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A lot of people don’t know that I have a few chops in wine.  I began by befriending a French wine shop owner where I lived back when I had a fake ID, and I did what most young people do, I spent gobs of money getting drunk, albeit on expensive Bordeaux and Burgundians, I mean whatever, if I didn’t know about it, I wanted to try it.  I loved to cook, so this happy marriage of food and wine pairings seemed obvious.  Nobody expects an 18 year old to be dropping $50 on a bottle of vino, so it was easier to sneak.  I left with cases, got my parents drunk, people loved it.  But, I also lived in the Napa Valley, dated a winemaker from Girard, hung out on Pritchard Hill and had a good time destemming Viognier over looking Lake Hennessey whilst sipping some white.  I’ve gone on to work for wineries and distributors – I really love selling wine to people, everyone has a unique palette, likes different things, it’s a challenge and a pleasure for me to assist people in navigating the massive landscape of offerings in wine and liquor to find what pleases them.  I’ve even been trained to tend full bar, I love Scotch and Bourbon.  I mean, Thank God I don’t have a drinking problem after all of that.

People who know me, have been asking about Syrah lately, or Shiraz.  What do they taste like, or do you know of any wine I might like that isn’t quite as tanic as Cabernet?  Yes, let’s chat.

So the way I heard it, is Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape which originated in Persia. It’s just that they speak Arabic in Persia – you know it’s not going to be spelled with the Latin alphabet, it’s a swiggly line with a few dots probably – so being that the French took it back home, and so did the Aussie’s, well you have a 2 roughly similar sounding translations from Arabic, and roughly 2 different predominating styles of winemaking for the grape.  The Australian being more voluptuous and fruity, and the French being more severe.

The French grow Syrah predominantly in the Rhone, this is usually a blend with Grenache and Mouvedre (you will see it called a GSM here in America as we are not allowed to use the appellation name Rhone – same with Champagne, you must call it sparkling wine).  Northern Rhones tend to predominate in more Syrah than the Southern Rhones, and isn’t as fruity as it’s southern sister nor the Australian or even now American styles.  The Southern Rhone tends to be lighter and fruity because of the Grenache, which is the varietal of custom when making Sangria.

There is one last blend variant using Syrah in France, and that is the Chateuneuf du Pape (the Pope’s blend) and of course the Pope had to have more than GSM in his, so you can include up to 13 different varietals in it.  It begins as a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) and then you can have Vaccarese, Claret, Counoise, Cinsault, Rousanne, Picardan, Picpoul, Muscardin, Terret Noir, and Bourblanc.  It’s delightful most of the time, and should be as blends allow you to fill in the rough spots from one type of varietal harvest should you have a bad year.  I’ve had them light, but with rare exception – they are usually heavier, and good with a roast and moldy types of heavier cheese – think Humbolt Fog.  I think they are a nice place to go if you don’t want all the tannins from a Bordeaux blend.  Keep in mind that the Bordeaux blend (American name Meritage) consists of:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, so the blend is an entirely different group of grapes.  For that matter, Burgudians are usually Pinot Noir in Red, and Chardonnay in White.  You will usually never see a Burgundian white with a malolactic acid fermentation on it, which produces the signature California buttery Chardonnay taste.

Back to Syrah/Shiraz:  Australian Shiraz tends to be heavier and the fruit can lean towards the deep and jammy – Molly Dooker being worthy of note here.  The McLaren Vale is a popular and well thought of region for Shiraz in Australia, and indeed Molly Dooker’s high end Black Velvet Glove is from the McLaren Vale.

It’s really hard to make these types of generalizations stick all the time however because winemaking has become so international, and winemakers are using all the knowledge to create their signature style as a means of differentiating themselves from their competition – particularly I think this is true in America, the whole nation of immigrants story driving that.  The above though, does give a basic outline.  In America you can find all kinds of Syrah and it’s various blends in all the styles.  The terroir though, will always steer you towards your favorites.  You can’t change soil.

There is another type of flavor profile in Syrah/Shiraz which I’ll talk about, and that is the olive brine and graphite flavors the wine can produce.  For instance, I was drinking a Red Knot ($15) with my dad – it is a Shiraz from the McLaren Vale.  I got the voluptuous fruit at first, but as the wine opened, it transformed into the briny olive graphite flavors with some cherry notes.  CA Mantra’s Syrah also has the more savory graphite olive complexity.  Syrah is a complex grape, which is I suppose is even why Screaming Eagle of cult fame in California grows it.




