Thursday, December 31, 2009

Effective Feedback

Along with the Google Blogger utility is the Google Blogger Profile, which I set up with a 'justjoep at gmail dot com' email address - I type it out long hand, in an effort to thwart the relentless spamming by inane robots and mindless, witless mass marketers. Along with the dozens of notifications of "winning the British Lottery 950.000.000 GBP!" and "Big Lotto 2009" and "Irish News Centre you won 750000 GBP" (I guess Irish spammers are cheap skates in comparison) and "New Weight Loss - Free Trail" mailings, I have actually gotten some useful correspondence on 3 different subjects.

The first was my blog post lambasting the Phoenix Symphony. It's solicited some interesting comments and replies.

The 2nd, to my surprise, was from the events manager at the Desert Botanical Garden after Dr Desert Flower and I attended to Corks & Cactus this year. The manager thanked me for the constructive criticism and our garden patronage, and she wished me a happy thanksgiving as well - a polite lady.

The 3rd, to my even greater surprise, was from the Simplehuman customer service manager after my "how to repair the broken garbage can"with gorilla tape and glue posting. She stated that Simplehuman found the technique interesting, and although I am out of my warranty period, they want to stand behind their product and are willing to send me a free replacement pedal actuator for my 40 liter model. Wow. In return, I offered to swap out the repaired part for the replacement if they send me a mailing label, so that their product designers can see where the actuator failed. A reputable manufacturer who stands behind their product? Very kewl.

So, if you want to get ahold of me, and provide some feedback without having to make a public comment, and you don't know me on FB or pre-blog, use the gmail noted above. If you're a spammer, learn how to spell - consult with someone who uses English as their primary language. Ugh!

Anna's & Costa's Hummingbirds in the backyard

There's no shortage of these vociferous / pugnacious / territorial little avians in my backyard. Anna's link. Costa's link. Wearing red framed sun glasses on a Brightly Sunny Day while doing yoga poolside draws buzzing high velocity fly-bys - sometimes as close as 1 foot away - simultaneously very cool & slightly un-nerving when trying to maintain balance on one foot. We also get occasional broad tailed (link here) and I've seen some immature Black-chinned hummingbirds as well (link here).

The Ruby Throateds (link here) that we saw every year in South Carolina and occasionally in Indiana have not yet crossed the Rockies. What I used to THINK were Lucifer hummingbirds (link here and to my error here last year) do not have the curved bills, and have not been spotted above Southern Tucson - they're actually Costa's and Black-chinned.

Alongside - or in competition with these guys - are several varieties of Warbler Verdins (link here), Vireos (link here), Dusky Flycatchers (link here), and Phoebes (link here) who jockey for room at the nectar feeders. Only the hummingbirds can guzzle, but the other non-hover-ers do their best to try and eek out a drop here or there, pecking away. There's even a marauding trio of very persistent Cassin's Finches (link here) who have learned to pull out the yellow "bee guard" flowers on the older feeders.

The Flycatchers and Phoebes have helped to cut down on the flies who are drawn to the pool after a rare Arizona rain storm, and the Verdins and Vireos, which are not much bigger than the hummingbirds, bring a beautiful variety of songs and calls into the back yard.

Now, if we can just keep the messy pigeons out of the back yard, and up on the roof tops so the Hawks (link here) and Falcons (link here) can have some easy, plump, lethargic pickings - it's one reason I've talked Dr Desert Flower out of installing a large fountain which the pigeons would flock to as a bird bath (our pool is too deep for bird bathing).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So we have That to look forward to...

Asteroid Apophis Might hit Earth in 2029 (NASA put it at 1 in 45 chance). The Russian's have announced they're going to try and take it out / deflect it / deter it somehow. It's 885 feet across, and traveling at 1.28256 Km/sec. Using this handy calculator (link here and here) from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab, you can see what Apophis might, or might not, do in your neighborhood. Distance from the point of impact is everything (location, location, location) at only 885 ft - if Apophis was many times larger, distance wouldn't matter, the atmosphere would be vaporized.

I learned this afternoon, that the nearly 1 mile crater, 550 feet deep in Northern Arizona near Winslow, was caused by a solid, dense iron meteorite that was only an estimated 66 feet across.

Perfect for the incredibly dark mood that has overwhelmed this father-of-one after dropping off my progeny at Sky Harbor Airport this afternoon. It was a fantastic 2 week visit - the best vacation of my life.

Maybe some yoga poolside, in the sunshine, will help to brighten my day...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Camelback - Twice in the same day

28Dec09 - was an Awesome Day. Christopher and I ascended Camelback Mountain's Echo Canyon trail at 10am, with lots of trail mix, cashews, dried mango, and water. My son (garçon singe) scrambled up the 65% inclines with barely a hand-hold, while his father tried to not sustain any serious injuries. Got the windy top in 90 minutes, ate snacks, fed some chipmunks, drank 1/3 of our water, and headed back down the crowded trail to get to the parking lot at 1230, feeling fit and not too tired.

There's 2 trails to get up Camelback, the 2nd one is the Cholla Trail, from the East side.

So we drove the 8 miles around the mountain, and began the 2nd ascent. Another hour and a half later, we were at the top again, drank another 1/3 of our water, ate all the rest of the trail mix and nuts, saw 2 hawks hovering in the updraft looking for their lunch.

An hour later, we had descended off the mountain, avoiding falling to our deaths, and hobbled slowly to the car, not feeling as spry as we had felt the first time.

A few notable observations & recommendations:
1) Always use hand rails where they are provided. Trying to "not be a wimp" will lead to skinned knees, slips, falls... use the handy hand rails.

2) Take a walking stick. Yes, it makes you look slightly like Gandalf, but it helps not only on the ascent, but also on the descent as well, and aids in not falling. Several senior citizens we passed said "I should have brought a stick too". Christopher also used it on the 2nd descent when he temporarily twisted his left knee.

3) Don't take more than (2) 16 ounce bottles of water with you on a 2 and a 1/2 hour hike, when the ambient temperature is less than 60F. You CAN take more - but unless you're helping others, it's just additional weight.

4) Dress in layers. Easy to shed, after exertion and sweating. When the windchill starts to hit you, put your hat on.

5) wear gloves, for hand-holds. Essential if you don't want to abuse your fingers. I used handily leather-palmed, poly-backing Stanley[TM] gloves I picked up at Target for $9 before Christmas.

6) The Cholla trail has much fewer people on it than the Echo Canyon Trail. Cholla trail hikers also appear to be more alternative in their lifestyle, more hen pecked if they are hetero & hiking with their significant others, slower moving, and more intermittent. Echo Canyon hikers are wearing more name brand fashions, make-up, cologne, and ornamental doggies.

7) if you drank too much water, there's no porta-potties on the Cholla Trail. The Echo Canyon Trail has clean, well maintained porta potties (4 of them) at the parking lot.

