Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friday, August 12, 2016

My final red wine posting...

Followers of and visitors to JustJoeP know that I love wine, and I've blogged about wine here more than just about any other subject; more than food, more than politics, more than nature photography, music, or travel.  Well, sadly, blogging about wine is coming to an end for me.

For the last year, I've been experiencing chronic itching that has been driving me batty.  It typically gets worse in the evenings, but it can also manifest itself in the mornings when I am waking up at 4 or 430am and starting my work day, hosting international conference calls with 50 to 100 engineers calling in some mornings with me as the ring master / orchestra leader / debate moderator.  Sometimes the itch was so severe that I'd scratch until I bled, arms, legs, neck, chest, back... it was unsustainable.  So upon the advise of my wise friends Steve and Ron, as well as DDF, I went on an elimination diet in February that last 2 months, eating a mono-diet of simple foods and adding one thing at a time, one week at a time, to see what the effects were.  Problem was, I didn't exclude wine from my diet, as I love it so very much.

I have known for many years (more than 10 years) that Valpolicella, a delicious red Italian wine, caused my neck and chest and face to turn red, itch, and made it hard for me to breathe.  Other wine varietals grown nearby did not have that effect, so I just avoided Valpolicella.  And looking back through the 221 postings here on wine, I enjoyed many different types of red wine from many different countries over the years.  But I started noticing this summer, that after drinking a glass or two of Bordeaux (usually 50% merlot + other varietals) that I'd start to itch, my hands would turn pink or red, and forearms would start to light up with intense surges of itching, and I'd generally be miserable. Falling asleep that night was rough. Going to work the next morning, the itch resurfaced and drove me out of my mind.  So I started avoiding Bordeaux.

I stuck to Syrah and Malbec, and other varietals like Primitivo, Nero d'Avola, and my favorite, Minervois.  Kept it to a glass or two... but even then, over the last few months, the itching resurgence was directly correlating.  Stay away from wine, itch is much less.  Drink wine, itching flared up right after and the next morning.  So a few weeks ago, I bought a bottle of Santa Julia Malbec, Mendoza Argentina, made with organic grapes.  Sprouts sold it for $9 a bottle, and I've had good organic wine from them before, so I thought... "let's see".   Santa Julia was good, drinkable, paired well with the grass fed steak I had grilled... but still, the itching flared up after drinking it.  I fooled myself into thinking "maybe it was a bad bottle... the next one won't cause me to itch!"  So last week, I bought a second bottle, and opened it up that night with dinner.  Before the 2nd small glass was done, I could feel my arms starting to itch.  When I went to bed that night, my neck and chest and back were itching as well.  Highly medicated, I eventually fell asleep, and upon waking the next day was hit with the regular resurgence of itching.

2 days ago, I saw the last glass still in the bottle.  I felt bad leaving it in the bottle and DDF doesn't like most red wines, so I poured the last 4 ounces into a small Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens glass, and had it with lunch.  Soon thereafter, the tops of my hands turned pink, the itch began creeping up...  it was not the Malbec's fault.  It's my over-reactive immune system that has now decided that Joe's had enough red wine in his lifetime, and it's going to punish me if I have anymore.  Just 4 ounces, and my immune system over-reacted, again. = \

So I've had a glass of white wine, and it's ok... but without the tannins and the depth of flavor, I can't help but seeing it as empty calories.  Fine for a hot summer afternoon with cheese perhaps...  but...  not something I want to have with dinner regularly.  Adieu, delicious reds...  I bid you farewell, with much remorse.  

It's a good thing that bourbon and Irish whiskey cause no such itching for me.  I've not yet run extensive Cognac experiments, but I fear with Cognac's geographic proximity just North of Bordeaux, that it may stimulate a similar immune response from my insides, on the outside.  Vodka and ice and some small amount of mixers for flavor (like lemonade or 100% cranberry juice + stevia) also have no ill effects with itching or anything else.  And no, my liver is not having problems... my liver function tests are just fine, checked more than once a year, just in case.  One must choose their poison, very carefully. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

First Dragon & Castle of 2016

After work yesterday, I headed down to Ponto State Beach here in lovely Carlsbad, with my shovels,  cooler, sun screen, hat, water shoes, and sand castle moulds.

After 2 hours, I had the 3 foot high by 5 foot wide castle done.  After another 2 hours, I was progressing well on the dragon when most of my elementary school fans had to leave with their families.  After about 3 hours (5 hours into the building) I had the dragon about finished.

It lived (I think) until near high tide at 11pm, so 5 hours to build, and another 5 hours of presence before being taken away by the tide.

A wet strand of kelp made a nice touch for the fire that the dragon was breathing.  A very small plastic shovel made for nice fingernails for the dragon.  Altogether, it turned out pretty well, I believe.

