Sunday, January 31, 2010

Puccini's La Bohème

As I mentioned tangentially yesterday, Dr Desert Flower and I saw Puccini's La Bohème Saturday night. No incest, murder, poisoning, suicides, magic, myth, ghosts, spirits, undead, revolution, or 'forbidden love'. A bunch of artists living in Paris's Latin Quarter, one dieing of consumption - what eventually got morphed into Rent once HIV came to the forefront about a century later. It was well sung, finely acted, richly costumed, beautifully presented, effectively delivered. The sets were elaborate and effective. The pit orchestra only mildly over-powering when some of the duets were sung.

Neither DDF or myself had ever seen this one before. As we exited the theater, I asked her how she liked it.. and she said it was good, but not her favorite. Tosca, Don Giovanni, Magic Flute she said were more her style. Yes, those Were really wonderfully performed as well... but I really liked the simple love story, straight forward presentation of La Bohème. There is a "impersonal-ness" to Puccini though. Puccini was sort of a factory producer, with a lyricist, manager, producer, entourage cranking out one Italian opera after another for many years. Mozart on the other hand, was more of a small cottage industry, often cranking out masterpieces finished Just the night before the first performance and playing the piano parts himself (not yet written down), musical genius that he was. Each has his own flavor.

The gentle, warm, embracing approach of La Bohème yesterday was quite enjoyable, and this time the AZ Opera company didn't monkey around with Puccini, by bizarrely mixing different centuries wardrobes all in the same piece as the disastrous Tosca went last year, with SS uniforms, Lugers, Epees, 1950's bobby-socks, flash lights... ??? Pick a genre, and stay with it Mr. Altman. You successfully did this weekend, Thank you! Encore! Lather, rinse, repeat =)

We're looking forward to Rossini's The Barber of Seville in April! Deve vedere...

Colbert Christmas - Grammy Winner!

As I'm folding laundry and sipping my tea, much to my amusement, I see Stephen Colbert accepting a grammy for "Best Comedy Album" of 2009! "A Colbert Christmas, the Greatest Gift of All" - Too damn funny! He asks his teenage daughter in the audience "am I cool now?" LOL!

Grand Canyon Prickly Pear Tea, with Fresh Squeezed Organic Lemon

Back in November of 2007, Dr Desert Flower and I drove 4 and a 1/2 hours up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (after living in Arizona for 3-1/2 months), and after enjoying the spectacular views at sunset, we stopped at the Hermit's Rest gift shop at the far end of the western rim road. I got DDF some kinda opal necklace that she loves to wear... and she got me a bag of Prickly Pear Tea, which I have been rationing slowly but surely. Tonight, home alone on a 55F night, having a cup of warm prickly pear tea with a shot of fresh squeezed organic lemon juice from our backyard, sounded delicious. And indeed, it is! The lemon tree is coming into full ripeness this month. Come visit, and we will send you home with lemons in your luggage!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Greenback Fly

Working out and reading poolside again this afternoon (it was 70F today), and seeing so many thirsty hummingbirds, all with green backs, this Southern Culture on the Skids song kept coming to mind. Fly.. fly... fly... all Right!

Tonight, Dr Desert Flower and I go to see Puccini's La Bohème. No incest, murder, executions in this one... just crushing poverty & heart break. Unusual for an opera... might be interesting =)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Against their own self interests

Fine reporting by the BBC (link here), and tip of the hat to my friend Muki (one of the nicest people you could ever meet) for pointing out the story. Why people vote against their own self interests. They're stupid, and they don't want to be told their stupid, or made to feel more stupid / out of touch / clueless. They want to be wowed, and cajoled, made to feel folksy and comfortable, and 'have a beer with' the candidate, or chat with them at their church social, not get lectured to or talked down to by some 'elitist' all full of numbers and facts. Ugh!

Postnet & UPS = Failure

I wanted to send my father some organic stevia and some lemons from our backyard tree, so I put together a small box - 12 x 12 x 8 inches. I threw in a Michael Pollan book as well. 2.4 lbs all together. I headed to my local Postnet location, to mail it, since the nearest US Post Office is twice as far away and always miserably busy.

Entering the mailing & copying outlet, I was once again the only customer there - 3rd time I've been there. I tell the proprietor that I want to mail this small box to Indiana, no rush, slowest & cheapest means possible (the lemons will keep for a few days). I get out $10 and some change, expecting it to be $8 to $12 or so. A few minutes later, "That will be $18.09 for UPS ground" the Eritrean owner tells me. !!! She gives me a "10% discount" but it still comes to $16.28. I was in a hurry to mail it and get out of there, so, whatever. I forked it over.

2 days later, I am driving past my friendly neighborhood Fed-Ex location, and I have the receipt from Postnet in the car. Curious, I walk in, and there's 2 other customers being helped. The manager steps up promptly and asks if she can help me. I ask her, in theory, how much it would be to send a 12x12x8 sized 2.4 lbs package to NW IN, slowly, no rush. "$11.20 via Fed-Ex ground" she replied with a smile, after 5 seconds of keying it into her computer terminal. Wow.

I described to the Fed-ex personnel how UPS never waits for a signature, even when they are supposed to, the packages arrive as if they've been dragged through a dusty street in a third world country and then run over by a 12 ton military truck. When UPS packages are lost or stolen, the surly, indignant, unhappy driver demands you sign his "I did not get my shipment" affidavit in a huff, and when he brings the replacement package a week later, he Again drops it, runs, and doesn't wait for the required signature. 'What can Brown do for you?' - they can piss you off, lose your package, be extremely rude, and provide terrible service for an unreasonably high price. In contrast, the Fed-Ex driver in my neighborhood is friendly, customer centric, prompt, and the packages he's delivered are usually not disgustingly filthy & they get signed for (with a "Thank You").

What an epic failure of both Postnet & United Parcel Service. Whatever mark-up Postnet is adding, is no value added. I erroneously thought UPS ground would be cheaper than Fed-Ex. It's not, by nearly a 40% mark-up. I won't be using UPS again, and I have no need to go to Postnet other than to drop things off in their mail slot. And it is not just in Arizona. In South Carolina once, the UPS man left my new passport in a next-day envelope under my door mat - I had no awning, and it was raining. Another time, the UPS man left something as unimportant as our e-Loan mortgage re-financing closing papers on the door step as well. Thanks UPS.

When I was a small child in Indiana in the Winter, we used to relish throwing snowballs at the large UPS delivery trucks that frequently passed by my parents' home. I used to feel bad when I looked back at doing that as I got older. Now I wish I would've put rocks in the snowballs back in the 70s as we lobbed salvos at the brown panel vans, and then ducked into the network of snow tunnels we'd dug.

If you've had similar less-than-pleasant experiences with UPS, I encourage you to comment here. Venting is good for you, from time to time.