8) If you're in a car or SUV that costs more than most starter homes, and you feel you're entitled to park in the 58 car parking lot at the base of Echo Canyon, it would be a good idea to Turn Off your idling vehicle as you wait for one of the limited spaces to become open from descended hikers. Christopher and I walked a mile to the Phoenix City limit to park on a side street that allows hiker parking, using a thimble of gasoline to do so. The trail up the mountain is only 1.5 miles and 1200 feet vertically. Walk the extra mile to parking spot. It won't hurt you, really.

9) On a 2nd ascent, when you're feeling really tired at the 3/4 of the way up point... and you're about to say "We've gone far enough, we can turn around now", seeing an obese Green Bay Packers fan (he wore the Green & Yellow shirt with commensurate logo) AARP member who had likely not seen his genitals since the Reagan administration due to his massive over-hanging gut, amble down some rocks about 50 yards ahead of you is a HUGE motivator, that "yes you can do this".

(To the left: Buddy Christ Pose!)

10) it is HIGHLY recommended to STRETCH after such a dual assault. Sitting and drinking beer (MGD, Dos XX & Bohemia) as you watch the favored Minnesota Vikings get beat in Over Time by the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, it NOT stretching. By the time we did yoga at 2pm on Tuesday, the lactic acid build up was quite painful.

Christopher's 2 weeks of visiting ma and pa here in Arizona has been fantastic. It'll be sad to see him go back to SC tomorrow. Next year, Pinnacle Peak and the Peralta Trail! ... and if I can find a way up Estrella Mountain that is legal... we'll do a 3600 footer instead.

The 2nd Amendment - Right To Bear Arms

For Christmas this year, I got this hilarious T-shirt. It goes along well with the shooting range fun we had before Christmas.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Where the Eagles Soar... or um, breed.

No time for blogging today, as Dr Desert Flower, The Boy, and I are headed to Verde Canyon (link here) this morning to ride the railroad, and hopefully see some eagle nests. Federal Wildlife officials (those Jack Booted Thugs!) closed off Verde Canyon to foot and road traffic this year, so as not to disturb the threatened bald eagle breeding pairs. Only river rafters (burrrrrr this time of year!) and the 100 year old train tracks can now pass through, but neither can 'stop' within the canyon.

Any cool pics we get will be FB posted later. Might see some elk on the 2 hour drive home, since the train ride ends near dusk.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Baths are under-rated

After a long chilly hike this evening, I took an hour to indulge in a long, warm, relaxing organic bubble bath. I used to think baths were for wusses, and through my 20s and 30s, I took maybe 3 or 4 baths, total. Now, in my 40s, and living in a 10% RH environment, and doing more volunteer manual labor and tons more hiking, I fully appreciate an extended warm bath. A glass or two of wine (or in tonight's case, Deco Port we'd opened earlier this week) helps to relax tired muscles as well.

The bubbles are a self-timing device. Once all the bubbles are gone, the water's not so warm, and soaking bath time is over - approx duration, 1 hour. Tub size is important - I tried to take a hall bathroom last month, but it was too small, and I wound up dumping large amounts of water onto the floor each time I sank into or rose out of the tub. The Master-bath suite in our Phoenix home here has a small garden tub - 1/2 the size of the Simpsonville SC tub-for-two we used to have. This Phoenix garden tub is JUST big enough to do some sitting yoga poses (peddler's pose, or Lotus pose, for example), which help one to relax as well.

When my son was little, I gave him more baths than I can count. We even had matching Mr Bubble T-shirts before he was in kindergarten. Giving all those baths aged my lower back 20 or 30 years in 3 or 4, and really put a damper on taking baths thereafter. Now that I'm much older, and a little wiser, and living in a very low humidity desert environment, baths are a decadent pleasure to be indulged in, at least once a month - about the same amount of time it takes to replace your skin naturally. No longer under-appreciated.

2 more inches matters...

If you want to make your bath tub water a few inches deeper, undo the cleanout cover, turn it 180 degrees, and tighten it back up again with a phillips head screw driver. Makes the bath water 2 to 3 inches deeper (I can get my shoulders under water that way).

You can use a thin bead of silicone caulk around the edge of the cleanout cover, to make it water-tight, but it is not 100% necessary. Only a small trickle will seep around the edges.

Blue Adobe Grille, Scottsdale

Had a delicious and inexpensive ($60 for 3 people with margaritas) dinner at the Blue Adobe Grille after a long hike on the Lost Dog Trail in northern Scottsdale this evening. Amaretto mushroom sauce on the chorizo stuffed chicken and mushrooms... mmmm. Excellent service, reasonable prices, yummy New Mexican food, and we got finished eating JUST before (at dusk) 5 families with very very small children came pouring in - many of the children not very well behaved. I had a delicious white tea from Bigelow to warm my chilly hands after a 60F hike in short sleeves - more on that next post!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Full Metal Jacket & The North Pole

Jesus' General has this hilarious holiday post. Link here. Caution, do NOT listen with impressionable children nearby.

A Happy Christmas Image

This made me smile when I saw it this evening (link here).

Here Comes Science - TMBG, Awesome!

Back in September I mentioned here that They Might Be Giants had released "Here Comes Science" on DVD & CD. We'll, Dr. Desert Flower and I looked for it as a Christmas present at Target, and here in Western Phoenix, we were not able to find it. But at a Barns & Nobel one afternoon earlier this month, a helpful perky sales person asked "Can I help you?" and I grumpily said "you don't have TMBG's 'Here Comes Science'" ... and she walked over to the Children's Section, and Viola, there it was! A CD for the car, and a DVD with videos for every song. Very cool.

I got it for Christmas this morning =) ... Christopher and I just finished watching it, and laughing hilariously at many of the insightful and catchy tunes & videos.

If you have a child in your home under the age of 12, who has even the slightest interest in Science, you NEED to have this DVD. I will be playing it for my grandchildren someday, years from now. Even if you don't have a child in your home but you know a Scientist, enjoy facts, have a disdain for fundamentalist belief systems, or know a niece, nephew, neighbor, or other child who you'd like to have a positive effect on their development as a citizen, or a positive effect on their grade point average, This is worth the $19 (retail, B&N) or $12 at Amazon.

Dr.Z's Osama Bin Neocon

This link from Dr Zaius, earlier this week, is wonderfully (and frighteningly) true.

Joyeux Noël

I found this rather silly (and slightly disturbing, as it animates) this morning.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve's Afternoon Hike 09

The purple line is last January's solo hike.

The black arrows are yesterday's hike with the family, wherein Dr Desert Flower's not feeling well kept us from going further.

Below is the park department's map. Getting under AZ51 there is a tunnel.

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia!

I am actually embracing Christmas much more this year than in any other year of my adult life, I think. I even sent out Oplatek to many of my relatives in Christmas cards that I'd never sent a card to before in my life.