I doubt it'll be my last. Come visit, bring your small children, and we can make more of them = )
When I was getting ready to leave, 3 siblings (ages 5 to 9) asked if they could play in the 3 foot deep hole I'd dug, which had water in the bottom of it (as the tide was Just starting to come in). "We want to make a hot tub" they pleaded.  "Go ask your parents" I told them...  I didn't was 3 foot tall kids to get trapped in a caved in 3 foot deep hole.  When I had loaded up my car with my tools, I went up to the bluffs above the beach and found the dragon and castle were still standing, with kids in "the hot tub" beside it.

Again, The Idiot Reveals Himself

Donald Drumpf met with Republican Senators today, and once again revealed how really stupid he is.

When Jeff Flake (who I never voted for while I lived in SC, but whom I am starting to have some respect for) introduced himself as "the other senator from Arizona, the one who didn't get captured", Drumpf told Flake "He would not win re-election this November"... to which Flake hilariously responded "I'm not up for re-election".

Donald, study that constitution you so blatantly & repeatedly state you love so much.  Senators have 6 year terms. McCain is up this November, not Flake. Duh.  It's called the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution, you moron:

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures."

Monday, July 4, 2016

5th on the 4th

5th in a row...
No fireworks yet, but delicious craft beer... Even though the USA can't nominate 2 viable, likeable candidates for POTUS, it's still an awesome place to live!  

I am enjoying "Happy Treason Day" to all of my British followers­čśť­čĹŹ‼️‼️‼️

MissionBrewing Hard Root Beer... Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 3rd Weather

Not sweating my ass off, or swatting mid western or southern mosquitoes away... This has been a phenomenal July so far!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Last Weekend's Epiphany on The South

Last weekend, Dr Desert Flower and I went down the hill on Alga Road to go see Free State of Jones at the Cin├ępolis in Carlsbad.  It exceeded expectations, despite what the critics on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes say, it was a great film that shined a light on the racist, bigoted, arcane & persecutory laws & culture engrained in The South - in this case Mississippi.  McConaughey was great in it, but so were Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, and a host of other excellent actors.  Having lived 16 years of my life in South Carolina, I can talk about how it felt, what I heard, and what I saw when I lived there... I'm not an outsider who never lived nor experienced the hatred and bigotry in the work place, in public places, and in conversations about it with my friends and co-workers who were trying to rise above the ugly, despicable, evil past that ensconced The South before, during, and after the Civil War, and still lives and breathes today (sorry SCOTUS, racism and bigotry are NOT dead even after we elected a black President; they're still alive and well in many parts of The South.

Then, when we got home after the movie, we watched Bryan Cranston in the HBO movie All the Way, where he portrayed LBJ accurately.  The movie portrayed the hatred and bigotry of The South (again, Mississippi leading the way... but other Southern States agreed with them) very accurately as well.  Not only was it well acted, but well written, nuanced, well researched, and well directed.

After watching both of these films so close together, whose settings were 100 years apart, but which accurately and poignantly portrayed the racism and hatred in The South that is still alive today, I am resolved that I never want to move back there and live there again.  Perhaps in another 100 years, after I am ashes, the progress seen since the Civil Rights legislation was passed in the 1960s MIGHT continue and the old entrenched racists die off, with their progeny becoming slightly more progressive and color-blind - similar to how Gay Rights & Equality was unthinkable 20 years ago by main stream America, and now it is an accepted fact for 95% of the country.  But I won't see it in my lifetime.

I am not a hater, and I still firmly believe that there are many very nice, very accepting, very civil & loving people in The South, both in the states that voted for George Wallace, and in the states that didn't.  I've met and worked with many of them, or they were my neighbors & friends.  But the fact remains, that there's a solid double digit percentage block of Southerners who still think lynching is a good idea if they can get away with it, who believe Klan meetings are an acceptable form of social gathering, and who have a false-superiority complex in regards to anyone who is not Caucasian - black, brown, Asian, Jewish, Catholics, Sikh, Muslims, included in their fearful hatred & loathing.  Trump's tapping into their base with his rhetoric and his re-tweets of white supremacists, and "the worst" is manifesting itself amoung us in America.  I do hope that in November 2016 we can close the Trump chapter and not open up a "Wallace 2.0" era of the American political landscape.

No, I'll take the multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-lingual melting pot that is California,
any day over any of the nicest places in The South.  Yes, it is expensive to live in California, but the weather is great, the people are nicer, the hatred is (I've seen) less wide-spread, the wildlife is more diverse, the waves are at least 10X better than the East Coast, the population is more heterogeneous & diverse & growing (+300,000 residents last year! We're gonna add another congressman or two at least in the next census, making the most populace state even more populace!), the businesses RUN BETTER and are safer (and growing), the wine is better, Science is accepted and not argued against or 'disbelieved', the State budget is balanced (after getting a Democratic governor, finally!), the humidity is lower (in Northern San Diego County, at least), religion is less invasive & pervasive, and the people are more accepting of everyone, not just those who look like themselves.

