Friday, May 20, 2016

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs...

I saw this sign online this morning, and it made me laugh:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

View From My Yoga Mat, April '16

I had to travel to Eastern China last month, for work.  I took a larger checked suit case since it was a 12 day trip, and I already know that Chinese hotel laundry (even in the nice hotels in which I've stayed) destroys most of the clothes I've ever given them.  In that larger suit case I packed my yoga mat, after I practiced yoga the week before at the beach, for 3 of the previous 7 days leading up to the trip.

The weather in Northern San Diego County cooperated nicely before I left, being mild, and not rainy in the afternoons.  The on-shore breeze was pleasant, and the statis flowers were in full bloom on the Bluff at the top of Ponto Beach.

Once I landed in Shanghai, after a 14 hour flight in coach out of LAX, I planned a solid day of not working to adjust to the new time zone and to try and avoid deep vein thrombosis.  The view from the yoga mat in my hotel room window was less pleasant than the view from the Carlsbad shore.  No whales, no pelicans, no pleasant breeze... but a locked large city park with formidable gates, that (apparently) no in Pudong are allowed to pass through on Wednesdays?

While Shanghai today is a MUCH cleaner and prettier city than Chengdu was 15 years ago, it still is not even a fraction as lovely as Southern Coastal California is, even if the real estate prices are similar.  I'll take here rather than there, any day.

The day after I got back, I did yoga at the beach!
I would have POSTED this while in China... just one problem.  The government there blocks FaceBook, Google, Instagram, Gmail, Youtube, and Twitter.  Yes... one can VPN out and around them, but what a massive pain in the ass, China.  Thanks.

So Many Idiotic Hoosiers

As a native Hoosier, having lived the first 2 decades of my life there... being born there... getting my college education there... filing my taxes there for many years... having owned a home in Monroe County there for more than 7 years... I am astonished at how many gullible, misinformed, base-ball-cap-wearing, fake-Oakley-wearing, inarticulate, moronic, passionate Trump supporters there are in Indiana.

I have yet to meet a single, articulate, intelligent Trump supporter who can explain to me, logically, without hatred or bigotry or easily-debunked-psuedo-facts, why they are a Trump supporter, and why other Americans should become Trump supporters.  Trump is so often wrong, and always inflammatory, that no normal, logical, fact-based-thinking individual can actually justify, calmly, and without vitriol, why they support him.  I understand why Bernie won Indiana... I would have voted for him if I was still a Hoosier, as he is the under-dog outsider who is anti-establishment, self-funded, and not beholden to corporate or billionaire interests.  But Trump is an empty suit, a vacuous loud-mouth who easily dupes the misinformed and willfully uninformed to flock to his support in the primaries.
Wilmore Trump
I wish I was not registered as an Independent in California, as that makes it much harder to vote in the Democrat or Republican primaries... but... that's what having to travel to Asia for 2 weeks for business in April during primary registration season does for a permanently "vote by mail" citizen. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Airports Need More Bomb Sniffing Dogs

The preferred explosive of the failed ideology that calls itself "ISIS" is TATP, triacetate triperoxide.  They've leveraged the extensive Palestinian bomber experience use in the explosive, and re-purposed it for attacking soft civilian targets in Europe by returning EU citizens who failed on the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields to have any impact, and now want to attack unsuspecting Europeans.  The dead Paris attackers used it in their suicide vests, and the dead Belgian attackers used it in Brussels.  The civilized Western World will continue to see this relatively easy-to-make explosive used by the cowardly disaffected radicalized Muslims who feel they have no future in a civilized world.

Many "experts" have said that there's no way to "harden" airports and other public places to such attacks, but I disagree.  Bomb sniffing dogs are IDEAL for this task, and would be able to easily detect plastique, TATP, TNT, or any of a dozen other explosives.  They could (and should) be applied curb-side, as people disembark from their cars, taxis, buses, and shuttles, at airports and train stations.  They could also be applied at turn styles for subway stations.

