learn and see where it takes you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Full Bleeds in printing

Words that strike fear in my heart: "Please cut to a full bleed". My first thought is, "Please let it be an InDesign fully-packaged file" because then I can make sure the bleed will cut correctly by a little editing. Generally it's not, if I'm having a good day it's a pdf and if it's been a tough day it's two M$ Word files (or every once in a while an Excel file).

I don't really want to get into the desktop publishing thoughts right now, that's been addressed before. Today we're talking about bleeds and how to design for them. I understand the desire to have the ink run to the edge of the paper, whether it's a photo or a solid color or just lines, it adds an attractiveness to the brochure. For today's discussion let's assume a double-sided, full-color, tri-folded brochure. The following still applies to postcards, one-page flyers or any bleed that you want, but double-sided, tri-fold adds another level of front to back registration that will look bad when trimmed incorrectly.

If you're making one copy for a proof prior to printing, or for a class project it's not too difficult to hand cut to an edge or a point. When you're printing several copies the entire stack is cut with a large blade that is hydraulically powered. Normally we can cut 300 sheets of paper at a time, if we're working on gloss paper, we will cut 100 - 125 at a time, if you're doing 1000 flyers that's a lot of cutting. The paper will shift ever so slightly as we cut, the ones on the top are sliding forward so you get a slight shifting toward the bottom of the stack. If the bleed is designed correctly this is not a problem, but if it's an edge, such as a photo abutting white, you will see a small white line on some of the prints. A bleeds goes pass the edge of the final paper so as the shift occurs the top and the bottom print will look exactly the same even if there's a slight difference in size.

If you have space a full .25 inch pass the edge is best, we can get by with .125 inch but it can be tricky. Also if you have text, don't run it to the edge, unless you mean for it to be cut, leave a little room for the blade to fit and the margins to look good.

I know this sounds like a complaint, but actually it's a case of wanting the final product to look right. Most time without prior planning it doesn't because of that small bleed. The time to talk to your printer about your design and how the final is going to look is on the front end, not after the entire thing has been designed and left no room for error.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to handle a upset customer.

I began working with the public when I got out of the army in the early 70s. I was in auto parts sales which helped put me through college (along with the GI bill - god bless uncle sam). When I entered the corporate world I swore I would never go back to retail. During the downturn of the oil industry in the late 80s I decided I wanted a change and knew it would involve computers, the path led back to retail and I jumped in with both feet.

I have attended several seminars, read many books, and sifted through numerous newsletters on customer service, and most were helpful. I have arrived at a list of ways to handle a disgruntled customer, I don't claim it's original but rather a compilation plus personal experience. I recently was slighted by a local company over a minor infraction and I've been thinking about it and thought of how I would want to be treated.

The first rule is ASK - most customers will not complain to you. They simply pay their bill and go complain to anyone who will listen. "I'll never go back there". Each customer should be asked - "How was your experience?" It can be as they're paying out or via a survey (hoping they will return the card) or at anytime during the experience you come in contact with them (my favorite). It can be as simple as "Is everything going okay?"

The second part is LISTEN. What is the customer saying, not only verbally but non-verbally? If they take the time to complain, then it made an impression on them and if you listen they will appreciate the gesture of concern. Remember that listening requires you keep your mouth closed and your attention completely focused on them.

APOLOGIZE, even if the customer is wrong. Be sincere, if you are apologizing for a misunderstanding, say, "We misunderstood what you needed and we're sorry for that". If you are wrong be sure to state, "We were wrong and we will correct it."

Then ASK again, "What will it take to correct this?" Sometimes, it may mean a discount (or free job), it may mean redoing the job, or just maybe, nothing needs to be one. When I complained I explained nothing needed to be done, it was a complaint to make the manager aware that a problem existed and should be addressed for future business. After my complaint the owner said to take the job at no charge; that's not what I wanted, I really wanted an apology and the promise it wouldn't happen again. The owner's attitude was stand offish and unapologetic and he gave me the job which in all likelihood will cost him my future business. Giving the job away isn't always the best answer. I also believe it teaches people to complain about any little thing in hopes of a free or heavily discounted job.