Inconel Machetes - High Quality Tools

25 years ago, my friend CKG gave me an inconel machete as an unexpected gift. Made by Incolma S.A. in Manizales Colombia, I did not know what to do with such an implement at the time. As I was a sort of rude and singularly focused teenage boy back then, I was not as grateful to her as I should have been in retrospect. The machete and it's decorative sheath sat in closets and moving boxes for decades. Then, in 2007, we moved to Arizona, and I saw Mexican landscapers using their machetes all the time on my neighbors' palm trees. So when my Mexican fence post cactus (MFPC) suffered frost damage in January 2008 from a record cold spell, I recalled I had this handy blade, and used it to amputate the blackened, moldy arms. It sliced through the meaty cactus like a hot knife through butter, much to my delight.

Near the end of 2009, I reconnected with my old friend CKG on a social networking site. She and I had not spoken to since before the internet was publicly available and people used to write actual pen and ink letters to each other =P I mentioned to her that I'd been using this handy blade extensively here. Not only on the MFPC, but I eviscerated a mammoth prickly pear cactus when I installed my solar pool heater in March 2009 - the prickly pear was nearly the size of the heater, so there was a great deal of hacking, with machete and shovel (nearer to the gravel). After hearing the usefulness of her gift, and my recent extreme hike in the SW Phoenix Mountains earlier this month, she shared with me the origin of said blade. Her grandparents (abuelitos) had/have a remote ranch in Colombia (the country, not the city) called La Estrella - the same name as the mountains I was hiking upon. The ancestral cattle & fruit ranch was accessible via car, then jeep, then horseback over mountains and river crossings. In CKG's words, my "machete was worn on hip of every man who worked and lived there". Very cool. I had no idea that this long shelved tool had such a rich origin, and it's quite useful here in this desert clime. The inconel will never rust, and it's hardness is nearly twice that of stainless steel. I clean it with Chlorox-wipes, after each usage to disinfect it, and thoroughly dry it (about 10 minutes in 10% RH here in AZ) before re-sheathing. Like my Finnish Fiskars pruners which have proven extremely useful in the garden and yard, this Incolma machete is now an invaluable part of my tool arsenal - and useful in home defense against zombies as well, if it comes to that. I hope I can hand it down to a grand child someday, many many years from now when I am too feeble to wield it properly.

How To Trim & Transplant Mexican Fence Post Cacti

Dominating our front yard is a 20 foot tall Mexican Fence Post Cactus (MFPC). It was planted in 2004, and the previous owner - according to my neighbor's observations - 'used to be out there every morning spraying something on it'. My observant neighbor has MFPC planted at the same time, within a week of mine, and his is 6 feet tall with arms no bigger than a human's. My MFPC is bigger than Barry Bonds, or Toruk. Problem is, the tallest arm, has started to Lean towards my garage.
Cacti are heavy, and I don't want it to come crashing down on my domicile in a strong storm. The roofs here are tile, and I don't want to think about how much fun that would be to repair.

So I assembled my Cactus specific gardening tools 2 weeks ago, just before the massive January rains arrived.

  • The hat not only guards against too much UV exposure, but it also warns the wearer when the head is getting too close to a spine covered arm is in close proximity just-behind the head.
  • The news paper is essential for wrapping around the arms, to making holding them less painful. Double gloving is recommended, cloth under leather, to protect the digits.
  • The inconel machete will get it's own post later this weekend - it's essential to have such a useful tool here in the desert.
  • Safety glasses keep any splatter from accidentally getting in the trimmer's eyes.
  • 10:1 diluted water to bleach solution (normal laundry hypochlorite) in a spray bottle is the universal cacti disinfectant recommended by the Desert Botanical Garden, post chopping.
  • Not pictured above are 10 and 6 foot ladders, a long sleeved shirt, trousers, and large sheets of left over card board.
I originally theorized that if I lopped off the top of the tallest arm, it would relieve the most stress, torsional load, and prevent a toppling. I did a free body diagram in my head, and decided where the best lopping off points would be. However, there were several larger arms preventing my access to the top, so I lopped them off first.
One hand on the machete. The other hand holding the arm that is about to come down via gravity once it is severed from the main plant. Newspaper wrapped around the spiny arm to help reduce the pain of being stabbed by MFPC needles. A Strong Downward Chopping motion with a sharp machete, and you should be able to hack through the arm.
After all the arms are chopped off, use the spray bottle of diluted bleach solution to disinfect the open wound and prevent infection. 10% is just enough to kill bacteria but not to damage the soft cactus tissue. Apply liberally.

Now, the main plant is safe, but what to do with the arms you just chopped off?

Well, you can try to compost them, but they are covered in sharp needles. Not a good idea. You Could throw them away, and my City of Phoenix curbside dumpster IS large enough to contain them, but that is such a waste. So transplanting these newest arms, planting them next to the previously truncated arms (from frost damage in early 2008) was the option chosen.

DBG recommends to let the amputated arms dry for a day or 2 in the shade, to discourage infection at the open wound. I used my garage and the card board to rest them upon. Transferred to the card board using newspaper wrapped around the arm, and double gloved.

A week later, a rack, pick, spade shovel, garden trowel, and cushion to kneel upon were in order. Rake away the rocks, trowel carefully, closely to the existing arms, dig gently with pick and spade so as not to severe the network of established roots that has webbed out just below the surface of the soil.

Set the arms into the carefully dug hole, with space between them. Use clods of clay to brace them. MAKE SURE to orient the arms so that the sides that were southerly facing on the main plant previously, are still southerly face in the new location. Also make sure on the arms that have had the tops lopped off, that the UP side is pointed up, and the plant side, is in the ground. the MFPC telomeres will have a hard time doing a 180 when they start to sprout new children off the arms in a few months. For a belt-and-suspenders approach, I tie a loose nylon support line around some established stakes and loop it around the new transplants just in case they begin to lean once the ground settles. The transplants will never be larger than the original parent - I don't know what the previous owner used to spray on them - but I feel better not throwing these arms out. And the whole amputation & transplant process actually took longer to blog about, than it took out in the front yard to execute!

Colibri Induced Delight

When doing yoga by the poolside here in Phoenix on this last Friday afternoon in January, after getting a 55 hour week's worth of enjoyable & challenging work completed, on a sunny 65F day, with sparse cumulus clouds in the blue sky, a very light breeze, and a relatively humid 40% RH day, being occasionally buzzed by sorties of Costa's, Anna's, and Black Chinned hummingbirds... it brings me great satisfaction, lowers my blood pressure, renews my spirit, brings a smile to my aging visage, to see these tiny Colibri thirstily lap up the delicious & plentiful aloe flower nectar from plants that I transplanted last Spring and that are now 4 feet tall.