Working dogs, like bomb sniffers, love to be worked hard by their handlers.  They see the hunt for what they've been trained to sniff as "a game" and they live to make their handlers delighted.  The more bags they can sniff, the happier the dog can be.  Let them work.  Re-purpose ALL the dogs used in Iraq previously looking for IEDs to now look for suicidal, cowardly, stone faced radical fundamentalists.   30 lbs to 100 lbs suit case bombs would be easily found by a well trained work dog.

Drug sniffing dogs - which are far too plentiful and for-the-most-part completely un-necessary in Western society - should be deployed less, and bomb sniffing dogs applied ubiquitously at every airport near a city with more than 1 /2 a million people, with includes just 35 cities in the United States.  Thirty Five cities.  So 350 bomb sniffing dogs...  and a bomber in a vest or pushing a luggage trolley of suit cases full of explosives would have no chance of being successful.

But it's much easier to monger fear... and stir up rhetoric, than to apply a meaningful and straightforward solution.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dominant Rufous

Cornell’s AllAboutBirds website lists the male Rufous hummingbird as the “most pugnacious” of all hummingbirds.  They chase away all other hummingbirds, including the larger Anna’s species who normally dominate any feeder they visit.  Dr Desert Flower and I have seen the rust colored Rufous males come in and disrupt other-wise calm feeders as they fan out their tail feathers, buzz, and attack-dive any other bird at the feeder.  They can be real assholes.

When I saw an adolescent Rufous male on the little hummingbird perch outside my office window, it amused me to see a mature male, with full crimson ascot, menacing him.  The adolescent stood his ground, unmoved by the bigger, brighter, more boisterous older male hovering around him.  The ignored older male sat on a branch about a foot above the stationary younger male, and then he got an idea that I’d never seen before.  He flew down, hovered just above and behind the younger male, and then mounted him, for a few seconds before the younger male had “enough” and shrugged off the older male, and flew away.  

I’ve watched male hummingbirds in Arizona swoop up in the air 200 feet above my pool, and then SWOOP Down amazingly fast, as they advertise to available females their strength, maneuverability, and prowess.  This same vertical flight path, supposedly, is how the hummingbirds copulate before they hit the ground.  But seeing the mature male mount the juvenile to shoo him away from the coveted nectar feeders, was the first time I’ve ever seen one hummingbird sexually assault another male.  I’ve seen dogs, and horses, and rabbits do this… but this was the first time I’ve seen a bird do it.

Cornell’s site says that Rufous are only migratory through California, and that they Winter in Mexico, and that they Summer in Canada… but we see them all year around here in North San Diego County.  
6 Hummingbirds, all females and immature males, sharing the feeder in the back yard.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Not the warm smell of colitas, better...

Last Friday, I decided I didn't want to look at a bare, tan wall outside of my office, and changes needed to be made.  I drove to Lowes, and found potted jasmine, mandevilla, and organic potting soil.  I loaded them up into the XC70 and made planting plans for Saturday morning.

Saturday morning, after sleeping late (no kids, no dogs, no grand kids... why not sleep late?) I got up and began digging holes.  In-between the tomato racks that are in the eastern, narrow side yard, I dug two holes, each more than a foot deep and more than two feet wide, right next to the wall.  Hand digging, with a small pick, so as not to shatter or rupture any sprinkler lines, or other buried, unseen hazards, it was a sweaty endeavor to dig the holes.  Mixing the potting soil and the loosened soil, I transformed the space outside my office from this:

To this:
The scent of jasmine and citrus-trees-in-bloom now fill my side yard.  The weather was warm enough today for me to open the large window of my office as I worked to not only hear the hummingbirds sparring and vying for the nectar feeders, but I could also smell the delicious floral aromas wafting through the window.

It's not the "warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air" - which Urban Dictionary has clarified that is slang for pot smoke (foxtails... with the Spanish word for "tail", cola, in the diminutive form for "little tail", "colitas"... but it is wonderful nevertheless.  My own personal Hotel California is a pleasant place.  If you've not come visited us, you should.  If you've already come & visited us, come again.  We don't have any kids, or dogs, or grand kids... and our guest bed room is kept clean and ready for your visit.  = )

(What we Thought was a lime tree [from the scent of the leaves and their oils] appears to be a lemon tree, with blossoms, scent, and lemon tree thorns, right outside my window.  Either way...  they'll be organic citrus for our eating and drinking pleasure!)