Listen to your customers and they will make you a better business. Award good customers with better service. Punish bad customers by doing the best job possible and not giving them a reason to complain.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Call your Mother

Today is Thanksgiving day and I've been somewhat pensive. My lovely bride and I are at home alone as the offspring have other commitments, we have a lovely dinner planned for tonight and will be having turkey on Saturday so it's okay. But here's some of my thinking today.

I am so thankful for the 40 years I have been married to Brenda, she is a saint and I don't know any man that could be happier. She brought two lovely children into the world who have given us great happiness, not the least of which is our grandchildren.

My father died a little over 15 years ago, at what I thought was much too young an age, he died at the same age as his father which was in 1965 at the age of 69. When my grandfather died I thought he was ancient, when my father died I thought he was young. As I prepare to enter my 6th decade on this planet it is amazing how you look at age. It is a truism that youth is wasted on the young and experience comes from more than years. But having children is hereditary, if your parents didn't have any, you won't either.

My mother lives about 500 miles from me, I moved several years ago and enjoy the area of Texas where I now reside. I don't get to see her as much as I should, I try to go see her every other year. This year I made that drive twice, but not for good reasons.  My mother does not have a computer and at 80 I don't suspect she will. It would be nice to send her photos of the grandkids and an occasion note but she is technologically challenged and I doubt she will ever read any of my blogs. 

I do call her almost every weekend. Something I started doing because of my father-in-law. He used to call his mother every weekend and she died at 93 counting on his calls every weekend. He taught me a lesson by example. I have heard from my siblings that my mother looks forward to my calls and tells them not to bother her on Sunday morning at 9 as I will call. It's not easy talking to an 80 year old woman that doesn't have the same interests that I do, but she is my mother and cares very much about me, as I do about her, so we get through the hour.

It is important as you go through life to remember where you came from and how you got there and it's important to thank them that brought ya. Call your mother, go visit as much as you can. An email is always great and I know she loves the photos, but your voice means a lot to her. BTW this also applies to your dad. He is also wanting to hear from you. Remember you take your son fishing to give him memories, you take your dad fishing to give you memories.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

4 Keys to Success

I attended a seminar today hosted by our local chapter of IABC. It was facilitated by Ritch Davidson and was about having fun at work. Ritch works for Playfair, a California-based company that is dedicated to helping college students and businesses to succeed and have fun while doing it.

It was probably one of the best such seminars I have attended and I thank whoever brought it to our town, but that's not what today's posting is about. 

I have attended many such seminars, taking copious notes and making promises of applying the principles. I generally stick the notebook on the shelf and if lucky a few months later go back and look at my notes to see if there's anything of value there. Sometimes it works, but I have found that you should expect to come away with one good idea that you may be able to put into daily usage. I expected pretty much the same today.

After getting started Ritch said something that caused me to put down my pen, listen and know that I had found one perfect example that I can apply everyday of my life, and hopefully teach others its importance.

He started with "Let me give you the 4 keys to success".  Up until this point most of the information had been in the way of an introduction and the attendees had been taking notes hoping to find something there later. As he started, each poised their pen ready for the words of wisdom that would help them enjoy their jobs and be successful.

He started very softy:
"Row, Row, Row your boat"
"Gently, down the stream"
"Merrily, Merrily, Merrily"
"Life is but a dream"

He then said "Let me explain"

The first line says work, but even more importantly, not just row your boat, but row, row, row so you should work hard.

The second line says go with the flow, don't stress,  take it gently.

The third line, says have fun and using the triple inference, have lots of fun.

The fourth line is the one that could be open to a bit more interpretation, if you don't do these things, life could be a nightmare or a gentle dream. But I believe most of my dreams are about things I do and I love, so therefore I feel that it means life is what you put into it.

I will be doing more research into fun at work and the Playfair company and you should expect to see more in the future.

As I have stated here before, it may not be original but I like it. It will be easy to remember and I'll keep that nursery rhyme in my mind as the stress starts to mount.

Oh and by the way, I also got some great ideas on how to have fun at work.