More people should really come visit us here. In the Fall, Winter, and Spring, it is really quite pleasant. And now, there's no more barking dogs to hear in the back yard too!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

High Quality Fish Oil is STILL Good For You

Dr. William Davis has this wonderful post this week (link here) on Fish Oil supplements compared to Prescription Lovaza. I'll keep taking my 3 big ole capsules a day. No prescription needed. No paranoia warranted.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I will never Twitter

As I watch the do-nothing, partisan, self-absorbed, clueless Congress members and Senators disrespectfully & myopically Twittering during our Chief Executive's State of the Union Address, I am resolved - I shall never Twitter. 140 characters is ridiculously abbreviated. And WHO CARES what is on the mind of a Congressman or Senator as the President is speaking? Really, Who Cares? I see no added value in it.

Me, and Jon Stewart, we'll both not Twitter. =)

Obama maligns Endodontists!!

In his opening words in his first State Of The Union Address, Barack Obama said that the Wall Street bank bailout was "as popular as a root canal!" Endodontists around the nation are in an uproar. How dare he put down root canals!!! - I can see The Onion Headline now. LOL!

Will His Orangeness come to the defense of these maligned oral surgeons???

Racist 'White Men Can't Jump'

Last week, on Martin Luther King Day, a small group of hateful, fearful, bigoted, southern racists lead by a boxing & wrestling promoter who goes by "Moose" announced an "All-American Basketball League" that would only accept "Only players that are natural-born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league". What a bunch of scared little white boys!

Moose said: "Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" LOL! First, I don't like the NBA and all the acting that goes on (I was fouled!!! yeah, whatever), but if I was a NBA fan, I would not be intimidated by someone flipping me off. Being attacked in the stands? Come on, there's thousands of other people watching! Having a player 'grab his crotch'? Why does that bother you Moose? Were you intensely staring at his crotch? Latent desires, Moose, perhaps? I cannot even imagine such fear, but I have a pair, and don't need to grow any.

But I can imagine some creative names of teams... as have my friends JoeM and Matt. Many of them very amusing:

Birmingham [Cross] Burners
Macon Micropenises
Aiken Anti-semites
Eunice (Louisiana) Eunuchs
Washington (NC) Grand Wizards
Pelzer Paranoids
The Gainsville Gravity Bound
Pacolet Pigment Impaired
Hattiesburg Haters
Auburn Aryans
Talladega Intolerants

Or, since corporations are now people and are allowed to buy whatever they want, incorporate some product names:

Mississippi Crackers...brought to you by Saltines
Florida Trailers...sponsored by Airstream
Chatahoochee Pork Rinds...brought to you by Carls Jr (JoeM - you crack me up!)
Indus Idiocrats

And I don't think "Moose" understands what he is asking for. Webster defines "Caucasian" as
"of, constituting, or characteristic of a race of humankind native to Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia and classified according to physical features —used especially in referring to persons of European descent having usually light skin pigmentation."

So people with parents who are Iranian, Tunisian, Pakistani, Lebanese, Libyan, Moroccan, Israeli, Syrian, Jordanian, Afghan, some Egyptians, Turks, and those 'swarthy' Southern Europeans like Italians and Greeks who used to be openly discriminated against in America in the early 20th century, can ALL play in this segregated league if they were born in the US, and are "light skinned". Do they have to be Christian[TM] too Moose?

I wonder what it is like to go through life so full of hate and fear, that you have to concoct a private little laughable league where only you and people who look like you can play, or attend the games? Pathetic.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How To Silence Your Neighbor's Yappin Dogs

In 2008, before they were foreclosed upon, our neighbor to the south of our home - whose house is all of 8 feet from our house on these 1/10th acre Phoenix plots - had 2 fully grown pit bulls. The pit bulls used to bark incessantly, deeply, loudly. I used to climb my 10ft ladder, and watch sunsets from the roof of my patio from time to time, looking out over the western bordering roofs of the 2 story neighbors, and occasionally YELL LOUDLY "cerrar la boca, maldita sea!" (they belonged to a Mexican lady) - usually the pit bulls listened, when they saw me on the roof, and cowered at the far end of their yard. Then, last year, they moved out when the owner walked away from the underwater mortgage. We were finally able to enjoy our backyard, without an annoying barking dog on the other side of the 6 foot wall separating us.

Then, in 2009, renters moved into the adjacent property to our north, and they had a poorly trained pit bull that barked incessantly. We could hear it through our bed room wall. Luckily, that renter left after 3 months (a common Phoenix trend amongst rent jumpers).

In April of 2009, the southern adjacent property (former home of pit bulls who understood Spanish commands) was purchased in a short sale. A few months later, our new neighbor brought in his 2 tiny dogs - one is some kind of Chihuahua and the other is a Jack Russell Terrier mix. Gyure's doggy energy theory holding true, these tiny dogs were yappers. Interestingly, though Dr Desert Flower could hardly ever hear the deep low pit bull barks, these little yappers drove her nuts. As our southern adjacent neighbor lives there only some weekends, and in North Central AZ other weekends, the little yappin dogs were an intermittent nuance. With the large number of feral cats in our neighborhood patrolling the property dividing walls, evenings this month became full of barking - loud enough to hear over the television.

But Dr Desert Flower is a very resourceful woman, and when something annoys her, she takes action. Last Friday night, she started searching for a solution that leveraged modern technology. Saturday morning, we found this "bird house" model of an outdoor back control device, from PetSafe, on the Petsmart website - we like Petsmart, and find it has a wider variety of items than Petco or other pet-related retailers near us. We Could Have ordered it from Amazon, but then if it didn't work, returning it is a pain in the neck. Some customers loved this device, and some hated it. We talked to the manager at Petsmart Saturday afternoon, and for $70 we took one home that day. The manager warned that for some dogs it works great, and for others, it doesn't work at all - just angers them more.

The Petsafe birdhouse model (UPC 2984911216, Radio Systems Corporation, Knoxville TN; US patent 5,724,919; assembled in China from US components) runs on a 9 volt battery, and has an adjustable range, 50 feet max. It's water proof. The installation guide states strictly that it should not be mounted more than 5 feet from the ground. The property walls are 6 feet tall in Phoenix, so I exceeded that by about 18 inches, as I mounted it on a tree pointing downward slightly, into the yappin dogs' yard to the south. The microphone hears the bark (or other loud decibel stimulus) and emits a strong ultrasonic PULSE. I can almost hear it - I used to work in an audio speaker manufacturing facility that used ultrasonic welders. Hearing the ultrasonic welders always made my teeth hurt and gave me a "C-clamp across my temporal lobes" kind of head ache. This 9V powered unit just makes me wince a little, but causes no headache like the speaker factory used to do years ago.
So I mounted the device, cranked it up to "MAX", and hoped for the best. Within the hour, the little yappin dogs were let out into their yard. From inside my home, I heard "RUFFFFF-yipe!" ... and a long pause. A few minutes later "RUFF-yipe!" ...and then blissful silence. It Worked!

