Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In A Dragon Based Economy, Geography Doesn't Matter

In a Dragon Based Economy, apparently geography doesn't really matter.  Or "everything you wanted to know about the Game of Thrones season premier, but we're too afraid to ask".
Dragonstone is near Jamie's feet, Kings Landing is 1/2 way to his sister & lover Cersei

I call it a "Dragon Based Economy" because that what John Oliver called it on Colbert's Late Night show twice last week.  "We're talking some serious dragon money" - when Last Week Tonight bought 5 wax presidents from a closing Ohio Presidential museum.  Game of Thrones is one of the Main anchors that brings in subscribers (and pirates) to HBO, along with Real Time (which I watch, every time it's on), The Leftovers (which I couldn't care less about), and Ballers (which I can't give even 1/2 a sh*t about no matter how hard I try).  Westworld was a good series, and in my mind, Needed to STOP when it stopped.  There's Zero Need to continue with Samurai Westworld, Outer Space Westworld, or Ancient Roman Westworld...  but the bean counters and non-creatives at HBO apparently disagree with my perspective and want to keep raking in the cash from zombified viewers.

Another Danish actor steal jobs from good Americans & Brits
Now, why do I state that "geography doesn't matter"?  Well, the newly usurping & murderous Lord of the Iron Born Euron Greyjoy (putting the "Ew!" in "Euron") shows up with an armada of "1000 ships" at Kings Landing, in an attempt to gain favor with Queen Cersei (and ask for her hand in marriage... ew!!! I think I just tasted some of my own vomit), but his massive fleet somehow doesn't run into the even more massive fleets of Greyjoy deserters, Unsullied warriors, 2nd Sons (I'm actually a 2nd son myself, heh heh), and the Dothraki Horde - not to mention 3 massive and very hungry dragons that have been flying air cover for the invading fleet - that Daenerys Targaryen is leading to the island of Dragonstone.  Dragonstone, per the maps of Westeros, is near the eastern mouth of the long bay that eventually leads to Kings Landing.  The Iron Islands, Pyke, are on the Western side of Westeros, north of Casterly Rock.  THERE IS NO Northern Passage, as global warming has not yet melted the ice caps north of the Seven Kingdoms as it already has in Canada and Russia on this world in this age, where Polar Bear mothers now have to swim for more than a 100 miles with their newly born cubs to reach the pack ice, where upwards of 90% of the cubs are drowning, exhausted, as they used to only have to swim a mile or 2 at most.  At least I got to see a Polar Bear in the zoo when I was a kid, before they all become extinct.

But human driven climate change aside, Ewwww-Euron's 1000 ships would have had to sail Down around the Southern end of Westeros, past Dorne, and then northward UP the Narrow Sea, side-by-side or just ahead / just behind Daenerys's even bigger fleet was sailing through, with 3 circling and hungry dragons who would have obliterated the 1000 Greyjoy ships just as they torched the slavers ships in Slaver's Bay several seasons ago, until the slavers finally surrendered and Daenerys took their ships for her crossing of the Narrow Sea.  I've included a handy screen shot from the episode where Cersei is standing in the middle of a courtyard painted as the map of Westeros, for your reference, above.  Both fleets could no co-exist in the same Narrow Sea at the same timer even within a few days of each other, due to their MASSIVE sizes and the remarkably slow pace that sail driven sea travel has when flying just one or 2 sails, and not a massive array of studding sails, spanker sails, royal, sky, moonraker, and top sails as Only Euron's flag ship tried to set (with aerodynamic inaccuracies, sorry special effects folks who were concerned more with style than substance).  "That which is dead can never die" ... no..  how about "that which is dumb cannot get dumber", or "that which is repulsive cannot get even more repulsive".  So Euron's travel to and appear in Kings Landing was not logistically possible, unless he somehow teleported or owned a T.A.R.D.I.S. with enough capacity to move his entire fleet instantaneously without running into Daenerys's fleet.


Sure, "The Twins" where they Freys slaughtered and then got slaughtered themselves ("poison is a woman's weapon") apparently divides the northern part of the Seven Kingdoms from the southern part, perhaps for lack of any small boats that could traverse the water way southeast of "The Twins", I can understand that.  But the waterway that "The Twins" crosses Does Not extend all the way to the west coast of Westeros, so there's no way Euron and his massive fleet could have sailed down it.