Here’s a welcome bit of news.  In my travels, I’ve noticed that light trespass laws are finally starting to take effect.  Little by little, folks and particularly municipalities, are doing what they’re supposed to be doing with taxpayer money, protecting folks, and our environment.

So what constitutes a proper design?  The lighting fixture, or what we call luminaire professionally, emits light only in the down direction – toward the ground.  This eliminates glare, improving one’s ability to see – a key safety feature for motorists lest your car be turned into a weapon driven by a temporarily blinded person.  Be aware that drivers over 60 who’ve had Lasik can be blinded for up to 60 seconds – you want the person coming head on at you blinded for a minute?  NO Obviously.  The luminaire must be fully shielded on the sides – meaning you cannot see the light source by looking laterally at it, and you musn’t use a sag lens which hangs below the line of the luminaire’s bottom, thereby catching the light and redirecting upward at the night sky and creating glare.  

This is where I see mistakes happen most frequently – The City of Reno is a perfect example:  they have light trespass laws, but their engineers were overruled by public officials who liked the look of the sag lens and chose to use their political clout instead of good design practice to implement a streetlighting standard with a double head (twice the glare for motorists) at taxpayer expense while ignoring their own laws and safety standards.  

So it seems that in most instances however they’ve taken care, and are starting to pay attention to light trespass laws on  roadways.  The average homeowner is still lagging far behind – annoyingly shining their spot lights right into their neighbors’ windows.  I had an interesting experience.  I’m more of a country girl when I’m not into massive metropolises, but I rented a room in a suburb not long ago, and it seemed that each house had to have your classic bug eye spot on a motion sensor mounted over the peak of their garage.  Now due to bad fixture design, and even poorer architecture (everybody’s garage had the same setbacks and visibility to the street), the bug light spots would turn on in sequence everytime a car drove down the street – even far into the night, they’d turn on one right after the other, all the way down the block as the car would zoom by.  And then they’d turn off in unison like a daisy chain, and then back on for the next car…wash, rinse, repeat.  Useless! How do people in suburbs get any sleep? Black out shades, it’s the only way.  Talk about a waste of electricity!  It’s bad for health as well.

I’m back to praise for municipalities – good for you for obeying the law via the ™-15 no uplight standard.  About the only caution I have is:  the American Medical Association (AMA) has issued a blue light warning cautioning people to use warm CCT’s for streetlighting and you have to pay attention to the CRI in there as well – George Brainard, PhD and Chairman of the Human Health and Photobiology Committee at the IES recommends no more than 15% blue content within the output of the spectral array. Chile has that standard – good Chileans for not trying to ruin your population’s health while you spend their money lighting their streets.  Streetlighting is for safety, which means health! Duh!  

I’m going to tell you why I’m disgusted with Reno, NV and the US at large.  The government has become such a useless system of arrogant elites – people who after failing to accomplish anything or be made aristocrats by chance – have sought solace in the public sector while they use hubris to act authoritarian utterly crushing anyone who dares act like they ought to pick up the phone.

I’m unsure if their uselessness is due to a general lack of ability, drug or alcohol abuse, whether they are bought out – racketeering with corrupt private sector interests, nursing hatred over their private sector failure, or just inept, but it’s high time I find a place where people act respectful and like they have a brain.  I’m refusing to allow Reno, Washoe County, and Nevada bureaucracy to get away with it.  And I was treated this way in Napa, CA too, so CA isn’t exempt.  Government is basically useless, and is hiding it.  Although most of you I speak to agrees with me here, so hiding in plain sight I suppose is more like it, it’s a racket that they take our money and do nothing successfully, so is insurance, we all get this.

What I’m generally seeing is corruption.  The US federal government certainly has its share, but the scores of policies and research which are handed down and shared by international agencies as guidelines, these entities fail to respond and implement.  The laws are there, but government acts like they are self sowing plants, which are automatically watered.  There is a general lack of willingness to protect people.  I can’t accept it.  Whether you call the system a constitutional republic, a democracy, modified socialism with a dash of free market enterprise, or a lamentable and even perhaps joyous unalterable journey towards communism, people can’t have a successful society which has a chance of survival, if corruption is the aristocracy.  

My assertions of corruption are a compliment in a sense.  I’m saying that people like Mayor Hillary Schieve actually have a brain, they are just hacks.  This is in contrast to being an utter idiot, who lies and takes bribes, which is what I was told was going on by the client who poisoned me at 50 S. Virginia Street, Bernard & Tim Carter.  When you can pay about $100K to government to allow you to disobey federal law (when it’s in direct contradiction to what the head Plans Examiner in the Building Department instructed), well that’s sayin you paid someone higher up to let you racketeer and hurt people.