Sunday came and went without any barking. I even grilled chicken wings whiling watching the New Orleans Saints drive my least favorite Quarterback into the ground repeatedly as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings (I had it on DVR to watch the ex Packer getting knocked down repeatedly). The grill is 5 feet from the bark control bird house, and using it normally prompts a barrage of barking from the neighbor's yard.

So Dr Desert Flower and I are delighted that we've reclaimed our back yard from the annoyance of nuisance barking, and it worked the first time. I'm going to run my old smoke detector & CO detector batteries through it, to drain the last vestiges of residual power in each - it's good to change out all the detectors when one starts beeping, so I have 1/2 a dozen on hand at any time.

Drink Coffee, Avoid Glioma

Tip o the hat to Dr Desert Flower for this wonderful journal article link (here) from the Cancer Epidemiology Biomakers & Prevention journal:

"Our findings suggest that consumption of caffeinated beverages, including coffee and tea, may reduce the risk of adult glioma". (Glioma, for us non-scientists and non MDs, is a type of Brain Cancer) Decaf doesn't work.

I am doing my part, 2 to 3 cups of coffee and 3 to 5 cups of tea each day - all with delicious Stevia in them. mmmmm

One For Andre Bauer & His Supporting Constituents

a DK classic: "Kill the Poor"

Thank You, South Carolina

Daily Show did a hilariously sad & accurate segment last night on comedy material provided by South Carolina (link here - it will not embed). Clueless Joe Wilson, 'Hiking the Appalachian Trail' Sanford, the Repeated Horse Sodomite, and now the elitist Lt. Governor Andre Bauer who never misses an opportunity to show case his rich, white, holier-than-thou, CINO bias. Yes Andre, the poor are just like stray animals. Starve them, and they'll stop reproducing.

I'm so glad I escaped the soul crushing gravitational pull of the Palmetto State after living there for 16 years. Yes, Arizona has Kyle, Shadegg, Flake, the totalitarian Sheriff Joe, and it's full of Mormons and bigoted haters of Mexicans. But South Carolina has the jokers mentioned above, the KKK, Maurice Beeinger, Jim DeMint, and is full of Southern Baptists who used to greet "coloreds" with base ball bats at the entrance to white churches. Not to mention the oppressive humidity and incessant deluge of pollen, mixed with an occasional hurricane. I'll take the desert instead.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What the World Needs Now...

a classic from Cracker, that makes me smile every-time I hear it. A recent letter I got from an old friend recalled a few ancient neurons that had logged this in the back of my brain.

Lens Marked By Religion

Benjamin Bush, a veteran Marine officer who served in Iraq, had this poignant commentary on NPR today about the incredibly stupid and mis-guided marking of US military rifle scopes by a fundamentalist weapons manufacturer with Bible Verse references, that the Bush Administration thought would be a good idea / over looked / tacitly encouraged. Thanks again neocons, recruit more jihadist America haters! Prove to them Umerika is on a crusade. Under-estimate their intelligence, and observations, and get more Americans killed. Wonderfully nuanced. It's worth the 4 minutes, to listen.

Link to Bush's piece here. It was beautifully direct, and spoken from experience. "Hold The Hallelujah: The Perils Of Rifles And Religion"

Best quotes from the piece:
"By branding weapons with Christian messages, there is a deep and ugly blending of religion, politics and bloodshed, and it has unwittingly painted our government and military with the embarrassing language of "crusade.""

"I leave you with a verse that has not been stamped on our weapons: "But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you" — Matthew 5:44."

Vivaldi/Piazzolla's Eight Seasons in Phoenix

Last Saturday Night, Dr Desert Flower and I were WOW'ed at the Orpheum Theater. The Phoenix Symphony put on a remarkable show there with Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons coupled with Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons. Michael Christie actually crafted and conducted an impressive program, enlisting the Baroque soloist Robert Meely from Yale to play the Vivaldi pieces, and the vivacious Karen Gomyo (and her 300 year old "Ex Foulis" Stradivarius) to execute the dynamic and intensive Piazzollas.

With previous less-than-spectacular performances in mind, we entered 1929 vintage Orpheum with a degree of trepidation. And when La primacera began, and Christie, Meely, and concert master Steven Moeckel seemed to all be clumsily wrestling for who had the lead, with Meely's ad libbed solos stumbling as he seemed to rush ahead of himself by a note or two, the feeling of dread deepened. However, the Mormorio di fonde e piante, il caprano was a little better, and by the time they reached the Danza pastorale, there was maybe only 1/2 note of minor discordance. Vivaldi is a complex composer, and his works are extremely challenging - expecting perfection is unrealistic, but it's wonderful when it does occur. The Four Seasons have over 300 recordings registered, so they are very well known, and when a note is stumbled across, it's hard to conceal. So I kept that in mind, and did my best to listen receptively.

The first Piazzolla work, La Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, began with Ms. Gomyo in the first of her 4 dresses, spectacularly attacking the work, wonderfully synchronized with the orchestra behind her. It was a thing of beauty. Dr Desert Flower and I were both left speechless. Summer followed Spring, and then there was an intermission, complete with a personable chat between Ms.Gomyo and the audience. Autumn followed Summer, and Winter concluded the performance, Vivaldi and Piazzolla in sequence, the audience enraptured. Truly a formidable program, executed over-all quite memorably. Christie is redeeming himself in these 2 subscriber's eyes. We hope this trend continues! Bravo! Brava!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hoosier Mama!

Hoosier Mama pies have made the TOP of "the USA Today's" best pies to enjoy on 'National Pie Day'. (link here) I have had some of these pies baked by Paula, at her and Craig's home. They are the closest thing to culinary bliss that is possible on this mortal coil, pie wise. Everyone should try a Hoosier Mama pie, at least once in their life time. When in Chicago, enjoy one of Paula's amazing pies. (link here) Paula, an under-appreciated former sous-chef for a well-known Chicago chef and restaurant started her own pie company a few years ago. My buddy Craig, her lucky husband, supported her in this endeavor and helped her with delivery, web design, production, etc.

Kudos to my buddy Dave for the story and link!

ad hominem as they are naseam

Last week Thursday, Jon Stewart & his writers called bullsh*t on Keith Olbermann's histrionics directed at Scott Brown. Olbermann, full of indignation the next day, tried to mock Stewart, claim some imaginary moral high ground, praises Ben Affleck's mockery of him last year, and then begs to be invited back onto TDS. He plays the entire Daily Show clip, which Gawker so nicely posted on their site (link here), and then he Almost apologizes. Almost, but not quite.

So once again, to all my Republican friends who so wrongly claim TDS is full of liberals, enjoy this clip.