Geography aside, the Season 7 premier was pretty good.  Several other poignant observations I made in retrospect are as follows:

1) what's scarier than a whole horde of decomposing white walkers who can't be killed with steel weapons?  A horde of decomposing white walkers who have in their ranks ancient Giants whom they've killed and then resurrected as blue eyed white walkers before the giant corpses could be burnt.  Undead zombie giants are Far More Lethal than undead foot soldiers or undead calvary.  An undead giant could lob a spear the size of a telephone pole with a big nasty pointy end, far into the air (like the height of "The Wall" as happened several seasons ago when the Wildling Free Folk attacked "The Wall" with Giants at their side)... and such a spear could impale one of the precious 3 dragons, perhaps killing it.  Then... the Night King resurrects the dead dragon as a undead dragon...  and it kills the other two remaining dragons.  That would be Game Over, for Game of Thrones.  
What's worse than one white walker Giant? Three white walker Giants!
2) if you were not watching with closed captioning on (as we do in our house, with hearing impaired viewers  and for clarity), you would not know that the massively gray scaled hand that tried to reach out to Samwell Tarly was indeed the hand of Jorah Mormont (former Lord of Bear Island, then reluctant slave trader to keep his wife comfortable and provide "the lifestyle to which she was accustomed", then kidnapper of Tyrion and rebuked suitor of Daenerys).  Seems that Jorah made his way to Old Town to seek a cure for grayscale from the Maesters, but Westerosian medicine still didn't have a cure for that ailment.

3) if you've stolen the keys to the forbidden & locked up Maester reference library, and you have only a few seconds to lift an ancient book from the bizarrely chained shelves (was Old Town seismically active?), make sure you pick The Exact Tome that has the history of the Last Winter in it, that shows Precisely where a whole mountain of Dragon Glass is on the island of Dragonstone (at the mouth of the bay that leads right to Kings Landing)... it just seems rather far fetched to me, as I am old enough to remember going to the library Before there was a searchable internet, and you had to use the card catalogue, or the headache inducing microfiche, and you spent hours and hours searching to find just one or two gems that you could include in a bibliography.  There was no Google, Yahoo, Bing, Lycos,  Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Infoseek, or Webcrawler back when I was in school.  If you wanted to find a book in a library, you had to search for it, long and hard, and hope you got lucky and it wasn't checked out when you finally located it.  Samwell Tarly grabs it The First Pick, while under pressure of being discovered a few seconds later by the next Maester who walks in.  Sure... let's keep suspending disbelief.
Voted most likely to be killed by White Walkers by his Free Folk High School

This should be a good season.  Let the white walkers come... depose the angry Cersei who has no allies (let Arya do it, gleefully)... make a bunch of weapons out of Dragonstone's Dragon Glass cache... wipe out the Greyjoys from the surface of the sea and have their octopus god devour their rotting remains... let the alternative lifestyle Dorne and Greyjoy girls enjoy themselves together... sacrifice the Free Folk & their leader Tormund Giantsbane to the white walker hordes just as corporate America does to the middle class without blinking an eye... have Brienne take out The Mountain as she took out his little brother and then she and Jaime can get together... let Samwell Tarly save the day with his book-learnin... and let Jon Snow get it on with his 1/2 sister Daenerys once the Starks and Daenerys armies band together to fight the White Walker horde.  I can't care about Baelish, Bran, Sansa, Qyburn, Podrick, man-bun Thoros or one eyed Beric very much at all.  Sure, Martin can kill off most of the main characters and elevate any of these lesser roles if he wants to... but... that would hurt the franchise at this point, and HBO wants to keep making money.  Please just let it be one or two more seasons... and not 4 or 5 more, or it'll go on far too long as the books have.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Window Seat Elbow Room

On July 2nd, Dr Desert Flower and I flew from LAX to Covington Kentucky (Cincinnati's deserted airport, across the Ohio River), and Delta upgraded us from economy exit row seats up to row 14A and B in "Delta Comfort", which gives you i) 2 or 3 inches of more leg room ii) free carbohydrate loaded snacks [as many as you want, basket brought around twice during the flight... but sadly, very very little protein], and iii) free alcoholic drinks.  Delta says that it gives you "dedicated over-head bin space" in Delta Comfort, but I've frequently seen people in zones 1, 2, and 3 putting their over-stuffed roller bags in ANY over-head they can desperately find, "Delta Comfort" or otherwise.

I like window seats.  I need a window seat.  Let me lean up against the inside of the fuselage, and escape the morbidly obese traveller in the economy ticketed middle seat who hogs the shared arm rests.  I can look out the window, I can sleep against the cool plastic that lines the aluminum fuselage (I try and pick a seat on the North side of the plane when traveling across the US by air, to avoid the solar heating effect on the South side of the plane, mid-day).  I am a happy camper with a window seat.  DDF prefers an aisle seat to facilitate not having to bother anyone if she gets up to use the facilities.  In middle seats, I typically have to sit with my arms crossed over my chest (known as a "Polish Bra" within my family) because the arm rests have over-flowingly large Umerikun or European travelling passengers spilling over them.  Sitting cross-armed for 3 or 4 hours is uncomfortable, leads to over-heating, armpit perspiration, and makes working on a laptop impossible.  DDF took the middle seat 14B and I took the window seat 14A.