This corruption is easy to get away with in small town America within the building sector.  People in these American rural communities haven’t generally seen the world class design and building acumen shown in large cities, where the best buildings happen.  It’s easy to fool the public and run a racket, which pumps out poisonous and substandard work.  I cannot have the ethical practice I desire in a place like Reno, NV, because the corruption is so bad, and the people are so uneducated.  I’m done trying to cram crap into my portfolio.  I will say that Phil Satre’s custom house was the notable exception. Thanks Phil and Jennifer, you guys were very professional.

To the rest of Reno, I’ll say this.  You can have your 7” incandescent cans (which you can buy 10 for a $100), to which you stuff an LED retrofit for $3.

Let’s discuss a real seemingly boring issue – insurance.  Just the word conjures up visions of squares speaking in monotone, asking you a relentless list of questions.  Then comes the piles of papers you have to sign, yes, insurance sucks baby.  And it doesn’t just stop there, there’s all the different kinds of insurance we’re supposed to have – health got a lot of press recently during Obama care, but what about business insurance?  There’s general liability, errors and omissions, workers compensation, auto, home, fire, earthquake, life…good Lord save me from everything!!

Hopefully though, it’s there when you need it.  That’s what we’re told right?  This is the whole reason we have it.  Pay a little now, in case you need a safety net later.  Except what’s been going on with insurance per my experience, amounts to little more than bogus racketeering.  And I’d really like to talk about that today.

We’ve all been there – let’s take the classic fender bender.  Somebody hits you, and the insurance company takes forever, tries to nickel and dime you, only reimburses you for a job half done.  Everybody I know loves to gripe about how insurance companies are the worst at paying you what they promise.  Let’s face it, their reputation precedes them.

But I’m really angry over what’s been going on in my business this last time I got poisoned.  I bought insurance specifically to cover me if  it ever happened again, but it didn’t. Hartford was nice enough to sell me an expanded flex policy specifically for the purpose (read I paid more cash), but when push came to doctor bills, it did not cover me.  Three people are responsible for poisoning me this time, but even though they broke the law and knowingly spread poison everywhere, their insurance won’t cover it (AIG and Capital Insurance Group), all I get is bullied from attorneys who work for the insurance companies.

These insurance people help each other out.  They have a centralized computer system which tells them all claims which have been filed by you, so it makes it easier to deny you.  They share information about you, and talk to each other about whether they are denying you, before they even tell you about it.  Yep, that’s insurance.  For profit companies, making tons of money “being there for you”, i.e. wasting your time and doing what they can to defraud you.  Its money we put in so we could have a safety net, and these companies aren’t doing what they promised.

Take your money and give you nothing.  Kinda sounds like the economic collapse all over again (gee aren’t AIG the ones responsible for that too??  Or maybe it was just that they went “bankrupt” and got to buy back their billion dollar headquarters for $1 at taxpayer expense.).  A legal form of fraud via collusion and racketeering.  A cartel to be sure.  But we already knew that.  They’re trained professionals.

And it’s even mandated to have it by law!  Lucky Americans…

nose-cropI must write a warning for everybody out there, relating to a project I was working on located at 50 S. Virginia Street, Reno, NV USA – The Historic Former Post Office aka The Basement and other shops. The owners, Bernie & Tim Carter hired Evelyn Sahaja, LC InLightIn Design to perform lighting design for the project.

They poisoned me by conducting substandard non-quality work in violation of federal standards over a period from January 2014-March 2015 – they lied to me – until my reactions to the building became so bad I could no longer be inside it. Even though I attempted to warn Carter for his own and everyone’s safety, he fired me when I advised him that my doctor said I was exhibiting signs of chemical poisoning. They and their general contractor United Construction have been shut down by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) July 2014 for failure to abate lead and asbestos. The building was locked down for over 3 months while they were forced to clean it up. After this citation, Carter continued to run his own team, which has also now been cited by the Nevada State Contractors Board for contracting without a license – January 2016.