"Wallow in the fetid swamp of baseless name calling, and as we both know sir, that's my thing! Petty, pompous, pusillanimous, or poopy head."

47 remain

Well, W and Cheney's "round-em up", "smoke-em out", torture every person the Afghan Northern Alliance picked up on a bounty who got sent to Gitmo in 2003 & 2004, from a high of 500 prisoners, are now whittled down to 47. Yep, 47 dangerous, vicious killers. Less than 10% of the original volume. I estimated back in 2004 that perhaps 1/3 of the Gitmo prisoners were evil, kill-as-many-Americans-as-they-can (women and children included) pseudo-jihadists. I was off by a factor of 3. W and Cheney and their torturing buddies were off by a factor of 10. All that torture recruited 1000s of suicide bombers, IED planters, and half-assed insurgents. All that mis-management killed 1000s of American and NATO soldiers, and wounded 100s of thousands more, all because of hubris filled neo-con policies applied stupidly.

It took the Obama administration a year to go through the pathetic, mis-managed records on the remaining Gitmo prisoners, and work the list down to 47. I trust the Obama administration slightly more than W's, in declaring which of the prisoners are dangerous, and which were picked up wrongly, or can be sent back to their countries of origin.

Now, what to do with the remaining 47? If I was emperor of the universe, I'd send these guys to a nice vacation spot in Turkmenistan called Darvaza. It's even considered a "vacation spot" by some - link here. I wouldn't want these 47 to be spectators, but rather, they could be dropped off right in the center of the hot spot. (links here and here).

For those who think it is mean, or unjust to hold 47 un-rehabilitate-able, recidivist, pure evil, distorted fundamentalist pseudo-jihadists indefinitely, I invite you to have some of the 47 over for tea, at your church social, and see how well it goes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Night On Bald Mountain

Last night's intense storm here in AZ reminded me of a fine work that my high school marching band played when I was the percussion section leader - we used to think we were such badasses in our aussie hats and mirrored sun-glasses.... but I digress.
Modest Mussorgsky's Night On Bald Mountain, as played by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. Each time I listen to this, certain crescendos still spend shivers down my spine - having practiced it ad nauseam almost 30 years ago.

part 2 is here (link).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Raining Ropes

"It's raining cats and dogs" has different translations in various parts of the world. In France they say "Raining Ropes" - "Il pleut des cordes". In China I have heard "Raining Buckets". An Indian fried of Dr Desert Flower's in grad school once said "it is blowing like the devil!"

A deluge of biblical proportions is happening in Arizona this week. 5 inches of rain are expected. Oak Creek, that runs through Sedona, will crest tonight at 20 feet, and an additional 5 feet of water are expected beyond that.

Here in Phoenix, the New River on the West side of town is raging. The Aqua Fria actually has water in it, in some places, where cement companies have not dug it up for raw materials. Flights into Sky Harbor, that sits on the north bank of the Salt River, have been canceled today with 40 mph cross winds - Sky Harbor handles nearly 1/2 a million flights a year.

It's the weather... so why is it note worthy? "So what" one might say. Well... 5 inches of rain is what Phoenix normally gets in an average year. Flash Flooding is wide spread across the state today. Looks like no hiking for me this weekend.

Fox Hunting Must Be Stopped!

Below is a copy of an email my hilarious God Father forwarded to me. I hope you enjoy it as well. And, the rifle shown is identical in appearance to the very first weapon my father bought with me at Montgomery Ward when I was 12 years old (sans bi-pod) and just learning how to shoot a gun, which made it even funnier to me.


While I always agree that hunting is an ethical God given right, I think that I would have to agree with the author on this one... fox hunting in Colorado should be banned!

Please help ban fox hunting in Colorado ~


Peter Cottontail


To Marry, or Not to Marry?

Listening to NPR this afternoon, I found this hilarious excerpt of Darwin's rationalization:
(to see these written on a chalk board in Darwin's hand writing, see here)

"Darwin's notes on marriage are transcribed here:

This is the question


Children � (if it Please God) � Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, � object to be beloved & played with. � �better than a dog anyhow. � Home, & someone to take care of house � Charms of music & female chit-chat. � These things good for one's health. � Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time. �

W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. � No, no won't do. � Imagine living all one's day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. � Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps � Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro' St.

Marry � Marry � Marry Q.E.D.

Not Marry:

No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.� What is the use of working 'in' without sympathy from near & dear friends�who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives

Freedom to go where one liked � choice of Society & little of it. � Conversation of clever men at clubs � Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. � to have the expense & anxiety of children � perhaps quarelling � Loss of time. � cannot read in the Evenings � fatness & idleness � Anxiety & responsibility � less money for books &c � if many children forced to gain one's bread. � (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool �"

Quite an interesting perspective, from this very insightful scientist, born 200 years ago.

N AZ Snow interstate closings

I-17 and alternate route AZ 89A are closed today between Sedona and Flagstaff due to snow. This is the third time this week they've closed I-17...

I should not be surprised - living in a red state that is running a multi-billion dollar deficit due to regressive tax structure and massively declined revenues, that basic government services can no longer be provided.

An alpine interstate at 6000 ft elevation, and large, moist, Pacific storm fronts move through in January. Who would have known that significant snow fall would accumulate? Duh.

Corporations are now people

The conservative SCOTUS ruled today, that Corporations are people, officially. (link here) They are no longer legal entities different from people. Let the flow of billions of campaign financing dollars begin. The "common man", the "little guy" is no longer relevant.

Greg Palast's perspective (from back in December) here: link
"Supreme Court's Ruling Would Allow Bin Laden to Donate to Sarah Palin's Presidential Campaign"
The court's expected decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.

I'm losing sleep over the millions -- or
billions -- of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO,
the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order"
fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden
Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.

Right now, corporations can give loads
of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none
of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see
the name of every individual who put money into it. And every
contributor must be a citizen of the USA.

But, if the Supreme Court rules that
corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing
that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese
junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by
a corporate alias."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Death Metal Rooster

Tip o'the hat to my friend Jason for this hilarious short video link.

GSP is Bigger than PAP

Haiti's Port Au Prince (PAP) airport is smaller than Greenville / Spartanburg's (GSP). PAP has less than 1/6th the number of gates that GSP does, no parallel taxi way. It's tiny.
(Google maps link here - PAP, and here - GSP)

I've flown out of GSP hundreds of times. When I first flew to South Carolina my Sr year in college in the 80s for a job interview, there was a chain link fence around the 1 terminal airport with signs that said "caution jet blast" next to the rental car I picked up. Looks like PAP today is not much bigger than GSP was in the 80s. GSP serves a widely dispersed population of less than 1 million people. PAP is the only Haitian airport that can handle international jet traffic.