On a Delta 737-800, in row 14, Not Only do you sit directly in-line with the high pressure turbine section of the nearby wing engine (the fastest place to die if a HP turbine disk ruptures, but it would be instantaneous, and spare you the shock and horror of seeing the person in front or behind you being impaled / decapitated / cut-in-half while the pilot tries to quickly get the plane on the ground in one piece with the one surviving engine IF it is still operating... don't worry, less than 2 dozen commercial passenger jets have ever suffered a catastrophic HP turbine wheel burst... so it is more likely you'll be hit by lightning), but the 14A window seat includes a tapered "wedge" where the contoured concave plastic cowling around the window nearly meets the left arm rest in-line with seat 14A's backrest.  This forms a narrow triangle that is easy to jam one's left elbow bursa into, and the plane's vibration in flight then "embeds" your elbow further.  Make it a 4 hour flight, with or without turbulence, but always including a small amount of engine vibration, and you have a recipe for disaster.  I watched The Batman Lego movie, part of Silence (but found 17th Century Jesuit missionaries to Japan not an engrossing topic, sorry Scorsese), all the while with my left elbow wedged against the arm rest and fuselage.

On July 3rd, I self-medicated with whiskey, both Irish and Kentucky varieties, copiously, and my elbow didn't hurt too much.  On July 4th, my elbow was VERY sore, and swollen.  The evening of July 4th, I began to ice it as DDF, my mother-in-law and I watched more Twin Peaks on Netflix in Cincinnati.  July 5th, we flew back to LAX and DDF and I were lucky enough to NOT have a passenger in the middle seat between us so the arm rests went up, and I had nothing to bump my elbow.  July 6th, more ice, and compression, as the elbow was warm, painful and swollen to almost the size of my knee.  July 7th (last Friday), I sat in the outpatient surgery waiting room for 4 hours with a chilled wine sleeve (see below) wrapped around my left arm's elbow (providing both compression and cooling), and I was unable to get an appointment to have my elbow looked at, as it was Not getting any better.  I was able to secure a 3pm appointment for Monday, July 10th, where I hoped that my primary care physician would either inject my elbow with cortisone or aspirate the swollen bursa or both.  Throughout the weekend, I kept icing my elbow, about 50% of the time I was awake.  At night, I'd go to sleep without anything on my elbow, and wake up with the elbow aching, unable to straighten my arm, and in significant pain.
Use a freezer wine "huggie" for both compression and cold! (left arm pictured here)
Naproxen Sodium entera-coated 500 mg was taken 1.5 times a day - I could have taken it 2x a day, but I was not disciplined enough to stick to a schedule.  By the time I went to the 3pm appointment, my elbow was only 1.2X its normal size.  When my primary care physician saw it, she told me to continue to do exactly what I was doing:
- compression
- cold packs
- Naproxen 2x a day
She also told me to keep moving it, do light exercise if it is not painful. "Pain is nature telling you to stop".  I lobbied her for an injection, and after a few dozen seconds of her squeezing and pushing on my elbow, she said "there is a greater risk if infection if I do. Here, I can feel your bone. Continue to apply cold and compression."  OK.  Patience.  "3 weeks is the standard recovery time from an injured bursa" she continued.  Deep inhale...  patience.

So, if you hurt your elbow, and it starts to swell up, and it aches for 2 or 3 days, and you're not sure what to do, certainly go to your doctor.  If you wait too long - as I did - and you go to the doctor after treating yourself with ice, compression, and full-range-of-motion light exercises to keep the joint from locking up, be prepared to just endure it... for 3 weeks.

