A Sunday Afternoon at the Old Millington Winery

The Sunday afternoon drive. Before the time of expensive gasoline, gridlock, crumbling roads, and suburban sprawl, many folks considered the Sunday afternoon drive the pinnacle of their week, a great time for the family to spend time together and take in the majesty of country scenery and some much needed fresh air.

Well, those days are largely gone now, but a sub-culture of Sunday ramblers still exists. For example, soccer moms might catch of glimpse of Harley-riding CFOs in their mid-40s while filling up the minivan and buying some snacks for the big game. Around Memphis on Saturday morning, the roads with longer stretches start crawling with cyclists on $1000 bikes, and they stick around to almost sundown on Sunday. Convinced that I wasn’t taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather this weekend, I elected to join them and see some of pre-sprawl Memphis with some friends in my Jeep Wrangler (which hasn’t had its soft-top on for over a year, I’m proud to say).

Completely by luck, Pete Big Bear, Dave, and I stumbled on what we can easily see becoming a weekly event. While cruising down U.S. Highway 51, a green highway sign for a “Winery” caught our eye, followed with “Live Music on Sunday” right below. Curious, we turned around, heading down a tiny, shaded two-lane that eventually dumped right in front of what looked like a family reunion.

Old Millington Winery SignOld Millington Winery [map] has been around since 2000, but few people in Memphis even know it exists. The feature some good, inexpensive fruit and sweet wines, including Muscadine (called Dancing Goat), Blush Muscadine, Strawberry, Peach, and Blackberry. They also offer a red port, made from West Tennessee grapes, as well as some decent table wines, red and white. Owned by Perry and Carrie Welch, Old Millington Winery is as proud of the quality that goes into making their wine as they are of the award-winning product.

If the Sunday afternoon music events are any indication, the annual Oktoberfest events must be a blast. (The next one is scheduled for October 14th, 2007.) If October is too far off for you, they have a Big Crawfish Boil on May 20th. In addition to perfectly chilled wine and some great tunes from Corey Osborne and friends, if you are hungry, you can get some homemade hot wings and turkey legs from some folks cooking right outside, featuring a grill with a hydraulic lift you just have to see to believe.

Visitor Center at Old Millington WineryWhile you may not think of it as a wine producing region, Tennessee actually features more than 20 production wineries. However, most of these wineries are in the cooler eastern half of the state, in or near the Smokey Mountains. Perhaps the best wineries in the western 1/3rd of the state, other than Old Millington Winery, include Cordova Cellars (in Cordova) and Old Medina Winery (in Jackson).

Well, I think I know where I’ll be going on my next Sunday drive…

Crossroads to Freedom Digital Archive Launch Event

After more than a year-and-a-half of work, the Crossroads to Freedom digital archive launch event took place last night. Kath and I have assisted with the project, overseen by the Office of External Programs at Rhodes College, since 2005, and we enjoyed visiting with many of the people at the launch event that contributed their stories and primary source materials (such as letters, certificates, and awards) to the archive.

Crossroads to Freedom Website

The archive features images, letters, flyers, books, and video interviews related to the civil rights struggle in Memphis and the surrounding area. It utilizes Fedora server software to store and preserve the datastreams and metadata and a custom-built front-end to provide the access and interactivity for visitors. The archive was largely built through the efforts of Rhodes students, who conducted the interviews, put together the TEI files, digitized and processed the video, scanned the images, and entered the descriptive metadata.

Crossroads to Freedom is an attempt to foster a community discussion about the history of civil rights in Memphis and throughout the Mid-South. Several prominent individuals and groups, including Judge Russell Sugarman and the Hill Foundation, contributed significant papers and historical background to help frame the discussion.

The launch event featured inspiring speakers and a wonderful buffet spread (including sugery fudge cubes – yum!), but probably more important, a major part of the program required feedback from the attendees about how to how to increase community participation in the repository. Ideas were submitted by all, and these ideas will be gradually incorporated into strengthening and building upon the Crossroads to Freedom framework.

Congratulations to everyone who worked to make the Crossroads to Freedom launch event a success!

Go See “Nobody”

Nothing LogoI was fortunate enough to get an email yesterday that alerted me to a one-time movie showing, which happened to only be a few blocks away at the Brooks Museum. I hadn’t even heard of the film, called Nobody, before that, and I’m really glad I got to see it.

