Wednesday, March 31, 2010


My buddy Matt has been on a roll this week. He sent me this link (here), to Flicker's Teabonics sight, is Hilarious! How completely idiotic these hateful, paranoid, angry tea baggers are!

So many adult children left behind. America, at its worst.

Thousands of Fry, all around.

Trunk Bay had no shortage of schools of these tiny fish. The pelicans knew it too, and at one point, I nearly bumped into one, as I saw little webbed feet paddling 2 feet in front of me while snorkeling.

Truly an amazing feeling, to float slowly, among so many living things, all around you, and if you don't move quickly, they don't get scared, and clouds of shiny silver fry form all around you. Reach your hand out, and the school parts, in a concentric withdrawal from around your hand and arm, communicating to each other with light pulses along their body lengths. Everyone should do this, at least once in their life, if they get the chance. Magical.

Zombie Fish?

Do Zombie Fish enjoy eating Brain Coral? I do not know.

If you are in Virgin Islands National Park, on the underwater snorkeling trail, keep an eye out for the Zombie Fish. If you see one, try to swim slowly, and breathe gradually, staggering slightly from left to right, as if you are a brain seeking zombie too!

Rodney Strong - a good "go to" choice

One night in St.John while dining at the Banana Deck, (music will play, at this link) we were looking for a good wine on the somewhat limited wine list. We'd just suffered through an unpleasant bottle of some less than memorable red, and needed to cleanse our pallets as we finished our meals of jerked chicken, blacked local fresh fish, and other yummy fare.

I saw the Rodney Strong 2008 Pinot Noir on the list, and have had their Cabernet before. The Rodney Strong winery bottles a consistent quality product. It's not something I would stock in my cave, and like most Californian wines it is usually over-priced (no import taxes, lower transportation costs, low cost migrant labor, no state-provided medical taxes built into over-head... why does France, Italy, and Spain beat the heck out of Californian wines in the "under $10 category" constantly?). Our bottle provided delicious sustenance for the 2nd half of our meal. When in doubt, if you need a good "go to" choice in an unfamiliar locale and they offer Rodney Strong, it will likely go well with your meal.

Thou Shalt Not Park Here

St.John's only Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt.Carmel, in Cruz Bay, has very little parking. It's downtown, on a one-way street, and has these ineffective signs, posted outside of it. They obviously don't work too well.

I snapped these photos one late afternoon, on our way to Happy Hour somewhere... each day in the V.I. has become sort of a wonderful blur in retrospect. All good stuff.

And this reminds me... if you are renting a vehicle in the Virgin Islands:
1) make sure it is 4 wheel drive. Some of the mountain roads are literally inclined at a 45 degree grade.
2) ask for a rental with rubberized fenders, over the wheel wells. There's lots and lots of tight clearances, narrow roads, hairpin turns, tiny parking places, that painted metal quarter panels will sustain scratches and dents that the rental company will scowl at. Rubberized fenders and flashing, are much more robust and tend to not be as easily damaged.
3) Remember, everyone's vehicle has to be turned in before 10 or 11am, so when you are turning in your jeep, get your family and their luggage out of the way of other renters who are returning their vehicle as well.
4) if you do scratch your paint, with say... a white fence post... some light scotchbriting with a kitchen sponge will remove all but the deepest scratches. =)

Sainte-Croix 2007

It's been a while since I last mentioned any wine. The 2007 Sainte-Croix, Syrah-Merlot, Vin De Pays D'Oc La Bergerie, Languedoc-Roussillon, is rather good. It's got a strong berry taste, and it's a rich dark purple in hue - not red. I picked it up at Trader Joe's at Arrowhead for $7, and it was tasty. A little acidic, but not overpoweringly so.

If you don't like strong Syrahs, you probably won't like this. I did. Dr Desert Flower had a taste of it (over the 3 days the bottle was open that it took to consume, a glass at a time, in our kitchen) and she liked it as well.

Other reviews that a Google search shows thought it was fairly good (here) or really good (here and here).


Hutaree Shotgun Wedding!

Many Many thanks to my buddy Matt for this insightful link (here).

The Domestic Christian[TM] terrorists formerly known as the Hutaree [made up word] Militia have one of the world's most stereotypical Facebook pages, for their blushing bride. Man, you can't make this kind of stuff up - it's just too funny in it's natural state.