Trump Family's Arrested Development

Dr Desert Flower and I have been catching up on old seasons of Arrested Development on Netflix while her shoulder (post-surgery) and my left elbow (compressed bursa) recover and heal.  With the recent Russian emails that have been revealed that clearly show collusion between the Trump family during the presidential campaign in July of 2016, and the Russian governments and government surrogates, DDF and I came to the revelation that the Trump family and the Bluth family are remarkably analogous.  If you're a fan of Arrested Development, read on, you may enjoy this post and could possibly provide comments to make it even better.  If you're no fan of Arrested Development, or have never watched the show, I recommend reading no further, as this post will probably just seem byzantine, trivial, and over-extended in its comparison.
From left to right: Buster, Maeby, George Michael, Lucille, George Sr, Lindsey, Tobias, and G.O.B. (pronounced "Jobe")

The characters in Arrested Development and their Trump analogues are as follows:

George Sr = 45 Himself; enriching his family by buying cheap desert acreage that the federal government will build a wall upon, running a fake university, repeatedly bankrupting the family business, a chronic philanderer who cannot keep it in his pants, throughout his whole life, multiple shady business associates.  George Sr is Far More Intelligent, conniving, devious, wily, and successful than 45 in myriad ways... but as the head of the family, there's similarities. (a 70% match)

Lucille = Ivanka; looking out for herself and her own financial gain, sleeps with George Sr, hyper-focused on appearances, is cut-throat and evil to the core. (a 80% match)

G.O.B. = Donald Jr; oldest son, incompetent, buffoonish, clueless, talentless, sycophantic son who ardently longs for his distant father's approval, full of hubris, arrogant douche bag without the intelligence or talent to back up such arrogance, causes the family intense pain, embarrassment, and catastrophic failure, repeatedly. (a 98% match... G.O.B. is much funnier, and less of a douche)

Buster = Barron; Overly attached to his mother, immature, youngest son (a 60% match)

Tobias = Eric; goof, no-value-added (a 40% match, since Tobias is a flawed character we know, and Eric is just a rich frat boy douche who hunts endangered species like Elephants in Africa)

Lindsey = Tiffany; adopted, clueless, left out of the picture (a 40% match)

Michael = Jared; boyish, has some clues but not enough, son-of-a-formerly-rich-father-who's-gone-to-jail, In WAY Over His Head, doomed to failure (an 80% match)

Maeby = 45's grand children we don't know about yet ( < 50% match)

{Late addition}
Kitty (George Sr's mentally unstable secretary) = Kellyanne Conway; both mentally tenuous, extremely dangerous, and both have "the crazy" in their eyes, but Kellyanne weaves lies much more effectively.)  (a 90% match)

{Late addition}
Ann = Sarah Huckabee Sanders; both come from narrow minded fundamentalist families, though Ann is far sweeter and more attractive than her press-secretary-wanna-bee-mean-girl-who-wants-your-lunch-money Huckabee Sanders.  Both have a mean streak inside them (Ann going off with Steve Holt... Sarah being herself)  {Thanks Jen H for these observations and suggestions!}

Stan Sitwell = Hillary Rodham Clinton, with hair; consistently the foil against the 45 administration, consistently has tried to defeat them but has not been successful in vanquishing them.

George Michael = ?  No equivalent in the 45 administration observed, yet... but stay tuned

Barry Zuckerkorn (played by Henry Winkler, the Bluth family lawyer) = Marc E. Kasowitz; incompetent, shady, does what he's told badly. (a 85% match)

Pence, Spicer, Massive-Foreheaded Stephen Miller, Christie, Gingrich, and Bannon don't have direct Arrested Development analogues that I can think of... at this time.

All readers' comments and suggestions are welcome.  This post will be updated as 2017 progresses and new information is revealed.  DDF and I thought it was pretty funny that there's so many similarities.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Black Lodge Yelp Review, or David Lynch At His Worst

Last weekend, Dr Desert Flower and I spent many hours finishing watching the 1990-91 Twin Peaks CBS television series, on Netflix.  DDF was resting after an outpatient procedure, and I was icing a pinched left elbow bursa that was jammed between the left arm-rest and the Delta 737-800's fuselage on row 14A, after we flew from LAX to Covington Kentucky on July 2nd for DDF's best friend's birthday party.  We were stationary humans last weekend, with considerable time on our hands.  Then, late last Saturday night, we began watching the 2017 Showtime series "Twin Peaks The Return" upon multiple recommendations of DDF's friends and co-workers who heaped high praise upon David Lynch's new work.  (Rotten Tomatoes has their reviews of them here: link, though I vehemently disagree with the tremendously positively reviews you'll find there)

The original 1990s TV series was not bad.  Some slow parts, some meaningless parts, far too many teenage-angst-romance sub-plots that now, as a man in his 50s, I could not care less about... but all in all, not a bad two seasons.  You find out who All killed Laura Palmer, you find out about the nature of the pervasive evil "Bob" represents, and there's a whole bunch of little side plots that progress nicely; many of them wrapped up with a neat bow, some of them left open ended.  DDF and I hoped that the 2017 follow-up would close those open loops.  That was a false hope that never came to fruition.

