Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles

Champagne.  The drink that brings us bubbles and signifies celebrations. We  ring in the new year with a glass of bubbles, toast a bride, christen a ship. The bubbles are for a celebration.

Curious about this drink ( my favorite not just at new years but through the year.) – I did a little research and learned that champagne, really sparkling wine, existed before Dom Pierre Peirgnon "discovered it" in the 1600's.  Actually he was hired by monks to improve the quality of their fizzy “mad” wine.   Their bubbly wine wasn’t planned - it was a surprise, not really a happy one.  It did exist in England in the 1500 when glass bottles weren't as strong.  The result of the bubbles -  bottles that tended to explode.  (

But in 1688 Dom Peirgnon and Frere Jean Oidart, both worked to stabilize and improve this bubbling wine.  Once the wine had evolved to the point where Dom Peirgnon felt it was successful “I think I tasted the stars” he is quoted as saying  he moved ahead to marketing  -- introducing it to the French court.  Louis XIV made champagne the king's drink of choice there by elevating its status in the world.  

The popularity of champagne spread leading to its worldwide production.   Today the name champagne is reserved for wines made in the Champagne region of France but a similar beverage, sparkling wine is made around the world.  California, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Hawaii all produce this wine.  

If you welcome the new year with a glass of "bubbly" you'll be enjoying a beverage created over five centuries ago - may we continue to celebrate the beginning of new years again and again - with or without glasses filled with bubbles.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Food, Trade and Geography

We know from years of reading about trade agreements that agriculture  often creates contentious, deal ending issues for proposed free trade agreements.  That topic is likely to hit the front pages again in 2014 as the US and the EU return to work on the TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A new trade a agreement between these two trading partners.

In this case agriculture doesn’t just mean who can important more or less beef or pork.  It’s broader than that.  Think GIs.  Not soldiers but Geographical Indicators.
Names of food linked to a specific places.

Truly I’d never heard of GIs in that sense until I read Sbine Muscat’s article in the Globalist.  “Wine, Cheese and Trade:  What’s in a Name?
( Can there be champagne made in California not France?  Yes or no depending on trade agreements?  It's true and complicated.  The same question:  does the name of the place matter? exists for wine, cheese, sausage, rice, and more.  Think Florida oranges, Idaho potatoes, Napa Valley wine.

But what is a GI?  According to one definition it is:“ a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Philip Blenkinsop writing for the Sunday Times in London pointed out that the GIs matter in upcoming neogtiatons.

So now we have even more to consider when it comes to selecting our food.  Not only is it local?  organic?  gluten free?   Now we ask is it really from where it says?  What's the GI and can I trust it?


Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Do You Mean?

Don’t let your conversation sound like a mystery to be solved.  This is especially important when you are working with people whose mother tongue is not the same as yours.

Most of know the basic rules to make it easy to communicate:  Keep sentences short.  Don’t use abbreviations.  Skip your corporate jargon.  Today I’d add one more recommendation:  Eliminate the Buzzwords.   Think words like Pivot, Ideation, Gamificatin and Growth Hacker. 

These are some of the words included in Mike Perler’s article  “9 Buzzwords That Can Make You Sound Dumb:  He shares a list of popular words and their translation.  Check it out: 

Mr. Perler, Director of the Council for Economic Education suggests that we may sound dumb using these words frequently or incorrectly.  That’s probably true if everyone involved speaks fluent English.  If not, it could be worse.The conversation could be incomprehensible.  

 It’s hard to do business together when the parties don’t understand each other.  Try to avoid creating mysteries with your choice of words.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Drawing of History

The Merriam Webster dictionary’s first definition of a map is:  a picture or chart that shows the rivers, mountains, streets, etc., in a particular area. Basically its a drawing that tells us the relationship of one place to another.  It answers our questions:  How far is New York from San Francisco.  What countries are adjacent to China, Chile or Croatia.

But a map can be much more than that.  According to Jerry Brotton whose book Projecting Power:  A History of the World in 12 Maps,  a map is much more.  They are documents  that “allow the armchair traveler to road the world, the diplomat to argue his points, the ruler to administer his country, the warrior to plan his campaigns, the propagandist to boost his cause.”   It’s intriguing to think of a piece of paper, a lovely drawing, as a way to understand how people viewed their world and what we think now. (For more details check Herrick Bering’s book review at

To learn more about our world through maps read Maphead : Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings.  This delightful book tells us as much about the people who collect and create maps as it does about history through maps.  

Just as we can learn about history through the book A History of the World in Six Glasses so too can we learn from maps.  They  help us answer the questions:  Why do they do that?  What’s their story?   The precise and beautiful illustrations of a map can give us a new way to understand the people we know today.