Natural Coconut Simplicity

Many of my close friends and family know that for the last year+ I have been grappling with extremely dry skin that was flaking off in ridiculous amounts, leaving a "trail of Joe" in rooms, in cars, on chairs, on couches, just about everywhere I'd go.  While my loved ones would tell me not to worry about it, and that it "wasn't that bad", leaving a cloud of (what I thought was) dead skin anywhere that I stayed for any length of time, it was hard to not get very grossed out by the flaking and "snow" my arms and back and face were shedding, constantly.  A close look in the mirror, and all I could see was hundreds of "hang nails" all over my fore-head, cheeks, ears, earlobes, chin, neck and arms.  "How can any human shed so much skin?" - I'd ask myself, frequently.

Turns out, it wasn't skin, for the most part at least.  It was dried moisturizer that had gone from liquid to solid and then was being shed by my skin as it tried to breathe beneath the rapidly drying hypoallergenic coating.  My dermatologist had recommended I use Vanicream lotion, so I did, by the tub - $16 a tub, about once a week - a white paste that was rather oily and sticky.  Vanicream makes a "Lite" lotion, in a pump bottle, that is less thick, less oily, and leaves less residue.  Only thing is... the flaking persisted.  And the flaking was still gross.

Concentrated Epsom Salt baths (3 lbs in about10 inches of water), every 3 or 4 days, soaking for 30 minutes in the luke-warm water (not warm, just tepid, so as not to aggrevate my skin further) helped to ex-foliate and "slough off" the flakes.  And the 30 minute soaks were / are a nice form of meditation to slow heart rate, breathing, and lower blood pressure.  So it had secondary health benefits as well...  but there had to be a better way.

Turns out, my mother-in-law had a better solution all along.  Coconut Oil.  She'd been trying it for some time and kept telling Dr Desert Flower I should use it for my flaking.  On Monday, I switched over from slathering myself in Vanicream, to dipping my fingers into the Trader Joe's virgin, organic, $5 a jar coconut oil, pulling out the hard white paste which instantly begins to melt with body temperature, and put it on my face and arms.  Fantastic!  It feels soothing.  It smells awesome.  It is completely natural.  It calms urticaria (welted up, hives).  It doesn't stain clothing.  And it doesn't generate even 1/10th as much flaking.  Yes, some skin still sloughs off, in a very small amount.  The Vanicream cream was horribly flake causing.  The Vanicream lite, about 1/2 or 1/3rd as much "white snow" generating.  The coconut oil...  less than 10% as much as the Vanicream lite.

Look at the ingredients...  and then work backwards as to what is causing the white flaking.  It's not dead skin.  It's dried lotion... as I was going through crazy amounts of moisturizer every day.  And the Vanicream required re-application several times an hour.  That's several times an hour in my office.  Several times an hour while driving for 3 days to South Carolina.  Several times an hour while flying back from South Carolina to California.  Now, I am applying a very small amount of pure coconut oil to my face and arms about once every 3 or 4 hours.  I have the pleasant fragrance of coconut instead of the medicinal scent of moisturizer (even though it is all hypoallergenic) wafting up to my nostrils.  The coconut oil doesn't seem to block my pores so my face doesn't over-heat and dry out as it did with the moisturizer.  The coconut oil also has antibacterial properties that have helped my irritated, red, dry, cracked eye lids to heal up and stop being so unpleasant.  The coconut oil leaves no paste or dried residue on the skin, that would (inevitably) cause more itching, which would then (in turn) cause more redness, more scratching, more release of histamines and a continuation of the vicious & destructive cycle.

Additionally, the Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs) that make up 85% of the coconut oil are far better for humans than the poly-unsaturated-fatty-acids that are in some nuts and margarine and most cooking oils.  Not only will I continue applying it to my skin, but I will be cooking with it, and ingesting it as well.

Natural remedies, when proven over centuries, and when not allergic, are typically far better than industrialized, artificial, expensive, patented and mass-marketed commercial solutions.  Stevia is FAR BETTER for humans than Nutrasweet, Sweet-n-low, Equal, or the laboratory created "Truvia" which is really just a pointless recreation of what already grows naturally, stevia rebaudiana.  Coconut oil, I now see the same way.  Far better than aisles and aisles of moisturizers and creams that Target and the local pharmacies all carry.  And much cheaper, much more pleasant, less annoying.