Instead, we got introduced to Dougie Jones, who when spoken to, repeated the last few words annoyingly.  Repeated the last few words, annoyingly.  This got really old fast. Really old fast.  It was not germane to what was happening back in Twin Peaks, and by all means, appeared to be completely irrelevant.  Completely irrelevant.  I would have rather had another teenage love triangle plot line instead of static-filled Dougie's scenes of endless fragmented repetition. Fragmented repetition.

Then, instead of Twin Peaks Washington, there was a major shocking sub-plot in the imaginary "Buck Horn South Dakota".  [Twin Peaks WA doesn't exist either, but was filmed in Snoqualmine, North Bend, and Fall City WA as well as Malibu CA]  How Buck Horn ties into Twin Peaks, no one figures out.  How does the hole-in-the-wall NYC high rise mutilation tie into anything, no one knows.  How does static-filled Dougie Jones in Las Vegas tie into Twin Peaks Washington, still, no one knows.  Very little happened in Twin Peaks in the 2017 series.  Most of it was putting you to sleep in NYC, scaring you in South Dakota, or making your eyes roll in Las Vegas.

All of this was very Lynchian, disjointed, fragmented, bizarre, mysterious, but it was watchable for the most part until the final episode.  New characters got introduced.  Some of them got killed,  Many good comedians played non-comedic parts.  Lynch pulled out all of his favorite actors and put them in the line-up who were still alive.  That is... until the final episode.  The final episode, for the first 20 minutes (the first 1/3rd), was a real episode.  There was plot, dialogue, progression, continuity... for the most part.  After the 20th or 22nd minute, the rest of the final episode became a masterbation exercise by David Lynch, a platform for him to take Eraserhead (or Labyrinth Man if you're in France) to the next level of inane, unfathomable, nauseatingly stagnant and boring "art expression" that drives an intelligent viewer mad.  I am so glad we watched it for free on our "Free Showtime Trial" which we will cancel next week.

Nuclear explosions in the New Mexico desert... is the mushroom cloud the one armed man's missing arm that is also a stunted growth and leafless sycamore tree in the Black Lodge who crackles with electricity?   Are the ubiquitous and ever-flowing red curtains of the Black Lodge representative of the blood that flows when evil manifests itself in the material world, or the fireballs of nuclear fission?  Are the shadowy black-and-white mobs of "woodsmen" who come out of no where and dive upon motionless, shot, evil, mulleted Dale Cooper in league with the nicotine zombie who takes over AM radio?  The crazy golden shovel Twin Peaks psychiatrist who rants on AM radio, is he supposed to analogous to the nicotine zombie guy?  The doppelgänger who turned into a small golden pea / pellet, is that related to the flying frog creature that hatched on a nearly black screen after the second nuclear explosion?

If those were the only questions, ok, I could grapple with it and wait and see for the next season.  BUT, those snippets took painstaking, excruciatingly slow minutes to get to, as characters slowly, slowly, slowly ascended stairs, or stared into nothingness, or gathered around an inanimate object that made no sense whatsoever.  "Meticulous" is how the Nerdist called these scenes.  Excruciatingly painful while-at-the-same-time eye-lollingly boring was how DDF and I saw it.  We'd fast forward at 4X or 8X for 15 or 30 seconds, and oh-my-gosh, the heavy-set lady had made it to the other side of the room.  Another 15 or 30 seconds, and the elderly giant had turned, 90 degrees.  Another 15 or 30 seconds, and the lady stares at the golden orb.  Arrrrghhhhh!


The final episode of the 1991 series had Kyle MacLaughlin running around the Black Lodge for about 5 minutes too long.  The final episode of the 2017 series had David Lynch and a team of special effects technicians running around for 35 minutes too long, tediously.  I could not care less if Showtime's Twin Peaks continues, or falls on its sword and goes away.  I've wasted far too many minutes of my life watching David Lynch's work on my TV, atrophying my brain.  "Has it given you nightmares?" ... one of DDF's friends asked us.  No, it's made my eyes tired from rolling (Anderson Cooper style), and it's motivated me to warn others to not waste their time watching something that'll squander their time and neurons...  unless... perhaps, they're on acid, and want to enhance their trip, or they're taking a contemporary art class and are forced to watch it as a class assignment.

No thanks.  I have a sock drawer I need to rearrange, or a garage to clean, or a thousand other things to do that are a much better use of my time.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Charcuterie Week

The Discovery Channel has "Shark Week" each year.  But why doesn't the Food Network have Charcuterie Week?

Charcuterie is delicious.  Charcuterie can be found in many of the best restaurants in the US.  Charcuterie has never eaten a surfer, or clogged a fishing net that was not intended to catch a shark.  One does not need a submerged reinforced steel cage to enjoy charcuterie safely.

