Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Schadenfreude Y'all!

Crossed the line? Uruguay... Argentina.... 3 times... 7 times...
""There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the lines I shouldn't have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the ultimate line," he said." - using Clintonian logic now?

What a train wreck! I'll be heading back to the Palmetto & Peach States in 3 weeks on a business trip. I bet it won't have died down by then. Mi-mi mi mi mi mi-mi! Sanford might look into a future career as an operatic tenor. He's already living a tragedy of his own making, and won't stop singing his own rambling arias.

[and for readers who are not familiar with SC, juxtaposing "Schadenfreude" & "Y'all" holds a special irony, as the 8th state is home to BMW's North American manufacturing head quarters, BASF, Continental Tire, Prettl, and many companies of Deutsch origin]

Quote of the Day, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Mr. Ricci and his fellow petitioners understandably attract the court's empathy."


Monday, June 29, 2009

Du Bu Chi!

Awesome Chinese Engineering & Design
Awesome Chinese Quality Control
Awesome Chinese Construction Techniques
Impeccable Chinese Integrity (in signing off building inspections, using high quality materials, etc)
Kinda hard to control the media, once the truth leaks out, eh?

Yeah, this was Shanghai, the NYC of China... the 14 million person city that the Communist government dumps more money and investment into than any other place in the country.

Some things never change. ['Du Bu Chi' is pinyin (Chinese phonetic English pronunciation) for 'excuse me']

Working Poor Cannot Get Medicaid & Cannot Afford Private Health Insurance

Why do I care if poor & poorer people can get health coverage, or not, if I have my own employer provided health insurance? Well, first, I'm not a selfish CINO, like so many social and fiscal conservatives are. But more importantly, and very personally, in the 2nd week of May, my employer based health insurance gleefully dropped my son from coverage on the last day of his classes - since he is over 21, no longer a full time student, and does not have a disability that makes him life-long dependent on Dr. Desert Flower & I. So on May 6th, the 63 day fuse on COBRA was lit.

Since Congress and the Obama administration can't get their act together to pass any legislation, Wyden-Bennett or otherwise, to fill that gap, we looked into signing him up for Medicaid. He's making all of $17K/year, while he waits for his Neuroscience Laboratory job approval process to slowly grind forward. Well, the Federal cut off for Medicaid & food stamps is $15K/year. So if he quit job, moved into Federal low income housing, and did not work, he would qualify for Medicaid & food stamps.

With Federal assistance not a viable option, we either needed to sign our son up for COBRA at $450/month (yes, $5.4K a year), or get him a mediocre private policy, with a high deductible, to cover him so that the next time he needs to go to the emergency room for vomiting stomach flu, or breaks a bone while riding his bike to work, it won't cost him 6 times more than someone with insurance. Blue Cross of South Carolina has a nice website (that doesn't lock up like United HC's), and provides a plan for about $150/month (~ $1800/year) with $500 deductibles. Our son can't afford that, AND eat, AND pay rent, on $17K/year, so 'for his 22nd birthday' we've enrolled him in a private health care plan. "Best Health Care System in the World"? LMFAO!

So hopefully, over the next year, Congress will get off their ass, and pass SOMETHING that
1) doesn't drive behaviour towards the sloth of unemployment
2) covers EVERYONE, regardless of under-employed and under-paid they are, at rates they can afford
3) doesn't exclude pre-existing conditions
4) doesn't allow anyone being dropped when they get sick or injured
5) pools risk in large populations (just as employer provided insurance does now)
6) is transportable Over State Lines (which Wyden-Bennett, is not)
7) covers preventative care, and wellness care, to encourage the right behaviours
8) gets the inefficient and extremely wasteful 3 administrators/doctor ratio in the US, down to a 1 admin/doctor ratio that Europe, Japan, Canada, and other industrialized nations have.

My confidence level that federal Legislators will pass something that helps the poor, including our recently emancipated son, anytime in my life-time, is extremely low. Hopefully, the Neuroscience Lab's screening process will be able to go forward, my progeny will attain gainful employment that includes employer based insurance (since a National Plan is only available outside the USA in other more advanced Western Industrialized counties), and Mom and dad won't have to subsidize health insurance for children who are over 21, no longer full time students, who are not dependents, and who make more than $15K a year, but not enough to pay rent and eat.