One of my favorite Coconut References...  from Zombieland...   "It's not the taste, it's the consistency!"

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trumping Hypocrisy

Jesse Drucker has an excellent piece in Bloomberg News this week, (link here) about how Donald Trump is using his son in law's company (Jared Kushner) to get cheap Chinese financing for buildings with Trump's name licensed on them, in exchange for getting not only quick and effective investor 2 year visas for the richest Chinese, who don't have to wait in line or earn it the hard way, as 98% of most immigrants, but also permanent residency for the investor and his family.  All it takes is $500,000 of investment in an American company, and if that investment creates jobs, then after 2 years, the rich Chinese investor gets to come and go into The United States as they please (can't come and go into and out of China as you please, as visas are required) and have permanent residency in the US.

While the program has been around for 25 years, in the last 5 to 6 years it has really taken off with Chinese investors who don't care about a return on investment, they just want the green card. 10,000 EV-5 visas given out last year by the US, with 85% of them to China.

"They’ve taken our jobs, they’ve taken our money, they’ve taken everything,"  Trump has said, calling it the "Greatest single theft".  Trump is raising money through a government program that many regulators see as "very troubled", and could be enabling dirty money from criminal ventures to enter the US economy.  Congress is worried that Chinese money laundering is happening with these rich investors, who have virtually no vetting... money talks.

Yeah, Donald Trump knows the Chinese.  He's been taking their money.  "Good at buziness."  Sure.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Make America Great, Again?

Make America Great, Again?

I am trying to understand, I mean Really Understand, what is meant by the slogan “Make America Great, Again” used by the “billionaire” front runner, Donald Trump (“billionaire” is in quotes, because so far, Trump refuses to release his tax returns… so his claim of being a lavishly wealthy billionaire are unsubstantiated, just as his claims of giving proceeds of events to veterans groups have never been proven to be factual).

How is America not already the greatest, most prosperous, most upwardly mobile, most tolerant, most multi-cultural, wealthiest Western Democracy with the most freedom (of movement, of religion, of speech, etc) in the entire world?  How will Donald Trump (thrice divorced, thrice bankrupt, outsourcing both his brides and his Trump brand manufacturing to foreign countries, never held elected office ever in his life) make it “great again”?  I am struggling to understand the reasoning behind this nationalist slogan, and I cannot come up with a cogent argument in favor of it.

Some people would say that Trump wants to reform campaign financing, since he is self funded and not “beholden to special interests”, but that’s Bernie Sanders whose been saying that.  Trump just lambasts his Republican primary “opponents” as representing special interests, but he has not proposed any plan to roll back or repeal the Citizens United decision

In fact, Trump has been intentionally vague on any details about his plans, be it Citizens United, getting Mexico to finance his fantasy border wall, how he’d round up 12 million undocumented immigrants, or how he’d get the US Armed Forces to intentionally bomb civilians in Syria and Iraq in violation of the Geneva Convention.  

If an intelligent person can make a rational argument as to 
1) why America is not great now
2) how Donald Trump will make it “great again”
… I would be very happy to have a civil dialogue with that intelligent person, so I can understand better what I am missing about this jingoistic, vocal bully, who appears to be America’s version Jean-Marie & Marine Le Pen, combined.  

I am really not looking for trolls or rhetoric, or some profanity or obscenity filled emotional rant by a devout Trump supporter who is caught up in the moment, and who just likes Donald Trump because “he’s strong” or because “he doesn’t take crap from anyone.”  Those arguments don’t hold up for what qualifications are necessary to be POTUS, or to lead the strongest & wealthiest democracy on the planet.  I AM looking for a cohesive, intelligent, logic argument as to why Donald Trump would “Make America Great Again”. And, why is not still great, now?   It was great when my father came here in the 50s.  It was great when my great grand parents on my mother’s side came here before the Depression.  Why is it not great now, and how will Donald Trump & the policies and proposals he’s articulated make it “great again”?  

