Aug 03 2015

Syncopation red wine blend from Mike Ward on Wine

Syncopation red wine blend - Mike Ward on Wine - Augusta, MOThis past weekend, I was visiting my good friends at The Wine Barrel for their weekly wine tasting, and I got a neat surprise when I was there. Certified Sommelier, Mike Ward of Ward on Wine was there with a new project of his called Syncopation. Syncopation is a private-label red wine blend produced in Augusta, MO, which, if you didn’t know, was the first AVA recognised by the United States Federal Government in 1980 (beating out Napa).

Having been to some of Mike’s classes (including ones about two of my favourite countries for wine [Italy and Spain]), I was confident that any wine he would stand behind would be a worthwhile investment. Though I’m not usually partial to wines from Missouri, the way that he described Syncopation as being “medium bodied with some nice red fruits and a little spice” was enticing to me. Before getting to my personal impressions and review of Syncopation Rhythmic Red blend, here are some interesting notes about it:

  • It is a blend of Chambourcin, Vidal blanc, Seyval blanc, and Traminette
    • Chambourcin is really a red grape, whilst the other three are white grapes
    • Chambourcin can be made so that it is dry or semi-sweet
    • Vidal blanc is related to Trebbiano, which is a grape noted for wines from Italy and France (where it is more commonly known as Ugni blanc)

Mike indicated to me that this particular wine is best enjoyed at a slightly chilled temperature (16-18°C / 60-65°F), but that I should try it right out of the bottle beforehand, and make my own assessments. I will agree with him that it is better with a light chill on it, and after it has decanted for 20-30 minutes. Since I did try it both ways, I will separate my tasting notes into two corresponding sections.

Right out of the bottle
When I first tried Syncopation, I noticed a slight sweetness to it, which is the signature of some of the white blends from St. James Winery and others in Missouri. It was forward with a burst of freshly picked strawberries, and had delicate notes of Victoria plums in the mid-palate. It was light-to-medium bodied, and had an almost effervescent mouthfeel, though there were no bubbles at all.

Chilled accordingly
After my bottle of Syncopation had chilled to the recommended temperature, I tried it again. To me, the differences were night and day! As expected, the slight chill intensified the flavours of strawberry and plum that I had originally noted, making them more bold and readily recognisable. The effervescence that I mentioned was no longer present, and the mouthfeel had tightened to a more medium-body. Most impressive to me was how the chilling and decanting brought some underlying subtleties to the surface. I really enjoyed some notes of cherry cola, white pepper, and most prominently, coastal sage scrub.

Mike Ward on Wine and Zach - first sale of Syncopation Rhythmic Red Blend
Mike Ward and Zach – First sale of Syncopation Red Wine
Click to enlarge

Overall impressions
As someone who enjoys the intense wines of Priorat, Spain and yet the subtleties of a Brunello di Montelcino, I found Sycnopation to be a bit light for my preference. That being said, it is an approachable red wine for sweet and semi-sweet white wine lovers, yet tannic enough to appease staunch red drinkers. To me, Syncopation lives up to its name in that it is rhythmic and flowing. It also captures the joys of summer, and is able to—with its beautiful notes of strawberry and white-fleshed plum—cut through the ofttimes oppressive humidity that can accompany a Saint Louis August. If you think you know what Missouri wines are “all about,” or if you just would like an unassuming light-to-medium red blend that is new and exciting, I urge you to give Syncopation a try!


Jul 10 2015

Thunderbird links open in Chrome / Chromium in incognito mode

For quite some time, I have tried to get links in Thunderbird to open automatically in Chrome or Chromium instead of defaulting to Firefox. Moreover, I have Chromium start in incognito mode by default, and I would like those links to do the same. This has been a problem for me since I don’t use a full desktop environment like KDE, GNOME, or even XFCE. As I’m really a minimalist, I only have my window manager (which is Openbox), and the applications that I use on a regular basis.

One thing I found, though, is that by using PCManFM as my file manager, I do have a few other related applications and utilities that help me customise my workspace and workflows. One such application is libfm-pref-apps, which allows for setting preferred applications. I found that I could do just what I wanted to do without mucking around with manually setting MIME types, writing custom hooks for Thunderbird, or any of that other mess.