Going without health insurance, in a country with no safety net, is not a viable option.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nigaz please

Russia and Nigeria (2 of the worlds largest oil & gas producers) are making big business deals. The new joint venture will be called "Nigaz". If you thought the MILFs were a funny name in the Philippines, you'll love Nigaz [check out the Google search on it]. Tip of the hat to my buddy Matt for this humorous anecdote.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Redneck Playstation

Enjoy =)
(upon reflection, I have actually played this, around my pool offline, far too many times)

CINO Cynthia Davis

If you have not seen it yet, Dr. Zaius has a great rant (complete with awesome graphics) this week on Christian-in-name-only (CINO) Missouri state representative Cynthia Davis, and her expressed views about how poor families should put their children to work, since "hunger is a great motivator". Links here, and here. Dr. Z always brightens my day!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

High Intensity Exercise Bursts = Truly Effective in controlling blood sugar

I Dr.Desert Flower mentions this study to me, about 2 months ago, where some Scottish Scientists studied the efficacy of high intensity exercise bursts, for just a few minutes a day, helping sedentary patients to regulate blood sugar. At the time, I was like "yeah, but I already exercise or do yoga nearly everyday for at least a 1/2 hour, so what?" The 2009 published Scottish study built upon a 2003 Mayo Clinic study.

Well, this week, since it is now truly "summer" I started working out in the 110F garage, and found it intensely hot - like a bath room air blowing hand dyer hot, so I brought my curling weights inside, to my office, and twice yesterday and twice today, did about 2 minutes of intense exercise with the weights, as well as my usual biking / swimming / yoga. My blood sugar went from 125 on Monday to 97 mg/DL today, 3 hours after lunch (my daily control check). Even better than the Scottish study! Very cool. [And this includes splurging on a lil Trader Joe's Mango Sorbet last night - yum!]

Those dern scientists! We all need to listen to them more when they are trying to help us! =)

7 Legged Spiders as Payment

Tip of the hat to my buddy Jason for this amusing link. It's nice to see that this David Thorne guy generates email chains similar to those I've done in the past - I'm not alone!

Arne Duncan Loves Libraries

Listening to Diane Rehm on the radio this morning, she has Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on as a guest. For the 4th time, he said "we have to keep libraries open, we have to continue to make that investment". The 4th time, was when a caller from Ohio inquired about that state's budget short falls, and Secretary Duncan said "We're sending alot of federal funding to Ohio. We have to keep libraries open..."

[As JustJoeP gets hundreds of hits from Ohio each month, and most people don't have the luxury of being able to listen to the radio as they work, so I thought I'd include that anecdote here. I love libraries too, and I think that libraries, electrical grids, water supplies, sewage systems, internet connectivity, prison systems, health care systems, degree of Freedom From Religion, and soup kitchens (as a composite, considered all-together) gauge a society's civility and advancement.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MMMM Yummy Pesticides!

Tip of the hat to my buddy Zim, for this link on his blog, to "What's On My Food?" Pesticides, mmmmm. My rule of thumb for organic produce, used to be "if it has a skin or peel that I will discard, buying organic is optional. If I am eating the skin, or is has no skin (like salad) then it needs to be organic." After perusing several of the foods at this site, here, here, and here, ew, I am reconsidering my rule of thumb. And these are for foods grown & packaged in the USA (no mention of imported Chinese food products in the USDA plan).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SC Gov Completely Out Of Touch

SC Governor, and national buffoon, Mark Sanford - who was determined to refuse to accept Federal Stimulus money previously - deserted his office last weekend, to take some personal time to reflect while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Northern Georgia. No calls to his wife (he has 4 kids, and it was Father's Day weekend), to his staff, or to the head of the SC National Guard or State Police, who both report to him, since he's the governor after all.

Now, I can comment on Sanford, because I voted against him in 2002 when I lived in SC, and lived there for 16 years (11 of which were before he was 'guv-nah' and his regime took power). He's a wealthy real estate broker from an affluent barrier island who is convinced that his state, which has consistently ranked last or next to last in national education rankings, infant survivability rates, high school graduation rates, literacy rates, and first or 2nd in unemployment, numbers of mobile homes per-capita, belief in quick creationism and in support of the marketing strategy known as "Intelligent Design" as well as proclivity to secede from the Union.

This joker wants to run for President in 2012. Oh please oh please run! That would be awesome! Perhaps you could go hiking in Northern VA and not tell your secret service detail, or NORAD, or Homeland Security where you're going then too Jeff! We all know you need your personal time of reflection, and you told Colbert how hard it was to "get away from the office" in his interview with you. What a maroon! Not able to effectively govern SC, not ready for a national office - the epitome of an incapable, minimalist, hypocritical, State's rights, white gentry land owner, Old South politician.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If you're not sick, we're not doing our job.

This Real Time with Bill Maher ad for the AMA is priceless - and at the same time, disgustingly accurate. Dr Desert Flower and I have had all of the situations that the ad mocks happen with our employer provided health care plans.

And yes, the MAJORITY of Americans agree, that the private market, profit driven, US health care system, is not working. Yes, most medical doctors (who are not consultants or directly employed by insurance companies - ergo, "between you and your physician") are good people trying to do a good job to help their patients. It's just the American system that is preventing them from doing so, cost effectively.