31 Scientific Societies Agree...

Climate Deniers - much like birthers - hate facts but really hate the Scientific Method even more.  Climate Deniers can make up their own facts, and then cite fringe scientists or paid corporate lobbyist studies to reinforce their opinion-pushed-as-fact, that agrees with the idealogical narrative they’ve engrained in their own psyche.  Sadly for them though, the Scientific Method doesn’t care which side of the ideological fence you might be on, or if you’re liberal or conservative… it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that your experiment is reproducible, your instruments are calibrated, and that you didn’t falsify any of your findings.  If your experiment is reproducible, then theories can then be tested and if they’re true, then they’re widely accepted by the scientific community. 

So yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sent a letter to the United States Congress, signed on by 31 different scientific organizations, that stated Climate Change is real and that greenhouse gases (CO2 and chlorofluorocarbons) emitted by human activity are the largest driver of Climate Change.  This is a more forceful version of the 2009 letter to Congress that 19 major scientific societies signed… and which Congress promptly ignored.  

The 31 scientific societies on the 2016 letter include:
American Association for the Advancement of Science American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Biological Sciences 
American Meteorological Society
American Public Health Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists American Society of Naturalists 
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Botanical Society of America
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Entomological Society of America
Geological Society of America
National Association of Marine Laboratories
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society for Mathematical Biology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society of Nematologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research 

Read the letter here, for yourself:

“Dear Members of Congress, 
We, as leaders of major scientific organizations, write to remind you of the consensus scientific view of climate change. 
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science. 
There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.1 
To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others. 
We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate. “

Problem is, the Republican led congress doesn’t want to work with real scientists.  It derides and dismisses them, denying the scientific community’s CONSENSUS, clinging to a corporate profit driven model of increased compulsory consumption.  

Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have grandchildren…  or possibly never will… since we are either AT the tipping point currently, or far beyond the tipping point globally… and since I am not one of the wealthiest 1% of Western Civilization I won’t be the one building a well stocked, well filtered, fully independent & sustainable for millennia under-ground bunker complex where my progeny could live & work & go about life after the seas rise, the fish & plants & pollenating insects all die, and hordes of angry surviving scavengers sift through the hell-scape that used to be Earth as they absorb massive amounts of UV from Sun without an ozone layer to filter it, breathing air with a significantly reduced oxygen content, and living much shorter life spans due to the toxin build up and cancer from the unmitigated UV (UV and DNA are not very compatible).  Il faut voir.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Crazy About the Black Oily Flowers

When we moved to Carlsbad last yer, I noticed the hummingbirds were crazy about these very tall, very dark, almost a black oily color flowers that were in the front and back yard.  The one plant int he back yard was very scraggly, and sent up only one shoot of flowers, but the plants in the front yard were very healthy, quite robust, and sent up multiple shoots of flowers which the hummingbirds preferred to all other forms of food.

Taking pictures out the window of Dr Desert Flower's office and the attached bathroom, I've tried to capture the images of the voracious hummingbirds focused on the black oily flowers.  Here are a few.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Principled, Determined, Ethical & Admirable

Watching this 76 year old man - old enough to be Speaker Ryan's father - sit on the floor of the House of Representatives, demanding a tallied vote on legislation to restrict no-fly-list and known terrorists from purchasing weapons, trying to protect American citizens last Wednesday and Thursday morning, was inspirational.  This man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr and who has fought for civil rights and the rights of ALL Americans his entire political career, without scandals, without corruption, without compromising his ethics... was a stark contrast to the sophomoric and idiotic assaults by mentally challenged fools like Louie Gohmert of Texas who wanted to physically assault Democratic members who were in the sit-in, and who proclaimed his stupidity by saying he was "going to go home and buy a gun" - woefully inadequate, aren't you Louie?

Time will show that John Lewis was on the right side of history, while inarticulate court jesters like Gohmert will not even be a minor foot note.  Thank you Representative John Lewis, for being one of the best parts of a not very good week.  I hope your health holds out and you're able to continue serving for as long as you're willing and able to do so.

Smug, Cowardly and Disingenuous

Watching this smiling, smug little boy pound his gavel in the House of Representatives early Thursday morning at 230am, passing 'all the bills that were slated to be discussed from June 22nd to July 3rd' in one vote, and then calling the House into recess, was just despicable.  Sad that elected federal leaders from the Republican party do nothing to protect US Citizens while protecting the NRA & their own Primary Election viability instead.  Stop hiding behind your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, Paul the absolutist.  And then run off and hide for the July 4th recess.  Despicable.  Paul Ryan, you were almost elected Vice President. in 2012  You can do better than being so scared of the NRA.  Where is your leadership?  Stand up, and protect American citizens! The next time you try and run for national office, your cowardice will be remembered.