I did a internet search for "Charcuterie Week" and found a link on FoodRepublic that mentioned "Charcuterie Week" in San Antonio in 2016.  But it did not mention a trade mark or copy write, anywhere in the article.

I think it should be a thing.



Friday, July 7, 2017

AdSense Now Enabled

Well readers, after my employer of almost 20 years decided in March of 2017 that 20% of their skilled, experienced, highly efficient engineering work force must go and be sacrificed on the alter of unrealistic Wall Street expectations to meet investor reduced operating overhead costs and generate higher dividends, I began looking for alternate means of providing for my family with gainful employment.  One of the things I did, was to add Google AdSense to my blog, to generate ad revenue from the number of eye balls and clicks that the JustJoeP blog apparently draws.  Since the November 2016 election, the clicks have sky rocketed to 10X to 20X or more of what they had traditionally drawn over the last 7 years.

It seemed simple.  "It may take as long as 3 days" AdSense kept telling me, each time I checked their site... in April, May, June, and the beginning of July.  FINALLY, this week, Google Adsense sends me an email that says I've finally been approved.  I am not sure what species of creature sees "3 days" as more than 3 months... but perhaps whatever alien are that runs Google advertising moves at a speed much closer to "c" (or 299,792,458 meters /sec... and it's been that speed for billions of years, despite what Quick Earth Creationists have convinced themselves that it is changing, and thus making carbon dating unreliable).

So now, I apologize, but Google Adsense is enabled.  I've supposedly made 7 cents this week with Google Adsense (yes, that's 0.07 dollars).  But now that it IS enabled, I will probably start blogging more than I've been in the last 3 months... il faut voir.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Hidden Temecula Wine Treasures

Last weekend, Dr Desert Flower and I drove out to Temecula to hang out with DDF's friends and former co-workers Matt & Justin who have memberships to several Temecula wineries and who live in near-by Rainbow.  Now, having grown up and gone to school in Indiana and driven past places like Oliver Winery North of Bloomington for years, as well as having tasted Western North Carolina wines, some Washington and Oregon wines, and some experimental Arizona wines, I was understandably skeptical that a small region like Temecula might be "less than delicious" ... but I with-held my judgement until after I had a chance to taste the actual fruit of the vine.



We began at Peltzer Winery in Temecula, where Matt and Justin met us, wine glasses in hand.  I'd tasted a double magnum of what I Thought was Peltzer several years ago at a work function, and I did not recall finding it to be very memorable nor delicious.  My first glass of Sauvignon Blanc at Peltzer last weekend was delicious, flavorful, refreshing, and delightful.  Being the designated driver, I kept it to one glass while DDF bought 4 bottles of the vintages she enjoyed.

The 2nd winery we visited was Masia de la Vinya, which Justin and Matt (of course) had a membership to as well, so we enjoyed the member's only entrance, glasses, and prices.  Another remarkable white wine, over-looking 10 to 15 miles of picturesque valley as we sat on the hill top at Masia de la Vinya.  Truly pleasant, delightful.  "This does not suck" was mentioned several times.

Matt & Justin have 2 other memberships to other wineries, but after a good 3 hours of tasting Temecula wines, our five-some was already pretty well saturated and in need of more substantial food than just tasty wines... so we'll have to go back another time, to visit the remaining two preferred wineries.  It's not even an hour's drive up I-15 to get there!

Live-a-Little, Nah

At my local Sprouts, when I am there getting several pounds of Boar's Head high quality meats, I tend to look over the wines that are local, organic, sustainable, in a perpetual (but futile) attempt to find a gem in the rough.  My latest unsuccessfully story is the Live-a-Little South African wine.  "Wildly Wicked White" was what is was called.

Well, our bottle tasted / smelled like a combination of isopropyl alcohol reagent, mixed with asparagus and celery.  Now, I Love celery, but an over-whelming taste & scent of it in a wine is less than desirable.

I am not condemning all Live-a-Little wines... nor all South African wines.  This bottle however, was undrinkable, and after tasting one glass, and offering DDF a taste as well, the rest of the bottle went down the Carlsbad sewer system, and eventually made it to the ocean.

Perhaps it was "Vegan Friendly" but it was Not taste bud friendly.



Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc

Trader Joes has carried the Portes De Bordeaux French wine line for many years.  I've mentioned several of the varietals here in the past, but since my shift to white wines last year I have not had an opportunity to talk about the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc.  It is a "Gran Vin de Bordeaux", the bottles are serialized, and the quality is consistent and good.

If you're looking for a sour, grape-fruity, scrunched-up face New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc, then you will bot be satisfied here.  If you Are looking for a crisp, slightly citrus, smooth finished, very drinkable white wine that sells great at $6 a bottle, then this is for you!