"Reform? Messing with a system this good is a recipe for disaster. The AMA, 'If you're not sick, we're not doing our job.' "

Good to have a level headed, rational, intelligent President!

Even Nick Burns, the diplomat W appointed to negotiate with Iran, believes Obama's tone with Iran's election turmoil is spot on, precisely what is correct to express at this point, to DENY Iran the convenient target of blaming internal Iranian struggles on external forces.

Cantor, Rohrabacher, Pence, STFU. Listen to those who know what they are talking about, and learn a thing or two before spouting your misguided rhetoric. Nick Burns has been joined by Kissinger, Buchanan, Lugar, and other moderate, sane political voices from the right. I shudder to think what would happen if W's, or McRage's hand were on the ship's wheel.

Clarence Thomas, the whitest member of SCOTUS

In an 8:1 decision, SCOTUS upheld the Voting Rights act. Lone dissenter, Clarence Thomas; Bush 41's indelible stain on the US Federal judiciary. Very ironic that the only African American on the court thinks that all people of color are no longer discriminated against, contrary to what all 8 of his all caucasian colleagues believe. Interesting that he broke ranks with his mentor & idol Antonin.

Perhaps Clarence is truly the antithesis of "empathetic"...

More good news goes un-noticed: Lower Dir

I heard this story last week on NPR, about local tribesmen in Lower Dir, who decided they'd had enough and they were fighting, and killing the Taliban, more effectively than the Pakistani or US military were doing. Disturbingly, no other new sources are covering this. A week has past, and Google searches reveal NPR, and a tiny handful of other sources, who all point back to NPR, that refer to the original reporting.

This is a very inaccessible, rural, dangerous region, where western reporters are not welcome, certainly, but in my perspective, this is a "sea change", where local residents have turned on the Taliban and instead of supporting them and sheltering them, they're killing them, AND they're killing them before the government forces arrive, and shell or bomb their ancient villages back into the stone age.

This is the kind of local effort, the "Holy Grail", of winning hearts and minds, that Petraeus has been working towards, seeking in an endless quest. In Lower Dir, they did it spontaneously without government assistance or support or interference. I don't understand why more news outlets, and military planners are not studying Lower Dir closely, and trying to repeat it elsewhere.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Opportunistic Sperm Whales

Check out the video from Science Friday. of a sperm whale stealing fish from an Alaskan long line.

Friday, June 19, 2009

F-Yeah! S.Colbert

There’s no sense in beating a dead horse…unless it’s one of those zombie horses. You can’t beat them enough." - S.Colbert. 17 June09.

I found this hilarious site - warning, it is not work or 'family friendly'.

Food Inc Opens Today

Food Inc opens today here in Phoenix. Though I hear some of the scenes are incredibly disturbing, I certainly do want to see it. To balance the grotesque facts presented in the film, I thought I'd add a little visual humor here. Enjoy.

Peep Show

I got this from my Uncle Joe. I think it's amusing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hoekstra Meme

From my buddy JoeM, this is too funny. Awesome graphics.

Bordeaux Indulgence

Celebrating some awesome news for Dr. Desert Flower's professional advancement last night, we had a nice dinner at Coupe des Tartes here in Phoenix - the location selected for it's BYOB policy. The two amazing bottles below, were enjoyed during the dinner. The CHÂTEAU MEYNEY, CRU BOURGEOIS, SAINT-ESTÈPHE '98 I purchased from a former colleague who was liquidating his cave due to a over-seas relocation 9 years ago, for a whole $15. It's gone up in value about 3X. It started out with a strong mineral finish, but as it went from cave to room temperature, it aged superbly. Great with Brie and opening courses. The Chateau De Labourgade 2000 I purchased at a Monoprix in 2000, back when a plane traveller could carry a bottle of wine in his carry-on and not be considered a terrorist. It's tripled in value also, and was sooooo smooth, for the main courses and finishing touches.

Every now and then, it is nice to be able to indulge in a good wine that's been babied, and kept safe for 9 years, with good friends!

Hard Liquor Coupons?

Economic conditions are tough, when tequila makers mail ads to your house, trying to encourage you to purchase their products. There's No Shortage of tequila bill-board ads in Phoenix, but this is the first time I've had a coupon for any alcoholic beverage mailed to my home. I prefer Patron or Don Julio myself, but when I was a poor college student, Cuervo was an elixir of choice.

Darwin's "Golden Retriever"

Science ran an interview last week with Eugenie Scott, who has called herself "Darwin's Golden Retriever", and I found it quite insightful. Science link here (subscription needed). Nation Center for Science Education reprinted here. Skeptical link I found to the NCSE page here.

My favorite questions and Eugenie's responses were:

Q: Why is it important to teach evolution? Can't doctors and most life scientists do their jobs without accepting evolution?
E.S.: You can be a mechanic without understanding the niceties of the internal combustion engine. [But] wouldn't you rather go to a mechanic who has the big picture?


