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Episode 2 (Wet Dog Fur Wine and Brene Brown)

Show notes:

Episode 2 (Wet Dog Fur Wine and Brene Brown)

Make sure your wine never tastes like wet dog fur. huh?


Spark my muse is The podcast for curious creatives types, wine newbies, and those willing to put up with my occasional silliness. Thank you so much for sharing your time with me.


How wine can go to the dogs and how to best store wine in the wine segment.

Plus, a bit about a topic and a book that has made a huge difference in my life.

This episode of the podcast is brought to you by:

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Today’s wine segment!

Why might your wine taste like wet dog fur….and what to do about it?

Basic Stats:
A wine bottle has 25.33 oz. (750ml).
A serving (a glass) of wine is 5 oz . (Half way up the glass is full. Where the glass is widest (aroma reasons in the design)
1 bottle = five glasses.

If your wine smells stale or like wet dog fur…it is Corked!

(The cork is not working and too much air has mixed with the wine.)

Wine last 24 hours if the air is pumped out
Here’s the one I recommend we use it at work. It pays for itself after two uses.

Wine lasts only a few hours if it’s not pumped. It’s not harmful, but it won’t taste its best. Pushing the cork back in won’t help too much because air is trapped in there.

Another reason Wine is stored on its side to expand the cork. A bottle corked with a plastic cork won’t be helped by horizontal storage.

On the next PODCAST – I’ll talk about my favorite tool for opening wine and why, and the bottle opening tools you should (probably) avoid !


Now to spark your Muse

Brené Brown’s work made its mark on me before she did her famous 1st TED TALK which lead to you famous ins TED Talk on her research about shame and vulnerability at the University of Houston.



The topics in the book and some of the passages I’ll read to you have really gained new significance  because putting up a podcast is risky. I feel vulnerable and I feel like I might get rejected. Some people won’t like it and I can’t change that. I don’t want to fail. And I don’t want to look like an idiot. And looking like an idiot is extremely probable.

When we are about to step out into unknown territory or if we doing something that makes us more vulnerable the two main things we think are “who do you think you are?” and “You’rd going to look like a fool” and I might add one to that “You won’t do it right” (it ’s related to the 2nd one) Maybe you can think of others that come to you mind.

We seem okay to handle other people’s vulnerability but really reluctant to risk that ourselves.

Excerpts from Daring Greatly:

Pg 35 “I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”

My note: We can’t risk feeling vulnerable if we are dealing with shame.

pg 68 “people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection”

My note: Social also social pain. We fear rejection and isolation.

pg 67 “shame derives its power from being unspeakable”

Language and story bring light to shame and destroy it

pg 71

Guilt is “I did something wrong”

Shame is “I am bad” (or “I am something wrong”)

• When new feel shame we lash out, get anxious, hide, or numb out, and really we need to do the opposite of those things to have victory.

• Instead of lashing out or hiding we need to reach out, to some one we can trust.

• Instead of overcompensating we have to cut ourselves a break. “I make mistakes. I’m moving on past this one.”

Pg 80 Brené says “If I own the story I get to write the ending.” I just heard a fascinating TED TALK from Monica Lewinsky and she sounds like she’s taking this advise. She said it was time to take back her story and control her own narrative.

Reaching out and being honest creates an environment of empathy, and that’s really why I’m sharing all this with you.

Don’t be afraid to create and do things that are your passion. And mess up while doing them. I’m messing up a lot, but I’m trying to not let those mistakes put me in a choke hold of shame and inaction.

I hope you will be inspired to do the same.

Thanks for listening today!

Or if you have read Daring Greatly, what was the most powerful thing you learned. I’d love to hear from you! Leave comments at or the email

subscribe to the podcast….tell your friends what you and I have been up to. See you soon.

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Encountering your own loneliness



Managing a wine tasting room is a great job for a writer because, when it’s not too busy, you can become a kind of social scientist: observing people and trying to see why humans do what we do.

You can even allow your curiosity to navigate some of the deeper questions about the human experience.

One recent observation:
The “poison apple” of the smart phone has changed how we do things alone–eating, drinking, or traveling, in particular.

FACT: People rarely come to taste wine by themselves (at our place).

That may seem obvious. Wine tends to bring people together, right? Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that people only rarely come alone.

But it IS strange.

Think about it like this:
Shopping for food or clothes alone isn’t considered weird and people tasting wine are really just shopping for wine.

The only difference perhaps are presumptions, previous experiences, or maybe subterranean social exceptions.

• Feeling low…solo

When people visit the tasting room alone, I can usually sense their social discomfort. They might suddenly offer me a reason why they are alone this time or they might neurotically use their phone to look busy or connected.