Best Use of a Golf Course, Ever

The Petionville Club, a lush golf course on the hills above Port Au Prince Haiti has been taken over by the 82nd Airborne. 50,000 refuges are being helped there. Awesome! (links here and video here)

Why the heck there was a plush golf course in this poorest nation in our Hemisphere, I don't know, but a putting green is an awesome place to land a large helicopter, set up field hospitals, maintain security, etc etc.

Only bad thing is that it's taken 7 days to take over the 9 hole golf course. Would've been better to commandeer it last week.

To My Dear Republican Friends...

Every time I hear a Republican / Libertarian / Tea Bagger / Blogger / Conservative / Pox News 'analyst' / Pundit say that The Daily Show is partisan and liberal, they need to watch this clip:

[link here, if the embedded video does not work]
And after watching the video, I recommend some mango chutney with their crow, as they Shut Up.
"John Lennon's favorite Beetle, is Mickey Dolenz"
"Curt schilling is a Yankees fan"
"Coakley believes Larry Bird, is a Sesame Street Character"
"Coakley went into the bar at Cheers, and didn't know anybody's name" "Hey, Jerome!"

TDS writers and Jon Stewart are equal opportunity satirists, pointing out stupidity and irony amusingly whenever possible. The monumental stupidity and incompetence of the Bush administration masked the lingering malaise that is the Democratic party from 2000 to 2008. Now, the Democrats are once again proving their inability to win, lead, or execute governance efficiently.

"The reason it will die.... if Coakley loses, Democrats will only have an 18 vote majority in the Senate, which is more than George W Bush Ever Had in the Senate when he did whatever the f#ck he wanted to do. In fact, the Democrats have a greater majority than Republicans have had since 1923."

"See, it's not that the Democrats are playing checkers and the Republicans are playing chess. The Republicans are playing chess and the Democrats are in the nurse's office because once again they glued their balls to their thighs."

"It's not your fault Democratic leadership. No one should have raised the bar of expectations for you. We should just leave the bar on the ground. Wait for you to trip."

In Between Days

Yesterday I felt so old... Saw The Cure at the Dodge Theater last year here in Phoenix. Terrible venue with pathetic seating, but Robert Smith put on a good show. Dr Desert Flower liked it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's the Sealing Surface That Matters

Dr Desert Flower's close friend Kelly in South Carolina got her turned on to drink shakers. We went more than a decade in our home without having any drink shakers, then, a few years before we moved out of South Carolina, there's shakers popping up everywhere.

The Disaronno shaker came in a Christmas gift pack. Notice the white rubber sealing ring in the middle of the photo on the under-side of the black cap. This elastomer blocks bulk liquid from leaking down the side. Essential when making a martini, or other fancy drinks. (I say fancy, because I use a 8 or 12 oz glass tumbler, lots of ice, pour liberally, and then stir with a spoon or butter knife, and it works just as well in my perspective). The red shaker on the left, is also equipped with a black rubber seal around the cap. It doesn't leak.

The shiny 18-8 stainless steel shaker on the right (made in China, but I suspect all three of these are made in China, I just can't prove it) is worthless as a drink shaker. Fluid leaks down the side, sprays around the room when you shake it. It doesn't matter how awesome of a H7/g6 sliding fit it might have, or H7/p6 press fit - it's still going to pass liquid. I've seen gallons of compressor wash water come gushing out between heavy duty industrial compressor disks when disassembled that had been pressed together with thermal press fits. Without a conforming elastomer to fill in the minute gaps, the assembly WILL leak. It might be minimally effective as a holy water sprinkler or perhaps as a 2d4 splash projectile weapon to fend off the undead. But I'll take my 12 gauge against zombies instead. =)

Cast Iron Upgrade

Saturday afternoon, Dr Desert Flower and I found a clearance sale at Sur la Table in Scottsdale. Considering that the 22 year old Teflon coated aluminum cookware my parents got us as a wedding gift had finally given up in the center of the pan I use to cook eggs (on the right in the photo). I have enough aluminum in my diet as it is - and I don't want to taunt Alzheimer's - I bought some upgrades. The 12 inch skillet is quite heavy - 8 lbs with a 6 inch handle. It makes it unwieldy to pour hot animal fat into a container easily. With practice, I am sure I'll improve my pouring skills.

Made in Tennessee, Lodge Logic's quality product should outlast my tenure on this planet - if it is well cared for and seasoned appropriately. My plan is for soap to never get closer than 6 feet to the cast iron. The bacon press (which can also be used on burgers) was made in Taiwan, and sold unseasoned... but the seasoning's was remedied last night with some canola oil.

Come visit us, stay over-night, and I'll cook you a delicious breakfast in my new cast iron cookware! If you avoid / abhor meat (as several regular visitors to this blog do), we've got other stuff that herbivores like to eat as well!

I'm going to detach the handle from the old aluminum pan, and recycle the old one, as it's too small to use for anything else - reduce-reuse-recycle.

Wish I Was Ocean Sized

Jane's Addiction, circa '86. Oceansize. I can't find a nicely produced video online... but this'll do.

I'm Not Karen & I'm Not In Massachusetts!!

4 times Saturday (when we were home), 8 times Sunday, and 3 times already today, I have been robo called or push-polled by complete and utter morons who somehow think the 623 area code is in Massachusetts, and my name is "Karen". Idiots.

'Can we count on your vote for Scott Brown this Tuesday?' a female pollster with a very African American accent asks me. Well, first, I'm not in Massachusetts, and secondly, do you have any concept how today's Republican party (in general) and Scott Brown (specifically) has abandoned Lincoln's basic principles? Hell, abandoned Reagan's principles? Do you realize how self-defeating / self-loathing / self-deprecating it is, for you to support a party that at it's core is racist, bigoted, hegemonic & exclusionary? This same woman (identical accent & vocal delivery) has called 3 times. If it's a software voice simulator, it sounds quite natural. I told her this morning, to remove my name from their lists, and not to call again, after my previous lecture had no positive effect.

Then, a robo call from Martha Coakley begins "Hello Karen, I'm Martha Coakley and..." Argh!

I'm not Karen. I'm not in Massachusetts. I am not donating money to the Democrats so that they can run more mis-guided and ineffective robo calls. You want to get the vote out? Drive the poor and disenfranchised to the polling places. Serve them a hot meal at the shelter where they are probably getting their sustenance. They don't have any health care. Work with the community organizers in the individual districts, to get their people out to the polls. Work with actual Christian groups, who care about the welfare of the poor and the sick as their Son of God taught them to be - not the loud mouthed CINOs who listen to/worship/call-into talk radio. Don't robo call people - especially people in time zones and area codes that are no where near Massachusetts.

Moyers' Excellent Program Last Friday Night

Bill Moyers always does excellent work. This year's interviews are no exception. Friday night he spoke with Thomas Frank (link here), and the interview was infuriating to me. "Down the memory hole" indeed.