Q: What should scientists do to help the cause?
E.S.: Universities need to do a better job of teaching evolution because that's where high school teachers get their training. Evolution needs to be brought into every course of biology instead of getting tacked on as a unit to the intro class.
What university scientists should not do is to force students to choose between religion and science. If a professor were to say that evolution proves there is no God, that's not just bad philosophy of science, it ensures that a significant number of students will stick their fingers in their ears.
When explaining biological questions, such as the evolution of the eye, there is no need to say that God had nothing to do with it. It's an irrelevant comment. I don't think a classroom is an appropriate place to try to create more atheists any more than it is an appropriate place to create more fundamentalist Christians. (emphasis added)

Too many rabid Fundamentalists and their rabid Atheist counter parts miss this very important point!

Of course, I was amused by the religious fundamentalists who try and discredit Eugenie Scott's work. There's no shortage of these justifying psuedo-scientists whose faith is so shaky and has no real world foundation to stand upon that they have to literally interpret all the stories (legends, myths) of the Bible.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the Day - Karim Sadjadpour

On All things Considered this afternoon, I heard Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace say:

Karim Sadjadpour: "For Ahmadinejad to win the vote in Iranian Azarbaijan, would be like Barack Obama losing the black vote to John McCain."

[to see where Iranian Azarbaijan is, and how they 'supposedly' voted, see Nate Silver's site. And keep in mind, they are majority Sunni, speak Azerbaijani, and it is the chief opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi's home territory]

Monday, June 15, 2009

Château Nénine 2006 - awesome!

I enjoyed a bottle of Château Nénine 2006, Côtes de Bordeaux last weekend. Delicious. Unlike the nasty South African Pinotage from last week, this highly undervalued gem (a whole $6.99 at Trader Joe's!) had floral notes of lavender, and a superb start, full taste without being over-powering & subtle finish; for drinking with food, without food (while watching a movie Saturday night I finished the last 2 glasses). It saddens me slightly that I don't have another one in my wine rack. It's such a joy to find such wonderful hidden treasure. Appellation Premières Côtes de Bordeaux Controlée - always yummy.

The illusion of low nicotine cigarettes

I heard on "Talk of the Nation" last week, a caller who admitted he was addicted to nicotine, and he fully understood why Philip Morris sponsored the recent legislation to regulate cigarettes by the FDA, which includes as one of itself fundamental building blocks, promoting "low nicotine" cigarettes. The caller said with a sad laugh that he smoked far more "low nicotine" cigarettes (5 to 10 times more) than he ever did on "normal cigarettes". "Your body knows how much nicotine it is used to, and you'll keep smoking until you get it" the caller said.

A quick Google search shows Pubmed scientific papers published by the Japanese and in Nature by NY scientists and by the Canadians that prove this hypothesis. How wonderful this new legislation will be for Philip Morris's North American sales!

I'm glad I never got addicted to nicotine when I used to occasionally indulge in it before Christopher was born.

Persian Election Investigation Ordered, but so what?

So called "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an investigation to see if there was fraud, in the recent "land slide" victory of extreme right wing, nationalistic, religious fundamentalist supporting, incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran today. Yeah, and W ordered the 9-11 commission report on what happened... and the SCOTUS decided in favor of Bush in 'Bush v Gore' in 2000 - alot of good it did. Yes, Khamenei is understandably concerned about the violent backlashes that have gripped nearly every urban area in his country, as disenfranchised voters who support Mir Hossein Mousavi have taken to the streets. Fundamentalist edicts of investigation do not produce results that are contrary to the Fundamentalists' grip on power.

Over the weekend on Saturday morning, with some dread, I read Andrew Sullivan, and Juan Cole, who were noting how Western media were paying more attention to the Stanley Cup and most of the MSM were asleep on the Iranian elections. The election results were supposed to be held for 3 days before a winner was released (per the Iranian Constitution, they said, but I looked it up, and I could not find a three day holding delay), and how all of Mahmoud's opponents had been jailed, and how Mullahs close to the military had ordered fatwas stating that Ahmadinejad needed to win the election at all costs and any other result would be unacceptable (reminiscent of "Christian" pastors in the US stating the same thing about W in 2004 and then McCain in 2008 - those religious fundamentalists are supposed to be good at getting out the base to overwhelm the vote).

But then today, I read in The Guardian that Ahmadinejad had a commanding 2 to 1 lead, 3 weeks before the election... ?? 538's Nate Silver publishes some very homogeneous data that he was forwarded to him, translated by a reader who is "pursing a masters in Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews" ... but even Mondale won his home state of Minnesota.. Ahmadinejad did well even in Sunni areas that hate him, and a "normalized vote" without spikes or troughs, appears to be the official Iranian government party line. It's hard to figure out what really happened.