Oplatek are rather tasteless, bland, dehydrated wafers that you break, and share with other Poles at Wigilia (Christmas Eve Dinner). I hated the tradition as a kid (let's get to the toys!) and hated the meat-less meal with duck's blood soup (Czarnina, ew!) and cold borsch ewww even more! But my wonderful non-Polish wife is baking a ham, making sweet potato souffle, and many other delicious fixins, and I am looking forward to the evening, tremendously.

Maybe, it was finding the Oplatek at the Warsaw Market Deli last week, that was the moment when my Grinch heart grew 3 sizes... I dunno. I DID enjoy return addressing all the Christmas cards I sent out "Dr Traci & Mr Joe" - inordinately so. =)

250 Rounds

This is what 250 rounds look like, discharged at a shooting range, over 1 hour yesterday.
2 persons range fee for an hour: $14 each
2 boxes of 100 Winchester 9 x 19 rounds, from Cabelas: $13.99 each
bought at the range box of 50 Remington 9 x 19: $16
ink jet print outs: $1
Standard NRA bulls-eye targets (Dad's on the left, son's on the right): $1.50
Father & Son bonding experience handling firearms responsibly: Priceless

On the "Mugger" home-made target, Christopher immediately shot at the drawing's crotch, then hand, then gun, then each thigh. I aimed for the mouth, then added "buttons" down the zip up hoodie. I tried to hit his eyes (at 25 feet) but kept putting rounds at the bridge of his nose or into his cheeks instead. The "over the shoulder" holes were a clip of "groupings" to see how close we could get each 'cloud' to be. The boy's a natural with a Glock 17.

3 bottles with dinner

Last night, my son and I had 3 wonderful bottles of wine with our dinner. The first and last, we've already discussed here.
Château Nénine started off with Thai stir fried broccoli, snow peas, and tofu in a spicy peanut & coconut milk sauce.
Then was a new treat, Trentatre Rosso 33, $6 from Trader Joes. (reviews here, here, here, here, and here, all enjoyed the same wine as well - one of them in the UK not buying it from Trader Joes!).
Ended with the $5 Nero Avola from Trader Joes.

Not even the tiniest hang over this morning. We're going to tackle Page Spring Arizona Wines, tonight, which we mistakenly purchased last year. We'll see if the bottles are drinkable.

It's nice to have my son over to help me drink wine (and appreciate the different varietals as well!), so I don't feel bad having 3 glasses while his mother has just-a-one-or-so.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Motorola Barrage, of Merde

Last week, before sojourning to Arizona, my son replaced his broken Verizon cell phone with the Motorola Barrage V860. Hailed as "sporting a submersible design that is built to survive in 1 meter of water up to 30 minutes" (on Motorola's own website, link here, seriously). Motorola claims that it meets MIL Spec 810F (link here to the spec) for humidity, salt fog, sand & dust, altitude, high & low temperatures, thermal shock, vibration, impact (shock). Editor Kent German at CNET is ardently in-love with Motorola (link here). Perhaps he's never actually used one, or he gets massive kick-backs from Motorola? I don't know. I do know my son's experiences, my friends' experiences, and my personal experiences are not congruent with Motorola's claims, the MIL spec, or Kent German's perspective.

Since first mass manufacturing the StarTAC phone in 1993, Motorola has sunk to a new global standard for lows in quality and reliability. Their RAZR phone in 2004 broke within the first 2 years (mine and several of my colleague's experiences), usually much less than a year (my family's and their friends' experiences), yet it was hailed as a product development and global manufacturing break through. Many other companies tried to follow it's example. To keep costs down, Motorola compromised on design, materials, durability, and produced a small, thin, flip phone that did not last. It "looked cool" but like so many products Americans embrace, it was vacuous, low quality, disposable junk. Now, the Barrage is out, and it should be called the "Garbage", following in the RAZR's footsteps.

I do not understand how a 1 week old phone, made in China, that is supposed to be SUBMERSIBLE in up to 1 meter of water, can SHORT OUT when the key pad is pressed with wet fingers, poolside, at the Show Low Arizona Hampton Inn on Monday night. The Verizon lackey at the local Phoenix store said "oh, it was the steam" (adjacent to the hot tub). Really?? 50 C is 122 F, scalding temperature for most humans. The steam, by the laws of thermodynamics and heat transfer will not be hotter than hot tub's contents that produced it. The phone was Not submersed. It was not even pushing the limits of MIL Spec 810F.

The store clerk began to give my son resistance, and Dr Desert Flower was 'loaded for Bear', when the store branch manager pulled up our "VIP" Verizon account, and said to our son "we'll replace the phone". You're damn right you'll replace it.

What's even more disturbing to me than this shoddy Chinese made, barely-capable US designed quality electronics, is that such pieces of garbage are being purchased by government agencies and sent to places like Afghanistan, to be given to locals ('call us if you see any Taliban') by the thousands. There's no convenient Verizon store, across from a COSTCO in Kandahar... but if the dern thing worked, there should be no need for one!

In contrast, my Nokia 6015i is now 6 years old (still has a retractable antenna) and still works just fine.

We're going on a our 2nd annual Christmas Eve afternoon hike, to look for a nesting pair of falcons. Enough Blogging for now!

Suisse Reciprocity

Earlier this month, the Suisse (Swiss, for Anglophiles) passed a constitutional referendum that banned the further construction of minarets in their country. The new amendment does not affect the existing 4 minarets, or the existing 150 mosques, it just halts the construction of any additional minarets.

Now, out-cry against this amendment passing was wide-spread. This included such strange bed fellows as the politically correct left wing, and Fundamentalist Muslim Nations, like Saudi Arabia & Iran (who do not allow the construction of ANY churches of ANY religion other than the one the state sanctions) and political pundits, like The Daily Show. Originally, I had a negative initial reaction to the news of the law passing, with the random man-on-the-street reports in Zurich, Basel, Bern and elsewhere that I saw or heard on the BBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR et al, where they picked The Most racist, most negative, most sensational citizens to interview.

Then today, I get an email from my friend John, a kindly engineer retiree with whom I regularly correspond. He's a Francophile / Francophone / former Vietnam Vet officer who splits his time between SE France and Florida each year, and a rather enlightened chap. He was applauding the passage... which took me off-guard and aback... so I did some digging on Google, and found this helpful Lexis-Nexis article (link here), which helps to put the hypocrisy in perspective.

The one time I thought I would have to go to Saudi Arabia for work years ago, and saw all of the affidavits you have to make & sign, and pledges to NOT bring in Bibles or to proselytize... it was appalling. Not that I would... but to have to sign a legal document saying you know you cannot do it, and if you do it is punishable severely under the law (up to, and including Capital punishment) was as over-board as Senator Ensign of Nevada defending the sanctity of marriage, or Senator Larry Craig of Idaho railing against the evils of homosexuality. Why you so vocal and afraid of it, hmmmm boys?

