The Ask Master

Why is white zinfandel so popular? Not only is it embarrassing, it doesn't even taste good.

Baffled in Belltown

White zinfandel, "blush" wine's stab at respectability, is one of those products that no one will admit to using, but a lot of it seems to move out the door just the same. Other members of this genre include the oft-ridiculed Zima and those little tubes of hardtack with goo inside that they sell as a snack for both people and dogs (one is called Snausages and the other Combos, although I can't for the life of me remember which is which, and I'm not convinced it matters).

Just as Zima is a beerlike product for those who fear real beer and those Combo-Snausage things are a foodlike product for those who fear real food, white zinfandel is a winelike product for those who fear real wine.

Cloying in both flavor and color, white zinfandel is the ideal wine for folks who would secretly prefer to wash down their Chⴥaubriand for two with a big frosty mug of root beer but are afraid the waiter will laugh at them. In short, it is a wine for fools. The reason for such a wine's tremendous popularity is left as an exercise for the reader.

According to an experienced waiter at a certain high-end restaurant who chose not to be identified, a classic blunder in such places is ordering a zinfandel from the wine list and then becoming incensed when a muscular, full-bodied red is brought to the table. (I am sure all my readers are sophisticated enough to know that zinfandel grapes are vinified, peels and all, into red wine by default—the white version is a bastard child of this otherwise respectable varietal.) This causes the help no end of amusement, especially if the same table ordered Combo-Snausages for an appetizer.

This mistake is so prevalent that many waiters now routinely ask the customer placing such an order if he or she is "familiar with red zinfandel"—a question which, unfortunately, manages both to insult those in the know and embarrass those who aren't.

Whose dog is crapping in my yard, and what should I do about it (without hurting the dog in any way, assuming you can tell me which dog it is)?

Drowning in Dog S**t

First of all, let me just tell everybody that it's OK to say "shit" in my column. You don't have to put those little asterisks in it, like "Drowning" here did. I mean, it's not like the faint of heart won't know what you're talking about. ("Dog Slot? Dog Suit? Damn, I'm stumped.")

Anyway, back to your question: Ultimately, your course of action will depend on your goals for the situation.

If you just want the problem to stop, consider buying "dog repellent granules," which are marketed under the name "Ropel," among others. You sprinkle them around your yard every three months or so, thus rendering the premises unpalatable to dogs seeking a peaceful spot in which to unburden their souls.

The downside is that the stuff also repels cats, birds, and most other animals, transforming your yard into an eerie moonscape that's quiet—too quiet. And, of course, if you have a pet of your own, it probably won't be thrilled to find that Mommy has decided to convert the premises into a combination paper mill and sewage treatment plant.

But perhaps merely stopping the problem isn't good enough for you. Perhaps you're hell-bent on finding the party or parties responsible and holding them accountable for their actions, possibly by returning their "property" in a flaming paper bag left on their doorstep.

Which would not be entirely unjustified—any way you slice it, the owner is guilty. Either he's violating the leash law by allowing his dog to sow its wild oats unsupervised, or he's in the habit of standing in front of your house whistling while he pretends not to notice that his dog is negotiating the release of the chocolate hostages on your lawn.

Try placing your yard under surveillance, parking around the corner and peeking through your curtains in the after-work hours when many people walk their dogs.

If that doesn't work, you'll have to get all James Bond on his ass. Go to your favorite computer store and tell them you want to set up a Web cam. The salesperson will immediately assume you're planning to start your own pornographic Web site, but that can't be helped. (If you like, get even by referring to him as "Q.") The point of all this is that you'll get a cheap digital camera and software you can use to make it take pictures of your yard at intervals you specify—say, every 20 seconds.

Cycle through these at the end of the day using the slide-show function of an image-viewing utility such as the free JPEGView, and you should have no problem catching the guilty parties in the act.

Wondering how otherwise fastidious dog owners can stand to pick up mushy hot poo in a bag every day? Write or The Ask Master, Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Suite 300, Seattle, WA, 98104.

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