Much like the red Bordeaux, the Rosé, or the Haute Medoc, this Sauvignon Blanc does not let down the drinker.  We keep several bottles in our wine fridge, across the calendar year.  Come visit DDF and I, and you can enjoy it as well.
Back Drop is our back yard, near sunset.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breadless Meat Loaf


In my on-going quest to avoid bread, grains, carbs, and everything that drives a weakened pancreas towards being fully diabetic, I began experimenting with ground Bison meat a few months ago.  Costco sells these 2-packs of ground Bison for ~$8 a pound or so, and the meat is good quality, grass fed, hormone free.  If you've ever seen a Bison in the wild, they're not very "manageable" as far as fences and enclosures are concerned.  They're HUGE, and they go where they want to go, knocking down fences at will and wandering wherever they feel the best grass may be.  Basically, they're magnetic, huge, dumb, indigenous walking meat bags.

150 years ago, herds of millions of Bison used to graze across the Great Plains, and their droppings fertilized, their hoof prints created the hard soil, and their appetites kept the grasses at manageable levels.  Then the European settlers came in, and corporate America w=in collusion with he Federal Government intentionally wiped out the herds of indigenous Bison that the native Americans relied upon for their food, clothing, and way-of-life, in order to "open up the West for development".  In the last 30 years or so, Bison herds have healthily bounced back to the point where harvesting them for food production is now viable, practical, and (since the white man developed all of their natural range) necessary to contain the population.  So I feel good about eating Bison once or twice a week.  They've been around since the last ice age, and will probably be around after all of the homo sapiens wipe each other out in the future.

My favorite use of Bison currently, is to make a bread-less meat loaf.  It's easy to make, and delicious.  Ingredients
- about 2 lbs of ground Bison
- 1/2 a head of organic celery, washed and chopped, no longer than your thumb
- At Least a Quart of organic portobello mushrooms (also available at Costo), chopped
- a 1/2 pound of diced, grass-fed "stew meat" (usually Top Sirloin, that the butcher counter has on sale)
- a Large pinch of lemon peel
- a pinch of chili powder
- 3 all spice balls
- a pinch of thyme
- as much home grown oregano as you have or want
- as much home grown rosemary as you have or want
- tons (2 or 3 cups) of ground up dried garlic (we have an old quart container that is [I believe] losing its potency)

In a large non-stick pan, heat up the bison in large "chunks" using a wooden spoon (it's a quality non-stick pan, remember) on the largest burner your stove has, until it is not blood red (but if you brown it, you're ruining it).  Heat up the stew meat until the outsides of it are no longer read.  Add the first round of garlic until the top of all the cooking meat is manilla colored.  Stir / mix the meat and let the seasoning intermingle.  Add in the chopped mushrooms, and stir until the mushrooms are immersed in the meat & juices coming from the meat.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for as long as it takes you to wash and chop the celery.

Note: at this point, you COULD add carrots or onions or cauliflower or other veggies if you want to, but I didn't want this to be high caloric (no carrots) nor highly cruciferous & gas producing.

Add the rest of the seasoning.  Mix it in.  Then add in the celery.  Mix further.

If you want to, you CAN add ground organic flax seed, to "thicken" the mix and soak up the residual juices... and I've done that.  Approximately 1 to 1.5 cups of ground organic flax seed can be added... BUT... it makes the final dish less savory in my opinion, and when making seal-able containers for lunches, the flax-seed laden mix "plops" out more as a solid mass, than a savory, mouth watering meal.

The total meal I described above makes two LARGE dishes the first night, and 2 large lunches for later int he week, as well as a small side-dish for your significant other who doesn't really like mushrooms as much as you, and picks them off her plate.

Bison as large as a 12 person passenger van, in Kelly Wyoming



Trader Joe's Petite Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Trader Joe's Petite Reserve Sauvignon Blanc was on an end-cap display last week at my local Bressi Ranch Trader's Joe.  It was $7 a bottle, which is 2 dollars more than the regular Trader Joe's Sauvignon Blanc I normally get.  Why not try it?  - I thought.

So I bought a bottle, brought it home, chilled it, and opened it last Friday night.  Dr Desert Flower and I tasted it, and her face immediately crinkled up in a grimace: "Where's this from?"  "Washington"
"Oh, that explains it"

It was not that bad.  I actually like the regular Trader Joe's Sauvignon Blanc better, but the Petite Reserve was ok.  It had more citrus notes to it, and was not quite as buttery as the normal Trader Joe's S.B., but it was very drinkable and not at all unpleasant.