So when Saudi Arabia and Iran and other theocratic dictatorships allow the free and open building of religious places of worship and preaching of any religion within their borders (including Atheism, which is punishable by death), the Suisse should again revise their constitution to allow the building of minarets.

I think that is fair.

Time For Target Practice

Ah, the boy has awakened! (11am) We're gonna head to Shooter's World, and get some Glock target practice in this morning. No more time for blogging!

I think we might wear our Obama T shirts to the range... we'll be the only non-Tea Baggers / non-birthers displaying such attire! LOL

Cuties are in season

I have to admit, I love mandarin oranges. About 5 years ago, I began to find it impossible to purchase non-Chinese mandarin oranges in the US while living in South Carolina. I don't want lead, or sub-standard wages, or abysmally low quality going into the citrus I eat, so I stopped buying them.

Living in Arizona however, I'm next door to California. And California, grows and distributes some of the world's most delicious citrus. Cuties California Mandarins (clementine and murcott) are being sold at Fresh & Easy, Frys (aka Kroger), Safeway, and Costco... ubiquitously, as they are in season now. After eating two 3 lbs bags in the last month, I've come across only 2 of the little fruits with a brittle skin, all the others being juicy, peel-able, delicious, healthy little snacks. Yeah, they're not low carb, but full of fiber and micro-nutrients, I think they're better than most Christmas cookies. =)

Greener Planet Tempranillo – Garnacha

My cousin Mike and his wife Marcy got us a bottle of Greener Planet Tempranillo – Garnacha for Christmas, which we enjoyed Sunday evening. It's the 2nd organic wine I've had, and my first from Spain. It's drinkable, not over-bearing, a nice choice for a middle-of-the-road red.

Some tempranillos and many garnachas can have a strong BITE to them, paired nicely with spicy Spanish foods, but the first glass of the Greener Planet on Sunday, and the final glass I had last night after returning from the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest were both smooth and delicious. I highly recommend it.

I THINK they picked it up at Sam's Club... but I am not sure. I sent them home with a bubbly bottle of Zonin Prosecco and a bottle of Château Calage (which we had a bottle with a dinner and everyone enjoyed).

Avatar - Cameron's Visual Masterpiece

James Cameron's Avatar is a Visual Masterpiece. Saw it on a standard non-3D, non-IMAX screen last weekend, to a relatively packed house at the local theater. Graphics are amazing. Plot is a little hokey. My buddy Ryan said he read a review where it said Avatar combined Cameron's "Big 3": Aliens (Corporate Greed & Evil) with Terminator 2 (former enemy turned savior) with Titanic's love story. My son summarized it as "I saw this movie before, when it was called Ferngully". But to compare Ferngully and Avatar, is like comparing Castle Wolfenstein to Quake 4, or comparing a jug of Carlo Rossi with a 1995 perfectly stored Château Margaux.

It's not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. There's several plot errors and discontinuities. It's quite predictable... but the journey is an enjoyable one, even with all the telegraphed notes laying around. I thought of many ways to have more effective battle scenes / higher carnage ratios, but Cameron's more of a story teller than he is a shootem-and-blow-em-up director. For taking 12 years to put together (and 12 years for graphics to mature to the point where such rendering is possible) it's not a bad movie.

If you don't get a wee-bit motion sick from large IMAX films with rapid motion and flying sequences, or have severe asymmetrical astigmatism as I do (that renders 3D glasses un-focusable, and the 'Magic Eye' Sunday Comics images an annoying blur) then be sure to see Avatar on a massive screen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

She's a Butte-e'

Today, my son and I climbed every peak of every bluff in Papago Park. It was fantastic! We went up in elevation over 1700 ft elevation, scaling sheer rock walls with barely a toe-hold. There were 2 times (on the way down) that I thought I was going to fall /die / come to my demise... but Christopher guided his decrepit old father to a safe foot hold, and we made it safely back to the car. It was an INVIGORATING hike & climb - I'd show you picture (or a few), but Dr Desert Flower has taken our son to a party full of scientists this evening which I have elected not to go to due to Dr-Lecherous-Baby-Huey being there who I have zero tolerance for his all-too-friendly-behaviour with other men's wives (including motor boating... really.. motor boating other men's wives is supposed to be socially acceptable? really?). Jose Cuervo, he is my friend - after 2 pitchers of margaritas shared with my son! Life is good.

After the hike we went to Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles - which I also had a picture of an awesome 4 egg waffle I had... locked away in the absconded camera.... more later this weekend. Christopher has 2 waffles, grits, scrambled eggs, and mac & cheese... not like his low carb daddy!

I am very sore, and very tired, but it is good to be alive, and awesome to not have children in diapers (or who still live at home!). Good night!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Phoenix Public Library - Desert Sage Branch

With my disgruntlement at Netflix at an all time high (late mailings, damaged mailings, many of the movies I want to see not available) we dropped it down to 2 movies a month, which this month, we burned through by December 12th. So knowing a Master Librarian friend in Ohio (or would it be Mistress Librarian?) and the wide variety of multi-media available at public libraries that she has mentioned (as well as all those pesky books), I signed up for a library card last year.

My first full day of vacation this past Monday, I sojourned to the Western most branch of the Phoenix Library system, about a mile and a 1/2 from my home, the "Desert Sage Branch". It's located next to "Desert Sky Mall" - aka "Idiocracy Mall" for the plethora of denizens wearing silk sports jerseys and flatbiller caps, shopping at the many costume jewelry & piercing pavilions, high carb starch walk-ups, and skater-wear / sports-wear / cell phone stores therein, in a neighborhood that one would call "economically depressed". Idiocracy Mall is also a main transfer station for the ubiquitous Phoenix bus system.

I got there at 10:05am, as the library used to open at 10. There were only 5 or 6 cars in the parking lot, but nearly 2 dozen people waiting at the front door. A large posted sign inside the locked doors stated "New Hours: 11am to 7pm". Ah yes, Phoenix's $100 million dollar budget short fall, on a sales tax based financial model, when sales have plummeted. No worries, I had other errands to run - gift cards to buy, pool gate locks to purchase, delicious Polish deli cuisine to pick up from the Warsaw Market.

So I get back to the library at 1130am. The parking lot is packed. Again, as I saw last year, the 10 internet computer terminals are signed up for the rest of the day, at 20 minute slots. The WiFi is being used by 2 retirees who brought in their wide screen expensive laptops, while the cast of 'the remains of humanity' from "The Road" are using the computer terminals. The children's section, once again, is devoid of any living creature, strangely. In the stacks, there are many people perusing the volumes, but in front of the CDs and DVD shelves, it's practically standing room only. Nearly as fast as the librarians can put the returned disks back on the shelves, that citizens are loading up armfuls to haul home. I'd call it "a lively and well used" branch location.