The alternative, of course, would be to interact with and absorb the environment they are truly in or look for ways to subvert social fear through some modicum of meaningful interaction: friendliness, conversation, inquisitiveness, for starters. So terrifying is the prospect of looking lonely at a winery, that many solo customers barely experience it at all.

• Confronting fear

This observation got me to thinking of ways I try to numb or avoid these fears or points of discomfort in myself and in my life. What am I missing that I shouldn’t be. The default is to use technology to connect, but at what cost?

When I interviewed Rolf Potts, famed travel-writer and best-selling author, he talked about his own wrestling with the seduction of “not being where he was” by engaging with technology. One of the most memorable things he said was this:

“When you travel alone you are forced to confront your own loneliness and boredom, and interact with your surroundings in ways you can’t [when you’re] with a companion.”

We miss our chances for new experiences with the advent of constant so-called “connectedness”, don’t we?

The habit forms quickly. Only thoughtfulness will heal this malady.

(Here’s the video. He covers that bit around min 2:40.)


Do you question how you use technology and confront what it might be stealing from you?

Encountering our loneliness more deeply could create epiphanic moments of self-discovery and new insights into what we fear and what makes us each unique.


Maybe it’s time to do something alone to test your social fears, deepen your healthy sense of self, and develop a new sense of social, and even spiritual, courage and strength.

Maybe leave your phone is the car for the 30 min you shop, eat out, or exercise. Good things could happen.

If you like what you’ve read, consider getting my in-depth but consice weekly correspondence, starting soon.
Learn about it here.

Sarcasm is Useless…yeah, right!

I’m back.

Have you missed me?


I’m getting to the last half of the humor series I started a few weeks back! (see the bottom of the page for the other entires)!

Today I am exploring sarcasm.Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.28.47 AM

 (part 1)

This took a lot of research because I had so little understanding of sarcasm and I’ve heard it so infrequently.

That was like stretching before a jog.

You limber and ready? Let’s do this!

We take humorous sarcasm for granted because it’s so plentiful in the modern culture milieu. This is, in fact, a recent cultural development, and one the entertainment industry has much to be thankful for.

Sarcasm is actually a rather complex use of a language:


In using sarcasm we must convey the opposite of what we are saying.


This happens best by using enough vocal intonations, body language, and other hints to communicate true intent. (The less exaggeration done, the more of a butt hole you seem.)

For those with language or cognitive impairments, like autism, sarcasm may be routinely misunderstood. My son’s–who has autism and learning disabilities–now has a budding understanding of sarcasm at age 14. My daughter caught on at age 3. By using more exaggeration to convey the real meaning in my use of sarcasm, I introduced him to a common use of communication. I know you’re thinking… “PARENT OF THE YEAR!”…but, yes, this was not without its problems. 

His accomplishment was a milestone of development that will start to serve him well if he expects to be treated as a mainstreamed person. Nevertheless, the use of sarcastic comments in our home tends to be unnoticed by him and taken in lateral, face-value terms. We try to keep a reign on it in our home to avoid needless problems of miscommunication.

This was, at first, a bitter disappointment to me, having come from a caustic childhood environment where sarcastic mockery was more plentiful than supper leftovers. Alas, it was a call to greater maturity as well as development of alternative modes of mirth-making. For me, baby steps.


6 Things to note about the use of sarcasm:

1. Unlike many other expressions of humor, sarcasm always has a point and means to activate or thwart something. It also proves useless (or frustrating) if the hearer fails to understand the actual pointed meaning. Tip: That’s how to foil it. Just act oblivious. Easy-peasy. 

2. Invariably, It is used to point out the supposed superiority of one person (or group) over another.
That’s, right…..Busted!

3. It is considered genuinely humorous only when one can duly side with the practitioner of it, and not be the object of the sarcasm/ridicule. The rare exception being when the practitioner has the master skills to appear convincingly benign to everyone involved–which few do convincingly. Groans, eye rolling, harbored resentment, passive aggression, or revenge plots indicate failure on this part.

4. The word sarcasm comes to us from the mid 16th century in the French word sarcasme. Isn’t it hard to believe that of all people and language groups on the planet that it would be the French at the source of the word?

I wonder what the source of the the word “snooty” is….

(Find out and let me know!)

Right now, I feel I should point out that “DeLay” is my married name.

The French word sarcasme was originally from late Latin, from late Greek sarkasmos. In Greek, it is sarkazein and means to ‘tear flesh,’ (lovely!). In late Greek it meant ‘gnash the teeth, speak bitterly’ (think: sneer). And like the languages from whence it came, sarcasm is often noted to be too little, too late and, of course, carnivorous.