I promise to post any comments that are not profanity or obscenity laced, whether they make a cohesive argument or even if they just reinforce my point that there is no logical argument to be made and voters in primary states are coming out in droves because of an irrational emotional response, voting for a candidate who makes them feel good, but they can’t articulate why he makes them feel good.

I really hope someone can help me understand this.  I’ve been troubled with trying to wrap by head around the fervent embrace of Donald Trump by 100s of thousands of US voters for the last month… and cannot comprehend what they see in him, logically and rationally.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dark Money - Jane Mayer

For the first 2 days of my drive across the Pacific, Mountain, and Central time zones, I listened to the 15 CD set of Jane Mayer's comprehensive book Dark Money.     Listening to the book-on-CD, it 
- kept me awake
- pissed me off
- educated me on how Charles Koch once ran for Vice President of the United States and lost miserably, on the Libertarian ticket
- how the Koch brothers recruit other multi-millionaires and billionaires to unite against anyone who opposes their 0.01% agenda
- explained how Sheldon Adleson funded Gingrich to the tune of 42 million dollars of attack ads against Romney that ultimately helped Obama defeat the embodiment of "corporations are people my friends"
- described how the Koch brothers reverse engineered the successful 2008 Obama campaign's data analytics of voter rolls, so that after the 2010 census, local and state districts were gerrymandered so effectively as to nullify the popular vote.  North Carolina was their laboratory, and it proved so successful, that even though Obama won the popular vote in NC in 2012 by more than 2%, the state went for the Republicans by having sparsely populated red districts overwhelm more heavily populated but under represented urban, educated, and poor democratic districts.
- told me how the Koch brother's father made his fortune building refineries for Stalin and Hitler
- spoke about how Charles Koch was raised by a militant German nanny, brought over from The Third Reich, until he was 5.  His nanny returned to The Third Reich after Hitler invaded Poland and France, so that she could be closer to her people and rejoice in her country's victory.  She also used to severely physically punish Charles, and enforce daily castor oil & enemas if 8am bowel moments were not produced punctually.  
- detailed how the Kochs, and all of their 0.01% friends, firmly believe that all you need to do in America is work hard, and you WILL BE successful, even though nearly all of their wealthiest friends inherited all of their wealth and they never lived in poverty or fell upon a temporary period of struggle without sufficient means to meet basic necessities even once throughout their lives
- revealed how even though David Koch suffers from cancer, and donates heavily to various cancer research foundations and hospitals, Koch Industries fights every worker's comp & injury claims from anyone exposed to benzene, leaky butane pipe lines that explode, or coal wash pond toxins; that leukemia you have, you got that on your own, pal.
- went into extensive detail how the Kochs hired private detectives who ineptly tried to smear Jane Mayer after she published a 10,000 word magazine article on them by inaccurately stating she plagiarized and misquoted her sources (this is my third Mayer book, she's fastidious in her research and thorough reporting).
- detailed how the Kochs pay college students to take courses in "free market" and "Austrian Economics" through charitable grants, in an effort to try and recruit a larger army of like minded followers
- described how the Kochs are actively reshaping tenured professor ships by funding the publishing of poorly researched and non-peer-researched publications that support their agenda and spread disinformation that "think tanks" then quote to further confuse the masses
- repeatedly described, at every level of their operations, how the Kochs try to obfuscate, and secretly attempt to conceal their profile, their operations, their purpose / intentions, using misleading names on foundations, and labelling voter suppression efforts and entitlement roll back initiatives as "voter wellness" and "election reforms".

After I finished this book-on-CD series (lucky I had a 6 CD changer in my 2007 Mazda, so I could drive for hours without having to change any CDs) I called my Godfather and talked to him as I drove along I-10 in Florida, passing multiple Florida State troopers in the median who all drove Chevy SUVs or low profile Cameros or Chargers, and discussed how great of a study Mayer's work was.  He and I had a great chat on the morning of the 13th, and it was refreshing to speak to another like-minded, well informed adult about American politics and how the richest 0.01% are carving out the country in their own graven image and laughing at the rest of us, all the way to the bank and the ballot box.  