As I went to check out, I noticed the four laser scanning self-check-out stations. Never having used the self scanners before, and enjoying time spent interacting with bibliophiles, I chose to go to the desk with a human being behind it to check-out. No no no! The head librarian would have none of that, as she saw me with a stack of books and DVDs, swept in, and guided me over to the self-check-out line. Hmmmm. Would have been better, if the head librarian actually could get the scanners to work (Her: "you can put 3 at a time on the scanner.... well.... [shifting to 2... which it reads, but she doesn't see them listing.. and she get flustered] this should work..." [shifting some more]. Me: "I have it mame, thank you" [pointing to the screen, where the titles are displayed, to reassure Judi Dench]).

One strange thing I noticed... the "new books" cart, was loaded with pop culture books. 'Thrillers', and romances, that I have no desire to read... but which the Desert Sage Branch had just put out 6 or 8 or 10 hard bound copies. My guess is, they 'knew' there would be a demand for these 'best sellers' and stocked up inordinately. But with budget cuts, and reduced hours, I'd hope they'd stock up with less fluff, and more reference / more hard-to-find / more lesser-known titles. Perhaps that is too much to expect, especially since the branch is Right Next To Idiocracy Mall - gotta give the masses what they want.

And it is not just 'liberals' who use / leverage and use and frequent libraries. Our Mistress Librarian friend in SE OH has entertained us with many stories of home schoolers coming in, looking for "the books that show Jesus and the dinosaurs together" and complaining that the library offers this or that book that the narrow black-and-white conservative mind considers fit only to be burned. My godfather in the Chicago suburbs regales me with tales of his ultra-paranoid, ultra-conservative, massively hateful, on-medicare-but-keep-your-government-hands-off-my-health-care-cancer-patient neighbor who parks his van Next To his local library branch so he can send out right wing ranting emails over the WiFi from the parking lot. Perhaps these no-tax-and-invisibly-spend right wingers just want wealthy conservative patrons to write large charitable donations to libraries, to fund them, and then only keep the "right kind" of books and movies in them? I don't know. I Do Know that in Phoenix, the public libraries are functioning as a strong social safety net for the disenfranchised, unemployed, and active-job seekers. Tax dollars well spent, in this citizen's opinion.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Readers of my blog are familiar with my zombie fascination. My son and I went to see a matinee of Zombieland this afternoon. HILARIOUS! I have not laughed that hard at a movie in a long time. Greatly exceeded expectations. Not only was it funny, but it was also quite pragmatic for the coming zombie invasion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

As Far As I Got...

This was as far as got this afternoon at the shelter where I volunteer. When you find a junction box that is NOT water tight, has melted wire nuts, was previously secured to a spongy roof with a thin bead of silicon caulk, that is driving 2 green strings of 180 lights at 45 watts each... you just Back Away, slowly, as a registered PE.

The duct-taped splices, the lack of water-tightness, the black-melted wire nuts that used to be red (joining two 12 ga neutral lines to the photo sensors seen here, in one big molten ball of copper), the melted foam rubber seal on the cover... crispy!

I did not supervise the reassembly, nor did I assist with my manual labor. I did advise what needed to be done to correct the NFPA 70 NEC (National Electric Code) violations. It's a good thing it doesn't rain often in Arizona. Yikes.

Double Checking my own math
45 Watts x 180 lights = 8100 Watts
P = I * V (Power = Amps X Volts)

8100 Watts / 120 VAC = 67.5 Amps.
(in my head, I came up with "about 65 Amps", as I figured in the parking lot without paper or pencil... it's nice to know I can still do math even at my advanced age.. =P )

A 12 AWG wire, at 30 Deg C, can safely carry 23.1 Amps... 1/3 of what each of the two the 180 light strings are calling for. Again, Yikes. It's been installed for 20 years... I recused myself. The main maintenance guy I work with there said he'll work to get it correct over the next week...

Monday, December 14, 2009

®evolutionary Tea

Dr Desert Flower's company Christmas party was held last Saturday night at the Wyndham downtown, and it was a pleasant evening for employees & their attending guests, carnivores, omnivores, and vegetarians, ludomaniacs and those who don't experience ludomania. I had an introduction to how to play craps, which I find far too arcane for my enjoyment personally, and then played blackjack with an extremely sympathetic dealer who tried to make sure the House always lost. Amusing, to a degree. Interestingly, the band got the most people dancing when they went on break and put on Kenny Loggin's greatest hits CD - LOL! The band was not bad... they played and sounded well, they were just rather mellow / sedated / playing songs my to which my parents would have felt comfortable dancing (sans polkas).

But what was Most Memorable about the evening - other than DDF's stunning gorgeousness in the black satin pencil skirt and Christmas Green silk blouse from White House/Black Market - was the tea. Yes, the tea! The Wyndham coffee station table served a variety of 5 different teas from ®evolution, which I found quite delicious. The Tropical Green Tea was good, but the Sweet Ginger Peach had a savoury blend I'd never tasted before, and want to have more soon. Admittedly, I snuck an unopened single serving box of Early Grey Lavender, which I've tried this afternoon to find relaxing and refreshing after an hour of yoga on the pool deck in this quite humid (45% RH) 64
°F Phoenix day. For times when a massive dose of caffeine is not needed, in the future I think I will be turning to ®evolution.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Zip +4 Look Up

I was unaware that the US Postal Service had such a handy website. (Link here)

Now if they could just stop losing parcels that relatives send from Indiana to Phoenix...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas, Joyful Saturnaria, Blessed Eid (late), Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year, 2009

Last year, there had been 300 visitors to JustJoeP by this time of the year. IN 2009, there's been a slight increase in volume:

* 9,966 Visits
* 15,431 Pageviews
* 1.55 Pages/Visit
* 71.93% Bounce Rate
* 00:02:19 Avg. Time on Site
* 59.61% % New Visits

...and still advertisement free!

Our son gets here in 3 days. It should be good holiday. Hope you get to enjoy the end of the year in your neck-of-the-woods as well!

Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

(oh, and that Is a Corneveaux original, behind the tree, that I gave to Dr Desert Flower last year)

Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace

Trader Joes once again provides a delicious wine at an inexpensive price. The Contadino Pinot Grigio, is OK, drinkable, an adequate white table wine for those who enjoy Pinot Grigio. Last month, I picked up a Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace, 2007, for $5. A screw top bottle, I was wary at first, but thought "for $5, why not?" Pinot Grigio with a hint of bubbles. It was delightful! Both Dr Desert Flower and I enjoyed it's lightness.

I Googled it, and found others concur (here, here, and here), though I Disagree with Bruce that it could replace "most Champagnes ANY time"... it's not close to a good Champagne, which I've had while visiting the Champagne region of France on a few occasions, but it's good for drinking chilled in warm weather, or with an afternoon snack of cheese.

Neutering the Palms

The pygmy palms around the pool, when healthy, put out palm kernel seed pods, every couple of months. The original owners of our house planted a trio of palms Much Too Close to the edge of the pool, and as they have grown, the seed pods tend to dump into the pool once ripe. So constant vigilance needs to be taken to avoid clogging up the pool strainer & filters with seeds, by proactively neutering the palm.