5. The frequent use of sarcasm creates a negative, cynical, and often toxic atmosphere and state of mind. And it’s just plain old douchey (pardon my French).

6. In the classical (Greek) world, “humor” was primarily conducted as sarcasm and practiced by the upper class (who were few) to degrade and condescend the lower, poorer classes (who were many). I’m assuming that in contrast, the poorer classes, as is typical, found burping, farts, and shit jokes funny (pardon my French).

This class issue is why the use of humor was denounced by Plato and other early philosophers (who were–mind you–literate, educated, and upper class. They saw it as counter-productive and without virtue. The noble, high class aim is to be good. And of course, farting was not at all funny to Plato, ever. Not once.)

In the Republic (388e), Plato says that the guardians of the state should avoid laughter, “for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction.”

I’m not sure if he meant riots or just getting punched in the eye.

And now, I will leave you with this story…


A linguists professor instructs his class saying,


“Sarcasm is a poor use of language, crass and unsophisticated, and serves absolutely no sensible point.”


To which a student in the back replies, “Yeah, right!”


Sarcasm is, most often, poison humor meant to somehow injure or to thwart.

It works like a kind of tool and inflicts a kind of violence. As with all weapons, prudence and moderation will be the best course…in case all of this is getting past you. ;)

It goes without saying that, sometimes, violence is the point, so then it boils down to determining what kind of person you want to be most of the time.


Your assignment is to write something sarcastic in the comments section to prove you understood this post, or instead… if your conscious is lashing you, count and report the number of times sarcasm was used in the post. 

Sarcasm tends to be misunderstood in written form. This includes, letters, emails, texts, and sky writing. The internet is replete with sarcasm misunderstood….so in

PART 2 I’ll go over how the Secret Service is considering using software to detect sarcasm online. Crazy but true.



1. The primacy of humor

2. Step 1: Tickle Rats (the science and study of humor)

3. It’s not just timing, it’s specific knowledge

4. On how subversive humor works


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For the latest info on my humor related projects sign up here.

Friendship: Unnecessary for Survival?

Prompted by a C.S. Lewis quote posted by fellow-writer Mark Zellner, hug


C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

New to my life is this:

I’m a manager on Saturdays at Spring Gate Vineyard in the tasting room.

It’s a place where friends meet. It’s a great place to get to know people, and also to study people as they socialize (observe and people-watch).

People could meet there for business, and some do. But these sorts of gatherings are few by comparison to all the others.

There’s something about friendship that gets enhanced through the communing with food and drink in a bucolic setting. People linger and relax. They smile more. 

I’ve never seen someone pre-occupied on there smartphone, unless they were checking on their friend’s arrival. Most everyone is fully there enjoying the company, the setting, and of course the wine (and the food from the caterers we partner with).

Alcohol? Is that part of the equation?

Not in the way you would think.

This is no place of obliteration with alcohol (the odd exception being the occasional limo parties who make us one stop of many). It’s a moderate environment in every way.


Friendships that can help moderate the cruelties of life are a treasure.

The complexities of flavors…in the wine, the food, and the company are savored where I work. And that is the sweetness of life.

I do pity those without friendship. I pity those who do not make friends by being a friend. My mother told me this is how it works. I agree with her, but that’s how you get one started.

They need nourishment, cultivation, compassion, and sometimes weeding or pruning–the hard work of digging in and getting dirty when things are not perfect.

And I do pity those who dare not trust and risk to forge close friendships, because the rewards of deep friendship are lavish.

(This is not to say that pain will be absent from friendship. Any friendship without some pain is a swallow one. Sadly, though, the threat of this (typical sort of) pain keeps too many watching at a distance.)

Perceived betrayals and miscommunication are the tannin.

And like tannins make wine better as it ages, the bumpy patches can (potentially, and with God’s help) work positively make our friendships get better with age.)


I’ll add to Lewis’ thought,

“Cooperation-not friendship-is necessary for human survival…but friendship elevates survival and gives it the balance, lovely complexity, and long, sweet finish.” -LD

So there is, like many things in this world, a “wastefulness” about friendship. Like beauty and ingenious design, of say a fly’s wing or a plant, friendship has something that points off the map to a greater reality. A greater Truth.

Friendship may be the most necessary thing after all to feel fully alive. It taps deeply into our wiring, into our human need for connection and meaning. It may look a bit different for each of us, of course.

Without it we may have a disease of mind, or of society at large. Without it we can tap into the hopelessness that strikes when we feel we are forgotten or alone. Disconnection is hell after all.

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