Remember boys and girls, always block your Facebook content, if you don't want to look like a bunch of ignorant, back woods, inbred, unwashed, pathetic fundamentalists. What gets posted on Facebook, doesn't stay on Facebook. LOL!!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Insightful Moore Observation

Watching DVR'ed Real Time with Bill Maher, Dr Desert Flower and I heard Michael Moore say this 2 weeks ago:

"Chile had an earthquake this past week that was 500 times greater than the earthquake in Haiti. But here's the big difference. In Chile, they have various -- very serious regulations when it comes to building codes. So a thousand people died, sadly, but a thousand people died with a 500 times greater earthquake. And in Haiti, where there are no building codes, no regulations -- a Republican’s paradise -- a quarter of a million people died."

Don't Like The Census, That's Fine...

...if you are a Conservative, Don't turn it in. Thanks to my friend Ron for this gem (link here) from the DailyKos. Think you're being tracked by your SSN, your census form, that the socialist totalitarian fascist Nazi baby killing gay marrieds progressives are out to get you? Crawl back in your hole, go back to your militia compound, and don't be counted, lose Federal Funds (which you rail against taxes anyways) and Congressional seats. That's fine.

"Some conservative counties in Texas have a response rate as low as five percent"

LOL!!! Too good to be true!

RNC Excrement & Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy Is Alive & Healthy. I get this broadcast RNC email on my company mail this afternoon, claiming to be "The Facts on Obamacare". It is so full of excrement and hypocrisy, it's hilarious!

* Causes 9 million people to lose the insurance they now have; [Excrement, no, it causes no one to "lose" their insurance. 144 people a day DIED from lack of insurance, that will begin to decrease. 4 million people a year were dropped by their insurance each year. that will begin to slow down.]
* Increases the already bloated deficit by $260 billion over the
next decade when all the components are included; [Excrement, read to CBO analysis]
* Adds $371 billion to the deficit by not including the Medicare
physician fee schedule change, also known as the "Doc Fix" provision; [Hypocrisy! Republicans fought to NOT put in the "Doc Fix" and COBRA limits. Idiots!]
* Raises taxes by $569 billion on small businesses and creates a
new marriage penalty with new income and investment taxes; [Excrement, new marriage penalty if you are in the top 1% of the richest Americans]
* Cuts Medicare by $523 billion; [Excrement & Hypocrisy, it reduces Medicare costs by implementing efficiencies. It's not taking anyone's Medicare].
* Increases premiums by 10% for people without employer-based
insurance; [Excrement, insured individuals were already being hiked 30 & 40% a year!]
* Expands the power of the IRS to enforce a government mandate
that requires Americans to purchase government-approved insurance; [Oh My! enforced regulations! What do you think this is, Santiago Chile?!?!? We want to live in Port Au Prince!]
* After all the spending is done and the bill is fully
implemented, 23 million people will still be uninsured in 2019. [Hypocrisy!!! 19 million of those 23 are illegal immigrants who the Republicans HATE! OMG! How stupid do you think the American people are??? Notice, they say "people" not "citizens" - LMFAO!!!]

That's all you got, RNC? Pathetic!

Sand Sand Everywhere

This is our third week back home after vacation, and I am still finding sand in unexpected places. Sure, shoes and beach bags are supposed to get sand in them. But suntan lotion? Not the bottle.. the lotion... on the inside, was gritty on applying to my nose before poolside yoga today - lol! Inside the shutter of the water proof camera... in the outside zipper pouch of my laptop bag (which never went to the beach, that I know of), in the hinge of the igloo cooler - yeah, I was stupid and took a hard sided cooler in my luggage. According to Jill who went with us, we'll be finding residual sand for the next year. Then it will be time to go back! Next time though.. maybe Maui.

Anger Is An Energy

PIL - Rise
My friend Jill asked rhetorically recently 'why do tea baggers get so many people to come to their rallies and progressives can't even get the date straight on emails they send out to get people to come to a celebratory rally in Ohio?' My immediate gut feeling was "Anger Is An Energy" - nothing galvanizes a movement stronger than resistance / opposition / a feeling of being a persecuted minority. Since progressives are in the majority now - at least until the pendulum of US politics swings back - they can't organize a free t-shirt giveaway (every college student knows that free t-shirts are one of the most powerful forces in the world! Credit Card companies have figured this out on college campuses).
So in honor of the sputtering progressive rally in Westchester OH, I present Johnny Lydon and Public Image Limited, PIL:

...or, in a different perspective as my friend JoeM is often found of saying: "The Democrats, where causes come to die"... but he lives in San Francisco and thinks the Democrats there are actually Republicans and the Green Party is too far to the right. =)

Monday, March 29, 2010

No Shortage of Fundie "Christian" Nutjobs

If you haven't yet heard about the ATF & FBI raising the Hutaree Militia / Cult / Violent Separatist movement in Michigan yesterday, there are links here (from Faux news) and here (from the Detroit News). These guys are real pieces of work. Google cached their myspace page (link here) some time ago. Page down through it, for the utterly delusional graphics and posts. Link to the website here. And links to other state militias who want to duplicate Hutaree in OH, TX, and elsewhere.