I think it just pisses off the palm, who then tries to send out another seed pod soon after.
A good pair of Fiskars pruners works really well to take out the pods before they start seed dropping.

Before I moved to AZ and began to own and grow palm trees, I had No Idea that they were arms with really quite vicious spikes along each frond. Birds love to hide amongst them, and wearing gloves when pruning is Strongly recommended to avoid puncture wounds and spilling your own blood.

[Note: the photo to the right shows one clipped, one about to be clipped, and one recently emerging seed pod. Abundant UV and water, and look-at-them-go!]

Californian & Mexican Over Ecuadorian Mangoes

Readers of this blog already know my love of mangoes. I recently picked up a flat of 8 mangoes at my local Costco, which normally has Californian or Mexican mangoes on-hand. It being December, the only place left to get them would be the tropics, and the Costco buyer selected Ecuador for this shipment. Not local, higher carbon foot print, yes yes... but mangoes are irresistible to this Pole.

So these Freska Mangoes (Oxnard CA, 93030,, USDA Aphis Hot Water treated lot 801, item # 83303, UPC 033383402116) are all very hard and un-ripe when I bring them home, so I leave them to sit on the kitchen counter. You can tell a good mango's ripeness by the smell, with a deep inhale. These were far from ripe. Then, 2 days later, BAM, 2 of the 8 started to soften and turn to mush suddenly. I rushed the remaining 6 into the fridge, and cut up to salvage what I could of the suddenly overly ripened fruits. I found them to be rather flavorless, fibrous, and just not very spectacular mangoes, compared to the Daniella Mexican mangoes last September. Over the next week, one by one, I brought out each of the remaining 6, having hope for each fruit that visually appeared to be fine, almost - sorta smelled maybe ripe, but was disappointed with each new slicing.

Californian & Mexican Over Ecuadorian mangoes, any day. The shipping time, logistics, and early picking, probably have much to do with the lack of ripeness, lack of deliciousness, and inferior quality. Next time, I'll know better.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Just set my out-of-office for the rest of the year on the work Dell. The weight off my shoulders is akin to hoisting a 12 foot aluminum canoe off my shoulders after a MN/Ontario Boundary Water's 1 kilometer portage. Ugh! I need to do something besides sit here at the computer, as work emails and work messages continue to steadily flow into my work computer 3 feet over there --->

For a vacation musical break, I've a warm spot in my heart for 1983, The Go Go's. (link here) Corny, yes, but fun! And I cannot shirk a proclivity for 80's girls... it's just how my mind works.

If you detest the Go Go's, try this classic from one of my all time favorites, The Tubes (link here). She's a Beauty... just before The Completion Backward Principle. Talk To Ya later!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Persistance of... moldy camembert

Camembert is a delicious cheese, but what's with the mold on the outside? Yes, the penicillin is used to ripen the unpasteurized cow's milk, but that doesn't make it tasty to me, or easy to "peel" and eat. It's a shame that it is not easy to find Camembert without the moldy coating.

For more ease of eating and less mess, a delicious Gruyère or Stilton or Gouda will be found chez nous. If you wanna eat the moldy crust, good for you - you can have mine too.

How To Repair a Flip Top Garbage Can - Simple Human

Last week, the $100 stainless steel flip top kitchen garbage can we bought 6 years ago broke. By "broke" I mean the pedal no longer made the lid go up. I'd foolishly located the garbage can Just Below an over-hanging counter top, and every time it opened, it slapped the lower edge of the counter. If you stepped on the pedal harder, it slapped harder. Well, injection molded polyethylene is not immune to LCF (low cycle fatigue), and over time, I found the weakest link, as the underside of the actuator failed in torsion.

Using the ubiquitous Gorilla tape and some Loctite cyanoacrylate applied with toothpicks, I attempted a repair without disassembling the garbage can's actuator (see photo above). Dabbing super-glue on the cracked plastic, letting it dry, and then wrapping it in Gorilla tape the best I could. I let it dry over-night, much longer than needed in the low humidity AZ ambient. (see photo below, to the left).

After a day and night of drying, I righted the garbage can in a new location that allowed un-hindered lid movement, and prematurely declared victory! Properly applied adhesives to the rescue!

Then, 2 days later, the lid raised in an impotent fashion, and then, refused to lift at all, no matter how firmly the pedal was depressed. A more thorough solution was needed.

So, disassembly began. Simple Human has straightforward phillips head screw construction. Removal of the pedal actuator, connecting rod, and lid bracket were not difficult. Removal of the 1/2 applied tape was sort of a pain, but I was the dolt who applied it.

Then, the over-kill began. After reading the directions on the liquid Gorilla glue bottle completely, I clamped and glued the cracked plastic. Over a 2 day period, I repeatedly applied thin films of glue until it caked over the joint. [warning, Gorilla glue slowly "bubbles up" in low humidity environments.]

After building up a firm foundation of durable duct tape OVER the hardened Gorilla glue, I reassembled, in reverse order.

It's been reinstalled for 2 days, and functioning very well. I do not think it is premature this time, to declare victory. The new assembly is now strong enough to lift a brick on the lid.

The tensile, compressive, and LCF properties of the Gorilla tape and glue are close to that of the virgin injection molded polyethylene, and better in impact resistance. I'll be dead and decomposed (or cremated, per will) long before the assembly will fail in HCF (millions of cycles).

If the pedal actuator DOES fail again, I have some left over handles from bath room cabinets that match the kitchen - ugly bronze colored things that Dr Desert Flower could not stand having in the bath room. I can easily install one of those on the lid for lifting if necessary. Il faut voir.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Puttanesca, mmmm

Last week, Dr Desert Flower and I tried a new jarred tomato sauce from Trader Joes that was phenomenal! Puttanesca - I'd never heard of it before - "pü-tä-ˈnes-kä; adjective, Etymology: Italian, short for alla puttanesca, literally, in the style of a prostitute. Date: 1969 : served with or being a pungent tomato sauce typically containing olives, garlic, capers, hot pepper, and sometimes anchovies" (per M-W) .

It was tasty with turkey meatballs. It had a small kick, and should not be eaten with severely chapped lips, but it was delicious. I highly recommend it.

Trader Giotto's Puttanesca 25 oz (709g) [UPC code 00932622]

whole Italian tomatoes
tomato puree
olive oil
black olives
kalamata olives / red wine vinegar / salt EVOO
anchovy paste (anchovies, olive oil, acetic acid)
white pepper
crushed red pepper
[Note the Lack of added sugar!]

I do like to make my own sauces, but when in a hurry, it's nice to have ready-to-serve alternatives. Trader Giotto's Puttanesca will now be part of that pantry arsenal.