Then, Bill had a wonderful and uplifting interview with Greg Mortenson (link here), author of Three Cups of Tea (which I have given as Christmas Gifts) and now, Stones Into Schools. the key take aways I got from the Mortenson interview that gave me hope:
1) Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff consults with Mortenson frequently
2) Gen.s Petraeus & McCrystal have read Mortenson's books, require all of their officers to read them too, and have both stated to Mortenson on more than one occasion "there is no military solution in Afghanistan" and "we cannot win here militarily". (There is some hope, if the current administration listens to them, as opposed to how W and Rumy dictated to them and handcuffed their generals, who were lead by the incompetent Franks) acknowledgment of the Greek, Arab, Mongol, British, and Russian past failures over millennium.
3) Afghan village elders LOVE playgrounds and swing sets
4) In 5 areas 100% controlled by Taliban, with no US presence, girls high schools have been built in Afghanistan and are thriving - NOT being demolished or head masters executed.
5) at their schools, they not only teach how to read Arabic in the Qaran (and Dari, or Farsi, or Pashtun, depending on what part of the country they are in) but HOW to Interpret that which they read, so it is NOT just rote memorization and being told what each phrase is supposed to mean, but Opening Up the students' eyes (defeating Fundy Madrassa teachings).
5) Saudi Funding of Taliban has DROPPED in the last 2 years, resulting in Taliban banditry, kidnapping, and things that are odious to the local populace, turning tribal elders (Shuras) and entire villages against the Fundamentalist Sunni advocates of terror.
6) MOTHERS are shaming their sons into quitting the Taliban, after being indoctrinated into it, in Madrasses, as youths. When they get into their 20s, and are becoming common criminals, MOTHERS of these miscreants are convincing them to leave the Taliban and reform their lives (who would've thought it??). Mortenson said that at the schools his NGO has built, they PREFER to hire ex-Taliban as instructors, since ex-Taliban are the STRONGEST and most out-spoken opponents of wrongly interpreted Fundamentalist teachings.
7) Boys who are taught how to read don't teach anyone else, but they don't go off to become Taliban advocates. Girls who are taught to read teach their mothers, their sisters, their villages... and everyone they teach, is a potential powerful force against evil & fearful misinterpretations of the Qaran.

I hope Mortenson's "peaceful insurgency" campaign is successful. For a million dollars (the cost to keep 1 NATO soldier in theater in Afghanistan for a year) he can build and staff 4 high schools. That's pretty damn impressive.

Watching this interview on DVR last night gave me hope.

We shall see.... سنرى

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jesus's Hotrod - Driving Music for Saturday

Ding a-ding dang a-dong a-long ling-long!!!
And if the embedded video fails, this link has it here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

By... Yemen

As the Defense Department prepares to scale up in / invade / attack / open a new 'front' / kill more people in / focus on Yemen, Mark Twain's bitter "War Prayer" comes to mind:

""O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

Samuel Clemens / Twain was referring to the escalating US role in the Philippine civil war in 1905 when he wrote it, but it is still relevant today. I'm sure we'll win lots of hearts and minds with drone missile strikes, and wrap-up this war on Terre right quick.

Tip of the hat to my friend JohnK of Carbonne France & South Florida for this link.

SoM - More

This has been running through my head all day yesterday and still this morning. I think it's an endocrine level issue maybe.

Andrew Eldritch and the Sisters of Mercy used to make some excellent 'driving music' that I listened to while traveling in my Honda between SC and IN/OH often, in the 90s.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Truvia IS NOT Stevia

Over the last 3 months, and 20 lbs shed, I've become a Stevia disciple. Back in October I mentioned that I like it, and I was trying it under the advice of my primary care physician. Now, I have it tea, coffee, and I recommend it to friends and relatives. It's delicious AND it is good for you. In South America they've been using it to treat type II diabetes for many years.

But beware - there's synthetic imitators, from corporate America. Coke and Cargill announced the availability of Truvia. PepsiCo and Pure Circle announced PureVia. Both are laboratory inventions, not organic, not natural extracts. Even Monsanto, who bought Searle - inventors of Aspartame / Nutrasweet - is working on a patentable Stevia rebaudiana synthetic derivative. Ugh! But, Trader Joe's Stevia is certified organic, and supposedly Sweetleaf is "100% pure".

I'm gonna stick with the natural plant, not the lab mimic. The plant extract has not hurt the Brazilians for centuries, Japanese and Europeans for generations, and health conscious Americans for the last 20 years. The less refined, and more natural, the better - and, I've always been one to root for the little guy, the under-dog (Chicago Cubs, da Bears). My wallet - and my pancreas & liver - are betting on the organic stevia as I feel healthier today than I've been during the terms of the last 3 US Presidents! [note: a "William Jeff" emailed "Webmaster" (whoever that is) requesting links to "healthynewage" be removed, so the hot links have been modified. The email from "William Jeff" looked very much like spam, so I am not replying to it. Nevertheless, to avoid phishing and snooping, I've modified the hotlines]

On Tap, for Thursday

Big Bottom, From the Spın̈al Tap Classic 1992 Album - Break Like The Wind. "Cracks me up" every time I hear it =P

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Best Year Ever! (for Arizona Foreclosures)

Jay Butler of the WP Carey School for Business at ASU has just published a report that 2009 saw a record number of home foreclosures, since Arizona became a state and records were being kept. (link here to the story). He predicts the trend will continue, and 2010 may rival 2009 (link here). Awesome, for being 50% underwater, living on the far side of town away from work, drinking establishments, museums, symphonies, and delicious restaurants. But we ARE close to Cricket Pavilion concerts (1 mile, stumbling distance).

Timing & location are everything, in real estate. Oh well.

Of course, it was Satan!

Genius Pat Roberston nailed it once again with clarity and insight. Haiti's capital Port au Prince, was destroyed by a magnitude 7 quake, because hundreds of years ago the Haitians made a pact with Satan (link here).

Yes, Robertson's vengeful Christian[TM] god thought it was a good idea to kill the Catholic Arch-bishop (Papist!), 1000s of children, 2 hospitals, nearly the entire UN Mission. Soon, Pat will likely be asking for donations to fight sympathy for these Satanists, just as he did against Sally Struthers for an ionic tractor disruptor (link here).

What a stupid, evil, delusional, hypocritical old coot.

Delayed Teabag Outrage

2 months later, NPR (link here) finally catches up with JustJoeP covering Fiore. I had no idea I was so prescient.

1500 comments on NPR's page and an upset Ombudsman (link here).

NPR did not know teabagging had any sexual implications... LMAO!

I'll be sure to check with my ombudsman too!

