Before LLMs were cool

Back in 2015 I wrote a Tumblr to try to earn commissions on wine sales on Amazon. That was a thing you could do then, in 2015. I guess I should say “wrote” because the only thing I wrote was code. I certainly didn’t write the wine reviews.

What I did, before anyone had ever said “Language Learning Model” (ok maybe some nerds had said it, whatever), was download the text of about 800 Wine Spectator “Daily Picks”. This was pretty easy because they used integers as keys in their URL so you could just go to /page/1 then page/2, etc etc, and Beautiful Soup just dumped the words into a text file.

I fed this download into markovify, a Markov chain generator written in Python. Someone may come “well, actually” me on this but Markov chains are essentially early LLMs that could run on your basic laptop in 2015.

Then I wrote a script that took a referral link to an Amazon wine and spat out a review and (and this might be my favorite part) a rating that was a random number between 77 and 94.

It then posted these reviews to Tumblr. They’re still there, you can go see them in all their glory. The name, Andrey Wines, sounds like a fancy winery, right? I would totally buy a nice cab from them. It’s named for Andrey Markov, who invented the Markov chain. I thought that was SO clever.

I mean look at that (click the image for the post, I’m not sure how to do alt-text on WordPress. I should figure that out). It had no idea the difference between a red and a white and I didn’t try to explain.

I giggle to myself knowing that OpenAI paid Tumblr to let them train their AI on Tumblr posts, and some of those posts are going to be this.

Early night at Room 11

It was unofficial baby night at Room 11 last night. We took the kid and met up with some friends who have a son in her daycare class. We went at 5, right when they opened, and sat outside on the porch. By the time we left around 7pm (The kid was well on her way to turning into a pumpkin), there were no less than a half dozen children under 2 on the porch. Most of the patrons, save one couple in the corner, found the children delightful. Our little monkey, for example, was making friends by pushing her chair around the porch after she finished eating. and flirting with the guys at the next table. I like Room 11. I should have written down what I drank. I had a Chilean carmenere that was really good. I had never heard of that grape before I tried the Montes Cab/Carmenere blend (A fantastic bottle, btw), then my mom bought me a bottle of Root: 1 (Another great bottle). And now it’s one of my favorite grapes. I also had a malbec that was good. They sell wine by the glass, starting at $6. Most of the glasses are $8-9. They have a very Belgian beer selection, which is not really my thing, but I think the beers are good for the many of you who do like Belgians. They had two beers on tap, also. I forget what they were, but I remember approving. We ate a meat plate and a cheese plate, both good, and the wife and I split a cheese panini which was pleasant. The service was good. Our waiter was friendly and easy-going and pretty attentive. He made some good suggestions on the meats and cheeses, since I’d never heard of most of it, and couldn’t pronounce any of it. The porch had a very “neighborhood” feel to it. A self-selected, limited slice of the neighborhood, but still a neighborhood. The couple we were with brought their dog, and he waited outside the fence until we finished. At least three or four people stopped to pet him as they walked down Lamont Street. It’s a pleasantly busy intersection – enough traffic to be interesting to watch, but not enough to disturb the atmosphere. So, go check it out. We’ll definitely be back.

Pregnant wife bonus

One of the nice things about having a pregnant wife is that, when a recipe calls for white wine, she can’t help you finish the bottle. Just kidding. We have a bottle of white wine, a 2006 Primaterra pinot grigio. So, now we can calculate the Complaint Hub Wine Score.

  1. Alcohol Review gives it 3.25 stars. We’ll convert that to a 100 point scale, multiplying by 20 to get 65. They say it costs $7, and it was on sale at Whole Foods, so we’ll give it a PPD of 9.29. That’s a pretty decent score.
  2. It’s Italian, so no California Penalty.
  3. Again, no Australia or New Zealand Bonus.
  4. It’s got a pretty solid label. It’s a cheap wine, so I don’t expect much, and the label is different, but it’s not doofy. Plus 10.
  5. Multiply by Planck’s Constant.
  6. Planck’s Constant is really small. No one wants a wine score in scientific notation. So let’s open up Open Office Spreadsheet and do some formula magic. First, let’s take the arc cotangent, which gives us 1.57. You can quibble about significant digits in the comments.
  7. That’s still not a good number. So we divide one by the natural log of that, which gives us 2.21.
  8. I’m not a huge fan of white wine, so let’s multiply by 50 and subtract a 25 point White Wine Penalty.
    Then we round down, because the digits after the decimal were never really significant anyway. And we’re left with 63. So you see, this is clearly a good wine rating system, since it’s right in line with the score from another website! The wine tastes fine. Not too sweet, not too dry. It pairs well with a seitan picatta from Veggie Times. It probably has some flavor notes of something. Maybe fruit? White’s usually have fruit notes, right? In conclusion, it’s a nice value at $7.

My scale goes to 10,000

Vinotrip | The Search For A Wine Rating System That Makes Sense

No longer must two wines be tied at 90, leaving intrepid point chasers scratching their heads while they decide which wine will impress their friends more. The tie can be broken, with one wine receiving a 904.5 and the other falling short at 901.9. Finally, the question can be answered: which wine is better?

I like my wine to be scored. That way, I can make an entirely mathematical decision on my purchase.