I was hoping that after Lebanon's rejection of Hezbollah earlier this month, that Iran might follow a similar trend in rejecting religious extremism, lacking an odious "Great Satan" ( شيطان بزرگ Shaytan-e Bozorg) to oppose, but it doesn't appear that has happened, or will happen. I hope the Persians can sort it out quickly, with as little violence as possible. Insha'Allah (إن شاء الله) - I guess.

Cherry Ice Cream Smile...

"Moving on the floor now babe, you're a bird of paradise.
Cherry ice cream smile I suppose it's very nice."

Last year, Dr. Desert Flower and I planted a tiny little 1 gallon bird of paradise from a local nursery, bought for like $3.99, in our front courtyard, in an area that was shaded most of the year by our 2 story neighbor to the South, and by our home after 2 pm, a few feet East of the house. We'd seen these full, huge, gorgeous plants around Phoenix, and thought it might be lovely to have one in our yard. In the shade, the bird of paradise languished, for about 6 months, growing a few inches in that time, completely stunted.

Then, last Easter, we transplanted the Bird of paradise from the shady corner, next to the turret. WOW! Once the heat climbed over 100F (as it did in April this year) the heat activated growth signals in the plant began to Go crazy. Both the bird of paradise and the bougainvillea will need to be trimmed next weekend, before they completely take over the court yard and sidewalk.

"At the end of the drive, the lawmen arrive..."

Metacognition - we could all get better at it

I'm reading John Lehrer's "How We Decide", which comes highly recommended from Dr Desert Flower, and it's pretty interesting. One of the main components in learning and deciding is metacognition. All thinking humans could do better at metacognition as we go through our daily lives making various decisions and learning all sorts of things. Down amygdala! Down!

More Fear Mongering Debunked

In this case, it is the Right Wing rhetoric about the evils and dangers the Canadian Health Care system. OOOoooooo, scary stuff! The Right Wing, and the Republicans are exceptionally good at fear mongering - you'll have to wait, you won't have a doctor available, you won't have a choice, your health care (and your life!) will suffer! Here's a nice factual piece, written by someone as uniformed as a clinical psychologist who is Canadien but who has been living and working in America for the last 17 years.


Every time I hear McConnell, or Boehner, or any of a dozen different elected Republican leaders talk about how terrible US health care will get, I want to refer them back to the facts, and away from the baseless fear mongering they love to spout. No one is coming to get my guns, or force me to gay marry, or make me have an abortion. No, this is about my country's, my family's, my son's, and my health care system THAT IS BROKEN.

Tip of the hat to my buddy Matt for the link, and to the nearly 2000 year old quote from another Matthew as well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

0.0507% Nationalized

For all the Libertarians and Republicans and other self proclaimed "small government" advocates who are hysterically shouting about how President Obama is a Socialist, or a Communist, and how he's nationalizing American businesses, and the American way of life is going to hell in a hand basket as the 'free market' and Capitalism is being over-run by 'Big Government' and we're all going to be reading Marx and joining agricultural cooperatives soon, I offer this insightful graphic from this month's Atlantic:

Yeah, that's 0.0507% of all the businesses in America have been nationalized. A giant tidal way of Federal control, a cultural and socio-economic tsunami. Give me a break! Hey, paranoid, sensational, hysterical morons, STFU! Let me know when this number begins to approach 10%, like in some Western European countries, or over 50%, like it is in China or Cuba or North Korea.

"To Confuse the Russians"

"To Confuse the Russians", as my High Land High School Economics teacher used to say. I installed the "Track Me Not" Mozilla Firefox add-in this morning. I really don't enjoy being tracked, or unwittingly volunteering my personal habits / information / preferences. To Confuse the Russians, Yahoo, Google, and everyone else online who hands out cookies and data mines.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thirsty Yellow Paper Wasps

In contrast to the aggressive, big, scary Tarantula Hawks in the front yard, in the pool in the back yard, there's 2 Yellow Paper Wasp nests nearby (I suspect in the ubiquitous cinder block border walls of abandoned neighbors' properties to the west). These lovely ladies are almost docile. They love to drink from the pool, relying on Newtonian Fluid surface tension to keep from being submerged. Unlike their thirsty honey bee cousins - who often take a keen interest in swimmers/floaters in our pool as possible landing sites - these these beautiful Polistes actively avoid humans, and tolerate large waves, waiting on a nearby palm tree branch until the seas become placid once again. After drinking, they head off in 2 different westerly directions, back to their nests. At any single moment, from 4pm to dusk, there's 1, 2 3, or 4 yellow paper wasps drinking from the pool.