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
I thought I blogged about this earlier this year... but I can't find it... (the memory is the 2nd thing to go!) =P

It was an interesting read, and though it's a little bit dated (written for the most part pre 9-11) it still gives insights into the landscape in Pakistan (socially, psychologically, fundamentally). And since the ISI helped most of the Al Queda leadership escape from Afghanistan into the Pakistani FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) with the green lighting of Tommy Franks and Dick Cheney, this book tells the story about what FATA USED TO be like, before 9-11. Mortenson as former climber, nurse, army private, turned into school builder, philanthropist, girl's education advocate.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Antimony has an atomic weight of 51?

I sent this to NPR today:

In the correction segment broadcast 8Dec09 at 4:48 Mountain time, Robert Siegel said "Antimony has an atomic weight of 51".
Is American Science education so terrible, that even during corrections on radio shows, the journalist gets it wrong?
Atomic Number: 51
Atomic Mass: 121.76 amu

Antimony has an Atomic NUMBER of 51, certainly. But as Anyone who has passed chemistry 101 knows, "Atomic Number" is the number of protons. Along with those protons are neutrons and electrons. All of those particles combined, make up the Atomic Weight, which is 121.76 amu (that's atomic mass units. You can Google it).

When the host gets it wrong, and the editor and fact checkers can't differentiate between something as simple as Atomic Number and Atomic Weight, it is extremely disturbing and disheartening. No wonder the US is falling so far behind the rest of the world. But you have no shortage of Sarah Palin and Tiger Woods coverage. UGH!

Please be more careful in future corrections.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2 days left...

Not much time for blogging for a few days as I try and cram 7 days of work into the next 2. More wine, chocolate, and cheese blog entries in progress. Check back on Wednesday.

Gabriel - Steam

This song's been going through my head all day. Video here. A very very young Peter Gabriel, and cheesy early '90s video graphics. I think it was the water vapor coming out of the canals and pumping stations at sunrise this morning off AZ 303 that embedded it into my subconscious.

It's still better than the Christian Side Hug! =)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taken slowly by surprise

I was having my weekly call with my manager today, where he and I discuss some work things, but more of a "1 on 1" shooting the bull sorta session, to maintain a close rapport despite the 100s of miles between my home office and the plant, when I remarked that I'll be using up the rest of my 15 days of vacation later this month (I thought I had 8 days left).

My manager - who started within a month of me at the same company - and I both have 10 years of seniority, that gives us 20 days of vacation with our multi-national conglomerate. Not 15. Duh! I don't have 2 weeks left to work, I have 3 more full days, and (I've decided) 3 more half days, and I am DONE for 2009. I feel quite stupid that I didn't realize the 10th year's extra 5 days all accrue the year that the 10th anniversary falls in, regardless of what month. But it's better to realize it now, and not just work through them.

If I don't find some sort of distraction, there'll be a ton of blog postings later this month! But our son IS coming to visit in 13 days... so I won't be too idle.

My light hearted manager sent me a cookie recipe, that he recommended I take some time out and make over Christmas break. Here it is:

Christmas Cookie Ingredients:
> 1 cup of water
> 1 teaspoon baking soda
> 1 cup of sugar
> 1 teaspoon salt
> 1 cup of brown sugar
> lemon juice
> 4 large eggs
> 1 cup nuts
> 2 cups of dried fruit
> 1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality.

Take a large bowl,

check the Cuervo again,

to be sure it is of the highest quality,

pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer.

Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Check the Cuervo again,

Add one teaspoon of sugar.

Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still okay,

try another cup . . . just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit off floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something.

Who giveshz a sheet.

Check the Jose Cuervo.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

White Rabbit & Hockey, now on Pandora

Thanks to NPR's new journalistic lows, I logged into Pandora for the first time in a week. Finally, they have both White Rabbit AND Hockey listed. Stations have been created. Very cool.

If you're looking for some "new music" that is vaguely reminiscent of the mid 1980s, well produced (in my opinion), and strongly alternative in genre, check out these 2 Pandora stations [and yes Matt, I know you call it "I'll turn it off", but sometimes it's fun to turn my brain off and tap my hi-hat foot under my desk reflexively].

Too bad Pandora is infected with periodic ads now.... but there's always a mute button for those!

[and I cringe as I anticipate Californian and Nevadian negative comments being posted here... but I really am happy that Pandora is catching up with what I've pinging it about, and want to let others in AZ, Ohio, NY, GA, Maine, SC, and various other locales know it's available]

NPR has sunk to tabloid lows?

If Yahoo News, Google News, the fluff channel now known as CNN, and others feel they need to sink down to tabloid news levels and talk about Tiger Woods, that's fine. I can ignore such popular news feeds. But now this obsession with a golfer has infected NPR? WTF?

I've turned off my radio that's tuned to NPR in my office, as they report repeatedly about it. I fast forwarded through 1/2 of Hardball and Countdown on MSNBC last night as they're obsessed with it. I don't care about golf, or what Tiger Woods does in his personal life, or what he puts on his website. Had Tiger gone out and raped nuns and orphans, I'd want to know and hope he'd be punished by the justice system swiftly. If he was sodomizing goats, I'd hope he'd meet justice as well. But there's NO STORY here.

Why are Americans, and apparently large chunks of populations in the rest of the world, pathetically obsessed with Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, the Salahis, David Beckham, and other 'personalities'? Are they THAT hollow, without lives of their own, to have to obsess about every little tidbit of distracting paparazzi vacuous nuance? I am not in that lot.

I hereby boycott all broadcast information about Tiger Woods, for the rest of 2009. It's not "news", it's fluff. It's irrelevant to my life. Far too much time has already been spent on this non-story. If Tiger Woods starts to again win lots of tournaments in 2010, good for him. If he doesn't, let him fade into obscurity. Who cares. The same goes for all the Jacksons, the Salahis, and Beckhams. Je m'en fiche.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boyce Thompson Beauty

Dr Desert Flower and I spent last Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the farrrrrr east side of Phoenix near Superior AZ (links here and here). 75 degree weather, 10% RH, very light 5 mph intermittent gentle breezes. It's a 2 hour drive out to Superior from the West side of Phoenix, but it was worth the trip.

Boyce Thompson has a wide variety of native and imported plants, and many trails throughout the grounds, similar to the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden that I've mentioned here previously. But unlike the DBG, Boyce Thompson has elevated mountain-side trails, a dynamic riparian area, and a much more varied landscape than the DBG. Paths are wide enough to get around those who are semi-ambulatory. It was a lovely hike, and quite an interesting visit. It's sort of DBG-lite, but a different flavor and much more diverse venue.

If you live on the east side of Phoenix, you should drive the hour trip down US60 to this oasis and soak in the beauty.

Betrayed Feline

Thanks to my buddy Jason for this gem. It made me chuckle a few times.

The "Christian Side Hug" - so ridiculous, it can't be made up.

Tip of the hat to my buddies JoeM and Matt for this gem.