It'll be interesting to see how 2016 turns out, with self-funded Trump, only-evangelicals-love-me-Cruz, boy-in-a-bubble-Rubio, and semi-reasonable Kasich do next Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton has a good chance of beating them all, especially if it is  3 way race with Trump stroking his ego as an independent.  I am not sure Bernie can deliver a victory for the Democrats, since so many Americans don't understand what a Socialist Progressive is, or how Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, Pell Grants, the VA, Worker's Comp, the EPA, the Voting Rights Act, the Interstate Highway System, Municipal Water Systems, City Parks, Public Beaches, the National Park System, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health are all agencies that were created by, or further the cause, of Progressive Socialism in the United States of America.    The "great good" of all of us, not just those who have inherited the most money.

States Closing Interstate Rest Stops Trending

As I drove nearly 2500 miles across the United States on February 11th, 12th, and 13th, I found a disturbing trend in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina: closed interstate rest stops.  It got to the point that after the sun rose on the 11th, that I gave up hoping to find an open rest stop at which I could empty my bladder, and instead drank less water so that I could time my bath room breaks around gasoline refills, every 300 to 400 miles.  Yes, at 80 mph (most of those states the speed limit was 75 mph) that's every 3 and a half to 4 hours of uncomfortable, dehydrated, kidney stressing driving.
Taken, after the third time I found a rest stop closed along my journey across Southern Umerikah
Why does it matter if an interstate rest stop is closed?  Well, drivers like me, who were headed across country, don't get a chance to look around at the beautiful state for a moment.  There's no chance to stretch your legs, avoid deep vein thrombosis, or chuckle at a sign that warns people that rattlesnakes might be near, and to watch where they walk their dogs.  Seeing a closed interstate rest stops also sends several messages to the driver:
1) this state doesn't care about visitors, doesn't welcome them, and is not hospitable
2) this state doesn't care about infrastructure, and if they can't afford to maintain a simple rest stop, how bad of shape do you think their bridges and roads are in?
3) the legislatures of this state incorrectly believe that everything is better provided by the private sector, including things like imaginary free rest rooms, which typically don't exist, since most merchants want you to buy something from their store if you're going to use their rest room facilities (and me, see... I brought my own water, almonds, grass fed beef jerky, and macadamia nuts, so there was no need to stop and purchase snacks along the way; the focus was on maximizing driven miles efficiency, and not lolly gagging around to turn a 3 day cross country trip into a 4 day trip)

Now I guess, it is possible, that some states may have thought that they had "too many" interstate rest stops, and so they were reducing the number of them and trying to improve the remaining ones, to better serve the traveling public.  Possible, but unlikely, since in Arizona along I-8 and I-10, I found exactly 2 rest stops open. New Mexico, one at the border with 2 others closed.  Texas, along I-10, for 12 hours of driving, only 1 open rest stop.  Louisiana, only 1 (but I was driving late at night through the commonwealth, and wasn't going to stop anyways).  Mississippi and Alabama I did not stay long enough in to warrant any stops.  Florida had 10X more state troopers looking for speeders than it had open rest stops.  And my former home state of South Carolina, where I had lived for 16 years all-together since getting out of college, had been closing rest stops on I-85 and I-26 for more than the last decade, dedicating the funds that used to go to maintaining rest stops towards tax cuts for the upper 1% of the population.

Ironically, before I headed out on my cross country journey, I had thought (as I was falling asleep the night before) "maybe I should download an ap to show me where each of the interstate rest stops would be, to plan rest room breaks proactively?"  I am glad I didn't waste my time or data to do so, since such an ap would have been utterly useless, or grossly misleading.

Thanks Republican Legislatures, all (link here).  It's fantastic how you're looking out for the little guy, the retired travelers (oh, I saw & passed my fair share of people Much Older than me along I-8, 10, and 95 on my way to Charleston), and visitors to your states.  Awesome "first impressions" you're making.  Very progressive tax policies and how you apply those funds to up-keep your states.

I doubt Umerikah will ever wake up...  just a string of anecdotes, shouted out into the void, amounting to candidates like Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Rubio... gerrymandered into local districts paid for by Koch Industries super pac funding & analysis...  sad.