I'd been trying to take a picture of them from pool's edge.. but they were unspectacular plan views. The photo displayed here was taken last week, after Beer Pool Yoga, while standing in 4 feet of water and being Very Careful not to get the Sony camera wet. I think it came out okay... but for a truly awesome pic of the same specifies, see this amazing close up flickr photo. Come on over, chez nous, and we can sit around (or in) the pool, and watch these thirsty creatures and a glorious Arizona sunset, while enjoying cold adult beverages.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Care is not a right?

I keep hearing the devout Right, many of whom claim they are "Christian" say "Health Care is not a Right". Sure, it's not in the Constitution, but when the Constitution was written, there was no such thing as Health Care Insurance, people were treated with leaches, water dunking, mercury, and the average American life span was < 45 years. I thought maybe we had advanced a little bit beyond that. Apparently not.

The vast majority of the Right Wing Conservative base proudly state they are "Christian". What part of Matthew 25:40 do they not understand? And it is not just the "Christians" (Ephesians 4:28; James 2:2-4) . The Mormons [I am in AZ, where they are nearly at parity with the RCatholics] (Mosiah 4:26), the Jews (Deuteronomy 26:10-13), the Muslims (Quran 2:215; 4:114; 17:26; 51:19, et al) ...though admittedly, there's probably very few Republican or Libertarian Muslims. Don't these self proclaimed religious believers understand that they are contradicting their own sacred religious texts, and confining themselves to the eternal damnation they fear so much?

And if you are NOT religious, and you think that "Health Care is not a right", then you're really selfish. I hope you never lose your employer provided health care, and are left uninsured and paying 6X what someone WITH health care has to pay (like 1 out of 4 of your fellow Americans is today). But don't worry, if it's a pre-existing condition, you'll be left without any chance of ever being covered in the future, even if you do find gainful employment with health care coverage.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"We all came from Noah"

I am listening to "Talk of the Nation" this afternoon, where there's a dialogue about Race and the use of the term "Racist" on-going, when a caller says "We all came from Noah". - LMFAO! A person can believe anything they want to believe. They can think aliens monitor their thoughts and wear foil hats. They can think that local elections in Arizona are fair if they want to chose to be that delusional. It's a free country... but calling into a nationally broadcast radio show, and saying such things... it's too darn funny!

Universal Myths, when taken as fact, despite all empirical evidence against it, are a superstitious sign of devout ignorance.

South African Mountain River Pinotage '05 - Bleh!

Back in April, I picked up a bottle of South African Mountain River Reserve, 2005, Pinotage/Shiraz for all of $7 at Trader Joe's. I am always on the look-out for under-valued, under-rated, hidden gems in red wine, and I hoped this might be one of those pleasant surprises. I was vastly wrong. I asked Dr Desert Flower to sample a sip for herself, and her grimace and verbal response concurred with my assessment: Opening notes of cigar box, with rhubarb & asparagus tones, combining with a medicinal cough syrup finish that leaves hints of cherry Sucrets on the tongue. Ew! =P I tried the next day, on a second glass, and it got a little better. By the 5th day, when most wines are starting to oxidize excessively, I was able to choke down the last 2 glasses with some Herdez spicy salsa - I am too much of a cheap bastard to just dump it, unless it is as fetid and hopeless as the Chinese wines I've been exposed to.

If this South African Pinotage is the sort of wine you're looking for.. I hope you enjoy it. Tso Dho Nimh had a similar unpalatable experience here though I have never tasted brake fluid to be able to compare (and hope I never shall). Perhaps the 2003 vintage was better... but the quality degradation I tasted is a far cry from what Jason's wine blog found.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tarantula Hawks in my front yard

About a month ago, these Very Large, palm sized, menacing black wasps with brown paper-like wings started visiting the sizable milkweed plant that blooms next to our turret (yes, we have a turret). I tried to get a few closeup pictures of them, but it was NOT easy. These large Pepsis thisbe tend to like to investigate human clothing that is colored, blond heads of hair, blue eyes, reflective sun glasses, etc, as you stand 2 or 3 meters away from the blossoming milkweed with a camera. As they would start to head straight at me, I'd wave my arms before me, and each would veer off, circle, and try again. Keep in mind, these things are not little, and make a hilacious sound of wing flapping.

So my friend Zim did a posting about how some wasps do insidious things to cock roaches. That got me thinking.. what are these massive wasps in my yard? A few Google searches later, I got my answer, both scary and beautiful. Tarantual Hawks are common to Arizona. I did not see them last year. I've not seen any tarantulas this year, but there is no shortage of Tarantula Hawks in my front yard. Walking past them, does not seem to inspire them to investigate, but standing still, with a camera... they wanna check you out. I'm glad I don't have 8 legs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beer Pool Yoga

After hacking down 2 abandoned adjacent neighbors' backyard weeds for 90 minutes (a sharp shovel does wonders, stabbing and cutting off an inch above the ground 6ft tall weeds), and transplanting lots of aloe around the pool, I needed to medicate with beer AND stretch constricted muscles, so I happened upon a new concept: Beer Pool Yoga. Beer Pool Yoga combines the refreshing feel and natural buoyancy of 82F degree water, abundant AZ sunshine, and mild intoxication for pain relief, while stretching core, shoulder, and leg muscle groups.