"Horse Heaven Hills" ... though I hope no horses died in the making of the wine.  And is there really an equine heaven, if there is a heaven at all?  Maybe that's where the unicorns live?


Sunday, June 4, 2017

$400 Washers / Circlips

Several weeks ago, back in April, Dr Desert Flower and I drove down to South Point beach in her Volvo C70 convertible with the top down, as it was a beautiful Southern California day.  When we arrived at the Point State Park parking lot, I pressed the center console button on the car to put the top back up, so that
a) no birds would poop in our car
and
b) no opportunist miscreants would steal the $150 parking hang tag from the rear view mirror

As I waited for the roof to emerge from the trunk, and un-shuffle itself in a truly remarkable "transformer-esque" unfolding (it's so cool to me, as an engineer, that I try to wait for small children to be walking by when I initiate the sequence outside a store in a parking lot, so that the little kids point, and I tell them with a smile "this car knows Bumblebee" as I get out, and they're amazed) ... the roof Suddenly Stopped!  The unfolding / un-shuffling stopped, and Would Not go up, not down, 1/2 way through the sequence.  Merde.  This was not good.  You can't drive the car with the roof 1/2 way up.  I could hear the servo motors whirring, but there Was No Motion.  The roof was stuck.

As a good engineer, the first thing you do is "read the manual" and hope that the manual was written by someone who had English as a first language.  As I got out and inspected the 1/2 way retracted roof, looking for anything obvious that might be jamming it, like debris, leaves, a branch, a broken linkage, and also sniffing for any smells of burnt plastic, cooked lubricant, or any odiferous by-products of extreme friction, DDF read the manual.
She found an instruction for the convertible roof, that was really straightforward:  'If the roof ceases to retract or deploy, hold down the roof actuator button and continue to hold it for 2 minutes.  You'll hear a beeping sound. Depress the button as the beeping sound continues.  Do not release the button until the roof is completely up.  Have the roof serviced immediately.'  So I held the button, listened to the beeps, and continued to do so until FINALLY the roof actuators over-came whatever was preventing their progress.

I already knew that Hugo's - who has done my oil changes, brake & suspension work, and tune ups since we moved to San Diego County - in Encinitas did not service convertible roofs, and deferred that to the dealer.  So Monday morning I reluctantly called the dealer and schedule my Volvo to be brought in the next day to have the roof actuator mechanisms serviced.

Late the next afternoon, I get a call from the Volvo Service manager, with an accusation as his first words: "Who has been working on your car?"
"No one has touched the roof since I bought it" - which was the truth.
"Well, we found some washers inside the roof liner; I had my best man on it, and he nearly didn't see them, but after we'd gotten the whole roof apart we found them all magnetized and bunched up together on the sensor.  I saved them for you, in a small box. You can have them when you pick it up this afternoon. It'll be $400."
Gulp.

So I rode my bicycle down to the Carlsbad Volvo dealer, were they are 2 blocks from the coast, and 350 feet elevation lover than my home, so the net ride, though there were two 100 foot hills to climb, had an appreciable positive potential energy differential.  When I got there, I was handed the little box of "washers" pictured above.  I would not call them "washers" as I was taught, back in the late 80s when Matt T and I began working at Michelin Tire that these were called "Circlips" or "External retaining rings", used to hold a clevis in place on a trunnion, or to keep a shaft from moving axially (google search "circlip" and you can see multiple examples).

According to the senior technician who found them,  all of these little circlips had bunched up, and found their way to the magnetic sensor near the rear view mirror in the center of the windshield's frame that detected when the roof was fully up, to tell the control system to stop putting power to the actuator, since the roof is assumed to be "fully in place".  They were wedged BETWEEN the cloth head liner, and the metal roof, and over-time, they had become magnetized (clumping together).  "There are not supposed to be any of these in the roof assembly whatsoever" the head of the Service Department told me in his Scottish accent, hence his insistence that someone had put them there.
"Could they have come from the factory, where accidentally, in Belgium, someone had dropped some?" I inquired?
"Doubtful...  but... maybe" was his incredulous reply.

If they didn't come from the factory by accident, then someone "sprinkled" or "wedged" broken retaining clips (circlips) between the roof panels and the elastomer seals... but that kind of sabotage would take patience, time, and access to the car with the roof down... something we don't ever allow, because of avian excrement and the possibility of thievery and mischief.

While the circlips themselves are probably worth about 10 cents each, extracting them from the roof assembly, and then re-assembling the entire roof in an "as new" condition, without tears, dirty finger prints, or any cosmetic indications whatsoever, was worth a few hundred dollars, as it was something I could not have done with finesse or without frustration.