Balsa Wood and Baby Tears

Balsa Wood and Baby Tears - that's what the largest US banks are made out of! Jon Stewart's "Clusterf#@k to the Poor House" new segment "We Had To!" was an acerbic, poignant, disgustingly accurate summary last night. (clip here). Eliot Spitzer stated it perfectly, and upon hearing him, I thought my head was going to explode. "The banks are the unride-able Hidalgo!"

I'd say it was hilarious, if it was not so incredibly evil, oppressively, irresponsibly despicable and remarkably sad. Geithner is a HUGE part of the problem, along with his lying Goldball Sacks predecessor Paulson. Thanks W for initializing this mess, and thanks Obama for continuing the same policies. Makes me want to get some torches and pitch forks. Grrrrrrrr.

Cash's Rusty Cage

if you listen to the guitar chords, and then play Ghostriders, they're quite similar. Reduce, reuse, recycle. I miss Johnny Cash.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wary of the Prions

Dr Desert Flower used to be (and still is at heart, somewhat deep down inside) a brain researcher. She worked in a lab that had lots of brain tissue, and was very cautious around them in case they had prions in them. Science doesn't know exactly how prions work, but we know they CAN do really nasty things, like appearing en-masse in subjects with creutzfeldt-jakob disease, and contributing to heart disease, and wreaking molecular level havoc through advanced life forms. Recently, Sciencedaily published a report of how what have been perceived as "lifeless prions" have been seen to evolve. My very lovely and extremely intelligent wife knows far more about brain function, brain biology, and brain disorders than I will probably ever learn, and she has a healthy respect for and acts with complete caution around prions.

When I shared with her the love of eating brains that some of my friends have expressed to me in the last year, she gets a look of dread upon her beautiful visage, as she knows these friends too, and doesn't want bad things to happen to them. Prions can't be denatured by cooking at elevated temperatures. They laugh at heat, at most forms of oxidation. They are persistent little buggers, easily aerosolized, able to live without nourishment or a warm wet environment for long periods of time... very robust little bits of protein, that have been known to do some nasty things to humans, cows, and other large mammals.

So I'm gonna trust my dear wife's wariness of prions, and their sources in the food chain and the environment around us. Brains, industrialized mass produced food laced with animal parts, poor laboratory protocols and loose SOPs... I'm gonna avoid those. For my friends who enjoy eating brains (and who are not yet zombies) I am glad they know their butcher, or sushi chef, or other supplier of organ tissue as food... and I hope they avoid the stray prions as well.

Science Montage Contrast

I got a kick out of this. (link here)

Reminded me of Robot Chicken's Montage skit (link here).

The Professor, on the drum kit

In my opinion, this is still the best drum solo I've ever heard, and have tried to play - albeit without a double bass drum pedal and only 1/4 of the hardware available. Neal Peart, now in his 36th year with Rush.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Not News - 11Jan10

It is not news that FaceBooker and resigned ex-Governor Sarah Palin joined Pox News. It IS surprising she is not a peroxide blond like her new colleagues, or that anything she says or thinks or comments on could be called "news".

It's not news that Mark McGwire finally admitted he used steroids while playing MLB. It IS surprising he's not had a heart attack, or needed a liver or kidney transplant yet.

It's not news that Ford's market share rose last year. It IS surprising that GM still exists, at all.

Must be a very slow news Monday.

Beware the Jumping Cholla

There's a species of cactus in the Sonoran Desert that I had no idea existed before I lived here. I dismissed stories of their insidiousness as exaggerated myth, until last Saturday, when I had the stupidity to hike through a steep incline of a mountain's southern face that was densely covered in them. They resemble something that Dr. Seuss would have put in his books, but would really be more at home as part of Dante's horticulture around the City of Dis on the 6th circle of Hell, or on the shores of the boiling blood of the 7th level. The Jumping Cholla, Opuntia bigelovii, aka the evil misnomer "Teddy Bear Cholla".

These guys grow from about 1 to about 6 feet tall, and thrive on very rocky soil, even "no soil", growing up between refrigerator sized rocks sometimes. From far away, they are "cute" and give off a 'glow' when lit in bright sunlight. They don't really "jump" off the main plant, but they readily, easily, stick to you if you brush against them even the slightest amount. They drop seed pods (around the base of the one pictured above), that are spiny-er than sea urchins, and once they stick into human flesh, has a sort of barbed-anti-withdrawal mechanism. Wearing gloves insures the spines will stick into, and often through, the gloves when you try to withdraw them from another part of your body.

I accidentally kicked one of the seed pods that was laying along a marked trail that a horse likely had knocked lose previously, or the wind had blown there. I kicked it with my trailing right foot, into the Achilles tendon of my advanced left foot. Ow. On level ground, it was an exercise to extract. Towards the middle of my extended hiking day, I faced a slope covered in these cute little guys.

I wrongly rationalized, that I could circumvent these clusters, sticking to the barren ground around the Saguaros. See, the Saguaros are the dominant cactus species with roots that kill most other smaller plants close to them, capturing all the available water before the other plants can. A mature Saguaro (over 50 years old) will leave a radius of plant corpses around it for 20 or so feet. So I foolishly ascended the slope, thinking "it won't be so bad".

Once I got near the first summit, I looked back at the cholla mine field I had just negotiated. The picture below was taken at about a 60 degree downward slope. It was just a wee bit stressful to ascend a large rock formation, get to the top, and see a 5 foot cholla above you, it's dropped seed pods millimeters from your gloved hand. Ah the dumb things white people do!

Now, one thing to keep in mind, is that the Jumping Cholla seed pod is hardy, until stepped on, or once it punctures your skin. Then it transforms into something more annoying than the droid drop fighters from Star Wars Episode III. Breaking apart, in little spider shapes, spines remaining in leather or flesh, they're really not any fun.

To give you an idea of just how many of these self scattering, readily puncturing seed pods a mature Opuntia bigelovii can drop, one needs to examine a jumping cholla corpse after its life-cycle is complete. The photo below shows a pile of spiny seed pods, in a heap. I took it on my stagger back to the parking lot, energy reserves (and water and electrolytes) depleted as the sun was setting. I did take three 16 oz bottles, but the day long hiked drained those by 430pm. Earlier in the day, I'd see MUCH larger piles than this 2 foot high, 6 foot diameter one.

On level ground, so what, walk around such a pile. But when scaling large boulders on a steep incline, that are resting on friable, gravelly, somewhat unstable soil, and pulling yourself up to find such a pile-of-pain close to your fingers, face, or other body parts, it instills a very healthy respect for the plant.

In the future, when faced with a slope covered with jumping cholla, go around, not through. It's not worth it.

Luckily Jumping Cholla need vast amounts of sunlight to thrive, and tend to not grow very well on northern facing slopes in this hemisphere, where ocotillos, tall Saguaros, and palo verdae do much better. Descending the northern slope was alot easier than ascending the southern.