Sure, who hasn't drank beer around the pool? And from time to time, doing yoga near, or even in the pool has a nice tranquility about it, but drinking cold beer IN the pool, while also doing various standing and balance poses, is an enjoyable new combination I will be doing often this summer - or at least until Thanksgiving, when the pool will be too cold to comfortably get in.

Glass containers are encouraged at our pool, where responsible adults consume delicious beverages. =)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mango Slicing & Skin Considerations

To conclude my delicious lunch today, I had a yummy Mexican mango, sliced with a very sharp knife. Living in AZ has it's geographical proximity advantages, with Mexico and California, bringing in reasonably priced fresh produce (only 88 cents, not bad).

As I discarded the dark, thick mango skin, and shaved as close to the massive ovalesque pit for the light orange sweetness, I wondered 1) "does anyone eat the skin?" and 2) "is there a better way to cut these things up?"

Well, a few google searches later, I found the answer to # 2 - I was cutting it in the optimum way, and I learned a few new techniques too, here, here and here. the answer to # 1, has mixed results. Some people say it helps in digestion, some say it helps to avoid stomach cancer (unsubstantiated), some say it lowers cholesterol (again, unsubstantiated by science), but others say they dispose of the skin due to its toughness and in an effort to avoid pesticides and dirt that may remain on the waxy, very thick skin. I've tried washing mangoes, it's not so easy to get them pristine on the thick reddish skinned ones, and they frequently don't look so good despite the fruit meat beneath being absolutely delicious! The yellow Asian mangos, with the thinner skin

If you frequently enjoy eating the skins, or if you have legitimate reasons why you would not want to ever eat the skin, please comment here, and let me know. I'd like to hear your perspective.

Juan Williams, Faux News

Listening to Diane Rehm this morning on the radio, and hearing Juan Williams repeating Republican talking points, I firmly believe that it is an injustice to NPR to say "Juan Williams, NPR". His time on the Faux News network has helped to mould his perspective to that of the very vocal and very biased right. He's not in the same category of Jim Lehrer or Bill Moyers, and placing "NPR" as his main employer and affiliation has gotten to the point where it has begun to denigrate public broadcasting.

I've not heard enough of Mara Liasson's Faux News or other outputs in recent months/years, to see if she has been equally swayed by her sensational, jingoistic, extremist right wing colleagues. Punching Bag Alan Colmes had enough of Hannity's shrill histrionics, but has not escaped Faux's gravitational pull.

Unique Google Searches

under our Constitution, "even a white bigot has the right to speak his mind" - Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor

It's one of those unique Google Searches, that brings up a singular finding.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cash Whenever Possible

I despise "targeted marketing" and having "behavioral data" collected on me. The banner and margin ads (I've not seen a pop up since I started using Mozilla) I've seen over the years, have on very few occasions - fewer than I can count on one hand in 4 years - been something I actually intentionally clicked on. I've always said, since my college days, that 'awesome products sell themselves'. Now, with broad band, friendly searching tools, and a few neurons to rub together, it's remarkably easy to find whatever you want online. In my opinion, advertisers are more or less, obsolete. I don't need them, I don't want them, and I resent their intrusion in my and my family's lives. They're just something to be bypassed on my DVR, blocked on my ad-block-plus, and circumvented in my selective internet browsing.

I always understood that credit card companies, ISPs, gaming sites, employers, and anywhere that a person's electronic signature can be traced, tracked, monitored, can and will mine and leverage that data as they please. But listening to the radio today, and hearing about how credit card companies raise people's rates when they shop at thrift stores, pay for marriage counseling, pay bar tabs, get massages, or any of 1000s of other things that some narrow minded pin headed actuary MBA somewhere decided is statistically more likely to lead to a person not paying their bill... I found that to be despicable. I know that Dr Desert Flower and I have already been targeted because we 'live in a region of high foreclosure rates' - so as one of our credit cards informed us in writing that they'll be more than doubling our interest rate on new purchases, we informed them in writing to cancel the card, and we will no longer be doing business with them.

I have no patience, no tolerance, no interest in feeding more personal data into the ravenously hungry and sore-misguided marketing whores' toothy maws. Cash, whenever possible, going forward.

Exponential Exposure Rate?

It looks like JustJoeP is experiencing an exponential growth rate in site visits in the one year of its existence, since Pyker first convinced me to stop using email broadcasts and blog it instead in May '08. 2,675 visits from 66 countries 2 months ago, grown to 4,067 from 86 countries 2 months later (noting that Google Analytics was only enabled 6 months ago, 1/2 way through the first year).