The market concept in “the Basement”, is a copy of the Chelsea market in NYC. It was concepted by Brianna Bullentini of the Rawbry Juice Bar. She is unlicensed, and claims to have a BS in Sustainable Architecture from Parsons in speaking engagements on TedX and the Vanguard Next Cities conference, March 2015. Parsons has confirmed that it is a BFA in Interior Design, and further scrutiny of her resume verifies that she has never worked at a level higher than a paid intern. She has claimed to be a Creative Director at ICrave in NYC. ICrave has verified that she was a paid intern.

My glorious little LED

Let me celebrate thee.


Form factors galore

They’re in the store!


Less pollution gets in my eyes,

and greenhouse gases overtime.


So energy efficient,

Its a gift, I get it.


The Nobel Physics Prize,

Nakamura and team so wise.


SMD, Chip on Board,

I just scored.


Binning, Damming, Doping,

Not bored, still coping and hoping.


That gonio sphere,

May I take your measurements dear?


Lighting Facts,

Yeah, TPC I get down like that.


You give me the ability to Spectrally tune,

Used with Circadian Rhythm, and people’s health will improve.


LED, so wafer thin.

Darlin you win!

Hello Everybody-

The 2016 winners of the Product Innovation Awards have been released.  I’m pleased to have done the judging for the competition for the 6th or 7th year now.  Its nice to have served in this capacity and on the IES Testing and Procedures Committee for SSL for long enough now, that I’m recognized as having knowledge on the topic.  I do love LED, OLED, etc… the various forms that comprise the world of SSL.

You can see LED overtaking legacy technology.  There’s virtually no application area or form factor its unable to address.  The lamp lives are cresting over 100,000 hours with efficacy (efficiency defined as lumens per watt – LPW) at over 100 as well.  LEDs!  They get a score of 100!

As a Judge for the magazine, I see the best of what the manufacturers have to offer usually.  But in the real work of lighting specifications, the form factors most requiring improvement are:  ubiquitous commercial types – such as troffer retrofits and strips, and decorative.  I’m still seeing far too many 50,000hour ratings with only 80+CRI on the commercial side, and on the decorative side – far too many screw base sockets.  The commercial side has long been the bastion of those with no design expertise, and the decorative side the purview of architects and interior designers who care only for the look of the fixture and not its performance.  A big piece of my business is still fixing this work that nobody bothered to calc, but it sure does look pretty – if only I could see it.  This really holds the industry down, because this is what the consumer is shown as good and ethical lighting design.

Let’s talk about efficacy, or efficiency as the lay person will call it.  Lumens per watt is only part of the story in several ways.  The lumen is unit of measurement which tells you how much total is coming from a light source, but it doesn’t tell you how exactly.  And the finer points of that is where quality happens – its everything really.  This is where optics get into the equation, the difference between a diffuse source or a point source, beam spreads, candela aka center beam candle power, luminance vs. illuminance, etc…  And then there’s the metric – lumens per watt as a way to measure efficiency.  I’ve built my reputation in the design world on broadening the metric for efficiency as it pertains to human energy.  For instance, if the light makes you sick/confused/or plain unable to see and you hurt yourself – and therefore we have to build more hospitals which run 24/7/365 drawing energy, drive up insurance rates, drain more sick pay, and increase medical costs, this is bad efficiency – it doesn’t matter that a light may use fewer watts.  Its more of a cradle to cradle ethic for lighting design.  Because light is more than electro hunk o junk – it is also a natural phenomenon, its role in the biology of living things must come first.  So, lumens per watt with a caveat.

I’d love to see the natural high efficiency of LED’s blue rich properties combined with the form factors employed for daytime use.  You’d spoil me with sky shift, however its really needed when the 9-5 workforce gets off, shops, works out, etc…  We can step away from the straight retrofit, but use the same opening (T Bar Grid), or even find new ways to put light into the world.  To work with this efficiency during peak demand times, is such a winning combination.  It will reduce greenhouse gases/toxic emissions, save the strain on the grid, and save clients money while bolstering health.  Who knew, the LB from Lithonia might actually have life after being done to death!  I see this like my Fiat, so high in mpg, that the savings in gas makes the car payment.  Its not as though the idea is new (its a story as old as time literally – the pattern of light and darkness), its just who can do it best?

At the end of the judging for this year, I was happy to see tiny aperture (opening) 1″ downlights with excellent color quality for a low cost.  Color quality was a main theme – track that really delivers on flexibility.  The manufacturer’s impressed me with their ideas on modularity, and I even saw some nice decorative.  To the untrained eye, it will likely never know the difference, they might feel it, but the difference in sales and experience as a result of higher quality is taking the flexibility of SSL to a new dimension.

Love it!