  1. Calculate the Points Per Dollar value (PPD): If the score is 92 and the wine costs $12.99, the DPP is 7.08.
  2. Subtract the California Penalty: My first introduction to California wines was Beringer and the like, and I’ve never quite forgiven the state, even though it does produce some great wines
  3. Add the Australia Bonus and the lesser New Zealand bonus : We went to Australia and New Zealand on our honeymoon and took a wine tour in Australia’s Barossa Valley, so I’m always partial to their wine. As an aside, “Zealand” is not in Firefox’s default dictionary. Weird.
  4. Add the label adjustment: The label should be interesting, but not too cutesy. If you have a cool label, you get a bonus. If you made a label you want me to think is cool, or if you phoned it in, you get demerits.
  5. Multiply by Planck’s Constant.
  6. Realize the wife, who can’t drink the wine until the baby is born, is getting antsy.
  7. Buy the bottle of Rosemount Shiraz on sale for $8.99.
    Actually, I should probably just keep heading over to Vinotrip for scores.

No wine snobbery here

Some may not know the 2005 Selbach Riesling Dry, but this guy does.

Riesling is one of the noblest of all grapes, capable of creating wines of the highest quality and in the widest range of styles.

I’d have to agree. I’ve always found them to be quite noble.

The 2005 Selbach Riesling is a straightforward, virtually dry version with bright and fresh fruit flavors reminiscent of apples and melons.

I’m not sure why, in a 300 word review, he only dedicates two sentences to the wine he’s making his Pick of the Week. But whatever. Then we have this guy, who says of the 2004 vintage:

This pale, straw yellow wine is wonderfully refreshing, crisp, and clean. Aromas of apple and citrus are mellow, but the tart flavors of green, Granny Smith-type apples and lemon, explode in your mouth.

And some say the wine is “weak and violently acidic”. Saying it in comic strip form gives it that je ne sais quoi so often lacking in snarky wine reviews. But what happens, you might ask, when you crack a bottle of the 2005 Selbach Riesling Dry, drink a little bit, and then leave it in the fridge, the cork shoved back in, for an entire month? I’m here to answer that question. I have to say that it holds up all right. I’m not a really knowledgeable wine guy. I love my 2004 Gibson Wilfreda, and if I see a Rosemount Shiraz for under $10 at the grocery store, I’m all over it. But I don’t drink a lot of white wine. This month-old Riesling is still quite pleasant, though. I think it might not be as crisp as it once was, but it pairs well with Mexican veggie burgers and Law and Order reruns. So, if you’re like me, and you have an old bottle of this, half open in the fridge, and it’s just bugging you every time you open the fridge, don’t pour it out. Have a glass. You won’t regret it.

Mmm, wine.

Finding Gems in the “Off” Vintages

Reading this site always makes me want to go buy wine.  And I do need to fill up our wine racks – currently we just have a few special bottles that we’re saving (Actually, that we’re scared to drink).  One of them is for our anniversary in August, and one of them is my favorite wine, a 2004 Gibson Wilfreda, that we bought on the honeymoon.  I think I’m afraid to drink it because I worry that it won’t be as good as I remember.

Anyway, one of these days reading Vinfolio might actually make me buy the wine, rather than just think about it.  I’m sure that would make them happy.  Maybe they can get me a deal on a case of Wilfreda . . .

I also have to give Mr. Moore credit for correctly using both “its” and “it’s” in the span of three words.  I’m always surprised at how often I see people get this wrong, and often in publications that should really know better.

Wine and women

The Wine Collector: Practical Wine Collecting Advice

Women are more disciplined drinkers and physically smaller. This in turn leads to less consumption and a lesser need to collect.

Disclaimer – a good friend of mine works for Vinfolio, the source of this post. That probably doesn’t matter, but I thought I’d let you know anyway.

So, why is wine collecting male-dominated? I don’t think it’s because women are smaller. The first (currently only) comment on the post suggests that collecting in general is more of a male thing_. _I certainly know more males who collect stuff. And I think women collect stuff more as decoration. Maybe that’s just the impression I get from the women collectors I know, and doesn’t accurately reflect women overall.


Forget the polar ice caps, now theyre messing with wine

Treehugger: Climate Change Threatens Vineyards

Climate change is making more and more areas unsuitable for growing grapes to make wine.  This is an outrage.  Who cares about dumb jaguars (Note – it’s more fun to say jaguar in Spanish – the “j” sounds like an “h”.  Try it!) and worthless giant pandas – they can’t mess with my wine!

Actually, I’m just kidding.  I care deeply for jaguars and giant pandas.  And the article is making predictions for 2099.  By then, little nano-machines will be making wine from raw carbon without all that work of growing grapes and fermenting them and all that.

I wonder how long it takes before climate change starts affecting something that everyone cares about?  I mean, it’s easy for someone to say, “I don’t care about the rainforest” if you’ve never seen one.  The whole “we need them to survive” thing doesn’t seem quite real.  It’s the same with melting ice caps.  They’re far away.  Not to diminish the impact they have on our lives, but it is certainly easy to ignore.

Maybe someone should get Al Gore on this.  He could make another movie called “A Sobering Picture” all about how wine is good for you, but the Republicans are trying to destroy it.