Here’s how it was done:

  1. Execute /usr/bin/libfm-pref-apps from your terminal emulator of choice
  2. Under “Web Browser,” select “Customise” from the drop-down menu
  3. Select the “Custom Command Line” tab
  4. In the “Command line to execute” box, type /usr/bin/chromium --incognito --start-maximized %U
  5. In the “Application name” box, type “Chromium incognito” (or however else you would like to identify the application)

Voilà! After restarting Thunderbird, my links opened just like I wanted them to. The only modification that you might need to make is the “Command line to execute” portion. If you use the binary of Chrome instead of building the open-source Chromium browser, you would need to change it to the appropriate executable (and the path may be different for you, depending on your system and distribution). Also, in the command line that I have above, here are some notes about the switches used:

  • –incognito starts Chromium in incognito mode by default (that one should be obvious)
  • –start-maximized makes the browser window open in the full size of your screen
  • %U allows Chromium to accept a URL or list of URLs, and thus, opens the link that you clicked in Thunderbird

Under the hood, it seems like libfm-pref-apps is adding some associations in the ~/.config/mimeapps.list file. The relevant lines that I found were:

[Added Associations]
x-scheme-handler/http=userapp-chromium --incognito --start-maximized-8KZNYX.desktop;
x-scheme-handler/https=userapp-chromium --incognito --start-maximized-8KZNYX.desktop;

Hope this information helps you get your links to open in your browser of choice (and with the command-line arguments that you want)!


Jun 19 2015

Amavisd – debugging and logging startup failures

Recently, I wrote an article about amavisd not running with Postfix, and getting a “Connection refused to″ error message that wasn’t easy to diagnose. Yesterday, I ran into another problem with amavisd refusing to start properly, and I wasn’t readily able to figure out why. By default, amavisd logs to your mail log, which for me is located at /var/log/mail.log, but could be different for you based on your syslogger preferences. The thing is, though, that it will not log start-up errors there. So basically, one is seemingly left in the dark if you start amavisd and then realise it isn’t running immediately thereafter.

I decided to take a look at the init script for amavisd, and saw that there were some non-standard functions in it:

# grep 'extra_commands' /etc/init.d/amavisd
extra_commands="debug debug_sa"

These extra commands map to the following functions:

debug() {
ebegin "Starting ${progname} in debug mode"
"${prog}" debug
eend $?

debug_sa() {
ebegin "Starting ${progname} in debug-sa mode"
"${prog}" debug-sa
eend $?

Though these extra commands may be Gentoo-specific, they are pretty easy to implement on other distributions by directly calling the binary itself. For instance, if you wanted the debug function, it would be the location of the binary with ‘debug’ appended to it. On my system, that would be:

/usr/sbin/amavisd -c $LOCATION_OF_CONFIG_FILE debug

replacing the $LOCATION_OF_CONFIG_FILE with your actual config file location.

When I started amavisd in debug mode, the start-up problem that it was having became readily apparent:

# /etc/init.d/amavisd debug
* Starting amavisd-new in debug mode ...
Jun 18 12:48:21.948 /usr/sbin/amavisd[4327]: logging initialized, log level 5, syslog: amavis.mail
Jun 18 12:48:21.948 /usr/sbin/amavisd[4327]: starting. /usr/sbin/amavisd at amavisd-new-2.10.1 (20141025), Unicode aware, LANG="en_GB.UTF-8"

Jun 18 12:48:22.200 /usr/sbin/amavisd[4327]: Net::Server: 2015/06/18-12:48:22 Amavis (type Net::Server::PreForkSimple) starting! pid(4327)
Jun 18 12:48:22.200 /usr/sbin/amavisd[4327]: (!)Net::Server: 2015/06/18-12:48:22 Unresolveable host [::1]:10024 - could not load IO::Socket::INET6: Can't locate in @INC (you may need to install the Socket6 module) (@INC contains: lib /etc/perl /usr/local/lib64/perl5/5.20.2/x86_64-linux /usr/local/lib64/perl5/5.20.2 /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.2/x86_64-linux /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.2 /usr/local/lib64/perl5 /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.1/x86_64-linux /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.1 /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl /usr/lib64/perl5/5.20.2/x86_64-linux /usr/lib64/perl5/5.20.2) at /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.1/Net/Server/ line 122.\n\n at line 82 in file /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.20.1/Net/Server/
Jun 18 12:48:22.200 /usr/sbin/amavisd[4327]: Net::Server: 2015/06/18-12:48:22 Server closing!

In that code block, the actual error (in bold text) indicates that it couldn’t find the Perl module IO:Socket::INET6. This problem was easily fixed in Gentoo with emerge -av dev-perl/IO-Socket-INET6, but could be rectified by installing the module from your distribution’s repositories, or by using CPAN. In my case, it was caused by my recent compilation and installation of a new kernel that, this time, included IPV6 support.

The point of my post, however, wasn’t about my particular problem with amavisd starting, but rather how one can debug start-up problems with the daemon. Hopefully, if you run into woes with amavisd logging, these debug options will help you track down the problem.


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