I never imagined that so many humans would want to spend so much time, collectively, listening to my rantings. Only 1 angry antagonist commenter in this first year. Many creative commenters and contributors, from various walks of life, countries, age groups, and political affiliations - thanks to all!

South Dakota and Mississippi are still hold outs...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Dubs" ... Why?

I do not understand the cultural attraction to "Dubs". Perhaps it is my 6 years working in tire factories, maintaining, designing, building, installing, and modifying the world's best tire making machinery. The sidewall of the tire is an essential part of the spring-mass damper system that all vehicles that need tires rely upon. Reducing that sidewall down to something with a very small aspect ratio
  • makes the ride more harsh,
  • vibrates the vehicle and its contents (passengers) severely,
  • transmits more force into the vehicle (not dissipated as heat, by the side wall flexing, since the sidewall is nearly non-existent)
  • adversely affects the handling (suspension, steering, balance, responsiveness) of the vehicle from what the original designers and modelers intended
  • it rubs the wheel wells, leading to excessive tire wear and unsafe operation
  • it leads to ruined rims, from dents, cracks, and deformation when encountering severe road hazards
I just don't "get it". Yes, huge white walls look corny - and are actually weak spots in the critical construction of the side wall. I Can understand going to slightly smaller aspect ratios to incrementally increase larger tread contact areas, but these 2 inch high sidewalls I see all around Phoenix, are ridiculous. It would be better if they just vulcanized some tread rubber directly onto the rims, and didn't bother with any inflation whatsoever.

If anyone knows of ANY reason, other than cultural aesthetic preference, why putting "Dubs" on a vehicle is a good idea, in regards to performance, handling, efficiency, safety, cost, maintenance, comfort, or any other reason, please enlighten me. I'd really like to know.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wedding Announcements

I heard this on ATC this evening on the radio. The first announcement alone, is the funniest thing I've heard in a long long time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Google is a wonderful tool. All I had to do was search "the elaborate ceremony took place in", and BINGO, it appeared.

Chinpokomon Hummers

When I heard today that the Chinese are buying Hummer, I was partially surprised that some Indian Billionaire was not buying it, as many of the male Indian grad students I and Dr Desert Flower have known have openly stated how they long to own the biggest Hummer possible. But then, it hit me, and it all made sense. The Chinese will buy it, and quickly become the sole supplier of spare parts to existing Hummers - 10s of thousands of which are in service in the US military. Quietly, without fan fare, the Chinese encode hidden subroutines in the CPU controllers, tiny RF tags for tracking, "kill switch" micro fuses in the integrated circuits that can be activated by satellite broad cast... and BAM! Completely immobilize the entire fleet of military Humvees, just when it's strategically advantageous for China to do so.

Sound far fetched? Hardly. Matt Stone and Trey Parker did not think so, in the Chinpokomon South Park Episode. Barry Levinson wrote and directed something similar in 1992's Toys. "The Manchurian SUV" ... though Sichuan Province is no closer to Manchuria than Denver is to Detroit.

Sympathetic Sino-philes who think that China is far too benevolent and altruistic to consider such things? Or that the State Government is not involved in day-to-day activities of Chinese businesses... read here, and here, and here. Or better yet, spend 6 months in China, and watch how things are run, and then we'll talk. LOL! Naiveté!

Recovery.org vs Recovery.gov

Recovery.org is superior in quality and thoroughness to the official government site Recovery.gov. The .org organization does not need to pass a Congressional mandated audit, so they have a little more freedom. It's nice to live in a country where there's some transparency... even if change is very very very slow in coming.

The numbers of my friends and relatives and neighbors who are recently un-employed, under-employed, and under-water (financially - not with gills) continues to grow. Concern, since February, continues.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sophie's Bistro - délicieux

2 weekends ago, Dr Desert Flower and I had the pleasure of taking dinner at Sophie's Bistro in eastern Phoenix. It was fantastique! délicieux! incroyable! The service was prompt, efficient, personal, knowledgeable, warm & friendly, merveilleux francophones. Chef Brendan Ayers created amazing dishes that were gastronomic heaven. Highly recommended, if you want authentic French food, are in Phoenix or Scottsdale, and don't want to spend inflated resort prices. A wonderful wine list too!

We will be back. Come visit us, and we'll try and take you as well!

Geithner Plays Marty Feldman Very Well

Being obsequious to the Chinese is becoming a popular trend among American leaders, as the Sino-Juggernaut firmly cements it's economic hold over the US economy. This week, Tim Geithner plays Igor, very well. Over 3 years (1999-2001), I spent 6 months of my life (cumulatively) all around Central and Eastern China. I understand WHY US officials are doing this, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

I love flying Airfrance... this is not good

I hope they were able to land somewhere. Il faut voir. 228 people... and the AB 330-200 had GE engines on it. Not good.