The Christian Side Hug (link here) ... and talentless Christian "Rappers" (link here).

As JoeM so eloquently stated:
"Wiggaz, Christian(TM) rap, and sheer stupidity...all rolled up into one fat, greasy deep-fried funnel cake of ignorance."

And as Huffington commented:
"The group has as many emcees as the Wu-Tang Clan and as much power as a barbershop quartet."

Almost as stupid as the premise of NBT (Never Been Thawed)... a parody of itself.

Paranoid, fearful, hateful (link here). It's both funny and sad at the same time.

So incredibly lame, mis-guided, unbelievably narrow. The embodiment of so many things that are wrong with religious fundamentalists, their fears, and their latent, unspoken, deeply seated and equally deeply suppressed desires.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Phoenix Symphony delights with Strauss

Michael Christie broke his typical mould of muted / rather staid / mediocre directing to put on a delightful concert last Saturday. A bumpy start with Alfred Schnittke's Moz-Art a la Haydn was quickly forgotten as Orion Weiss sat down at the grand piano and played a masterful rendition of Mozart's Concerto No.9 in E-flat major. Wow! Young Mr Weiss is a remarkable pianist, and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra accompanied him beautifully. It was truly delightful!

Intermission was too crowded to get a cocktail, but I was hoping the Strauss line up post-intermission would not require any ethanol to enjoy it. My hopes were fulfilled, and expectations exceeded. Christie selected, and did a much-better-than-usual job of conducting Auf's Korn! Bundesschutzen Marsch, Frühlingsstimmen, Feurerfest Polka, Neue Pizzicato Polka, Overture Die Fledermaus, An der schönen blauen Donau, and the "Galop" from Prinz Methusalen op.378. Our 2nd row seats in the 2nd section had excellent acoustics, and the symphony's various string and wind and brass voices sang out beautifully... in piano and Forte. Impressive. Encouraging. Refreshing.

Thank you Dick

Dick Cheney continues to reinforce that America made the right decision in jettisoning the Republicans from the White House and Congress in 2008. Everything this very negative, evil, war mongering chicken hawk, paranoid, hateful, hypocritical, war profiteer spouts of out the hole in the front of his face since his party lost the national elections last year is more and more polarized, more extremist, more decisive, more guano. It helps to remove any doubt or impatience with the current administration and current Congress. His recent Politico interview (link here) is 'case in point'. Chris Matthews called him 'the troll under the bridge who comes out to bite kids in the ankle' - oh Chris! You give old Dick too much credit!

Thank you Dick. Your unpatriotic criticisms of our leaders, while America's enemies listen closely, help bring a smile to my face and remind me just how nuts and marginal your party and ideology really are. Keep speaking, as often as possible, and drag the 21% of the nation who are goaters with you (goaters = people who would continue to support Bush even if they personally walked in on him having sex with a goat).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Silver Carp Attacking Chicago & the Great Lakes

I'd heard about these imported Asian Carp invading the Illinois River several years ago. If the US Army Corp of Engineers had not dug a canal to reverse the flow of the Illinois River, connecting the Mississippi River & Lake Michigan, then this would not be a threat. But... the invasive species, who have already taken over large parts of the Mississippi River, have now made it past an electrified barrier in the Illinois River, and will soon be taking over Lake Michigan.

If these were little fish, the invasion would be another sad testament of clueless men tampering with Nature (intentionally importing the asian carp to "clean" algae from ponds) and having no idea what secondary and tertiary effects that tinkering will have. But these are Big fish - 80 to 100 lbs. and they jump, at boats, traveling 10 to 15 mph out of the water. Ouch! Trout, perch, Coho, smelt... good luck with the new massive Asian competition who will crowd you out, gobble you up, and attack the fishermen who want to catch you.

Video links here, here, and here. (nice bow shot!)
EPA link here.
2005 population graph, here. (nice exponential growth)

Horsey's genius is not appreciated in South Carolina

Two weeks ago I heard a story on NPR about how Boeing is opening an assembly plant in North Charleston, SC to build the 787 "Dreamliner". The anti-union climate in SC, combined with an under-utilized deep water sea port on the Cooper River, combined with many millions in corporate tax break give-aways by the state made South Carolina too tempting for Boeing to pass up.

So Horsey ran this HILARIOUS cartoon in his hometown Seattle newspaper (link here).

And predictably, many South Carolinians got all worked up about it. (link here to their anger) It really hurts when it's true, huh? Yes, South Carolina does make fine Michelin Tires, and Bosch brakes, and BMW Z4s, and many other durable goods that have supplanted the formerly thriving textile industry that unions helped to drive out of the state 40 years ago. But remember, I LIVED THERE for 16 years. I worked with many of the citizens of SC, listened to their rhetoric, sermons, news casts, shop floor conversations, break room slights, bar room boasts, church picnic comments... etc, etc. For a large portion of the state, and it's inhabitants, Horsey nailed every detail beautifully. And besides, it's a cartoon! He apologized for the noose... though there's many in Lauren County would still wish they could use their nooses in storage. His critics and the venom they've tried to unload on him are laughable.

My congratulations to David Horsey, and I hope he continues his poignant, insightful, inspirational work!

Mixed Bag In British Scientific Publications

Dr Desert Flower and I read SCIENCE, and check out medical and scientific journal postings from time to time on things we find interesting or relevant. Some journals are better than others. Canadian studies, we have to LOOK at closely to make sure their methods / funding / populations are sound sometimes... more than others. Many British journals are usually pretty good. Recently, my buddy Ron has provided 2 examples of British science reporting, with a stark contrast:
Misguided cr*p (I know this book. Your conclusions were all wrong Ryan... Halsey acted stupidly.)
Factual reporting with sound conclusions
both regarding what one eats in regard to one's wellness.
"In urban south Indians, total dietary carbohydrate and glycaemic load are associated with increased, and dietary fibre with decreased, risk of type 2 diabetes."

... and Dr Desert Flower and I were out shopping for new pants for me yesterday, as my "old man" jeans at a 40 inch waist are massively baggy, and so were the 38s I tried... but the 36s were actually comfortable. The last time I wore a 36 waist was during Bush Sr's administration, 20 years ago, before loading up on carbs and bread and noodles and rice... I will continue to take a low carb stance, and encourage anyone else who struggles with their blood sugar, hunger, or weight to do the same as well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

God's Hands

Dr Desert Flower's mom sent this one. God's Hands, Ultraviolet Light, Push-Buttons... what more does a girl need? Leaving Victoria Secret swimming in their wake, the Chinese forge boldly ahead.

Made in China (home of tainted baby formula, tooth paste, dog food, dry wall, low quality steel, lead painted toys, etc) I am sure this product is safe, effective, and just what every woman needs. Just in time for the holiday gift giving season too!

"A B-cup for work, a C-cup for shopping, and a D-cup for partying.” Link here.