Nobody is about a man named Jerry Bell that floated from Indiana to Memphis on an inflatable raft, earned by smoking 20,000 cigarettes. After barely making it to Memphis, he hangs around the city for several years, occasionally earning money to continue the journey down to New Orleans. The documentary recreates his trip from Indiana to Memphis, but the best parts of the movie cover Jerry’s time in Memphis, much of which was shot in pure observational style. The film allows a rare look at American society’s “untouchables,” all within the framework of one man’s struggle to survive.

Nobody is playing at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC, on Sunday, and while the movie hasn’t been picked up for distribution yet, it seems like only a matter of time. While much of the photographic symbolism was over the top and there were some sound issues, the movie was beautifully shot and the story is haunting. Hats off to the filmmakers, Lance Murphey and Alan Spearman, for taking the time to craft this story into such a compelling narrative.

If Nobody isn’t coming to show at your town, consider ordering the DVD from the website, particularly if you are familiar with Memphis. The Commercial Appeal also covered the premiere in this article.

Moved to GMail

I guess the future will decide if I have committed “privacy suicide” or made a wise decision, but I’ve moved my main email address to GMail, using Google Apps to host the MX record for the domain. So far, so good, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mazzy Consulting Under Google Apps

My primary reason for switching from my relatively trustworthy and reliable hosting provider DreamHost to Google Apps was spam; DreamHost just couldn’t keep up with the growing spam volumes, and I knew from using GMail with other accounts that it generated few false positives and only missed a spam message every now and then. DreamHost was really struggling, and as spam volume continues to grow at about 10% per month, if 20% of those are sneaking through, pretty soon your Inbox is just full of spam, not to mention that your spam box is loaded to the point where you can’t even try to recover false positives. Google must be providing some advanced blacklisting of spammers, because the amount of spam that even makes it to my spam box has really fallen off. I’m guessing that Google is just refusing connections from known blacklisted IPs to even prevent having to classify the spam as spam.

There have been some benefits that I didn’t intend, however. At first, the lack of folders to organize my email really threw me, but then I realized that I really didn’t need to classify my email in that old way anymore. By tagging the email as I read it and with the advanced searching capability available in GMail, I could more easily find a message than ever before. This is a good thing, as I imported all of my existing email in to GMail, which took several days, as GMail will only import about 200 messages an hour. I tagged all of my imported mail and marked it as read, and I was immediately struck with how much easier it was to perform deep searches of my existing email.

As a side note, if anyone out there is planning to import their existing email to GMail but can’t really figure out the best way to do it, this is what I did. I created a temp IMAP account on DreamHost for another domain that I own. I then uploaded all of my email to that temp IMAP account, putting it in folders. Then, I set GMail to make a POP connection to the temp IMAP account on DreamHost (which also does POP, of course) and started moving email from each IMAP folder into the Inbox on DreamHost temp account, marking the messages as Unread in the IMAP Inbox. I could load as many as 2000 at a time in the Dreamhost IMAP Inbox, and GMail would just grab them 200 at a time. I set it up so that GMail would immediately file them in All Mail rather than the Gmail Inbox upon import, and I simply went into the GMail All Mail area once a day and did some quick tagging, marking them as Read as I went. This method took some time but worked perfectly, and now I have email back to 1998 in my All Mail, with more than 7000 Gmail “conversations” represented. (Each “conversation” in GMail can be comprised of many different email messages related to a particular exchange between two or more people.)

That brings me to another big plus in GMail: I can instantly see everything related to a particular “conversation” in one list. A lot of people don’t quote the email they are replying to, and with GMail conversations, you can still see what you wrote them on the same page as what they are saying about it. Very, very useful.

There are lots of other good reasons to move to GMail and Google Apps if you have your own domain name. The ability to chat using your own domain’s email addresses is a big one, as is the ability to share a common calendar with co-workers and exchange documents. Google Docs and Spreadsheet are in an early form right now, but they are already useful for simple tasks.

Of course, I’m aware that Google has all of my old email data, but I also realize that, unless I can make use of these old messages, why even hold onto them. I don’t necessarily believe that Google can resist being “evil” forever, but for now, email is a pleasure again rather than a chore. And that is good enough for me, for now.