Truly guano crazy, these guys were training to battle the Antichrist[TM]. But in the mean time, they recently hatched a plan to kill Michigan Police officers with an IED, and then to kill anyone who goes to the funeral of the fallen officer with more IEDs. Because you know, "Greather love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13, on the top of Hutaree's webpage no less!). So by this axiom, none of the police are your friends if you are a Christian Fundamentalist who is training for the Apocalypse? And since Jesus always preached justifiable murder, killing police officers is a good thing? Wait... Jesus didn't preach that, at least not in this plane of the Amber Universe.

Please oh please, Rush, Guano Beck, Insanity Hannity, Palin, et al... come to their Defense. Reiterate how they are innocent until proven guilty. Do an in-depth exposé about how militia groups are good, up-standing Americans, not violent extremists determined to commit sedition.

Idiocracy Central

Dr Desert Flower and I live in Idiocracy Central.

The Glendale "University of Phoenix" stadium yesterday was mobbed (link here), with the lowest common denominator, just 2 miles north of our homestead. On our drive North to go hiking in the White Tank Mountains to see the Spring Wild Flowers, we were stuck in traffic for 10 minutes alongside SUV after SUV of parents hauling their David After Dentist aged children to the stadium. UGH!

"The event was the best-attended, highest-grossing event in the history of University of Phoenix Stadium. Professional wrestling's biggest night of the year drew 72,219 fans, about a thousand more than attended Super Bowl XLII in the same building."

"With eye-catching signs and deafening cheers, fans paid tribute to the notion that some problems are best resolved with a steel chair to the back of the head."

We've gotta get out of the West Side!

On a positive note, Dr Desert Flower and I DID see some lovely desert flowers, as the White Tanks were in abundant bloom. The Waterfall Trail was full of Idiocracy who I guess could not buy a ticket, but the Bajada trail was sparsely populated by people with no shortage of darting, colorful little reptiles and brilliant yellow, purple, orange and red flowers.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Caribbean Island Sayings

Posted over nearly every rest room toilet:
"In this land of fun and sun we never flush for number 1
Be so kind that when you do, we all flush for number 2."

On a t-shirt that made me laugh (and that we purchased):
"Better to have sand in your thongs on the beach than sand in your thong on your seat"

On another t-shirt that made me laugh (and that we also purchased):
Drink Right, Drive Left
(The Virgin Islands all drive on the left, though nearly all the cars are left drive, imported from the US).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Richard Engel Explains Last Week's Iraqi Elections

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Richard Engel Explains the ramifications of Iraq's democratic elections last week. Hopefully, this is good news that will lead to Getting US Troops Out!

Bucknard's Everfull Teacup

When I was a teenager, I used to play D&D (yes, Dungeons & Dragons), before I actually had a life that kept me too busy to indulge in fantasy role playing dice games governed by memorization and hours of mountain dew fueled basement sessions with other D&Ders. I had a proclivity for always wanting to be a Fighter, Ranger, or sometimes a Cleric or an Elf... once I played an Anti Paladin character and that was fun, but never a Paladin, Magic User, Thief, or 1/2 Orc, or Bard - man, I wanted to bludgeon Bards when I was a teenager. Keep in mind, I used to keep a 6ft quarter staff bungee corded to my 12-speed bike frame "just in case" - such a testosterone driven fascist dork I was. But I digress...

In The Dungeon Master's Guide, there was an item called "Bucknard's Everfull Purse". Bucknard's Everful Purse was a small leather sack in which you could place coins or gems, and each night, up to 100 gold pieces would duplicate within the purse. As long as you never emptied it completely - always leaving a "seed" of one or more coins or gems, more would appear the next day. It was an awesome little device that I tried to make sure each D&D adventure had at least one of, in the group of characters. Well, since moving to Arizona and trying to live a more healthy life-style, I've begun drinking tea every week day to wake up. This replaces the 6 to 8 cans of Diet Coke I used to drink every week day, for the last 20 years. My bones retain alot more calcium (the phosphoric acid in the Diet Coke depletes it), my teeth don't hurt and build up alot less plaque on the lower ones, my acid reflux is gone (with Nexium at $3/pill and my corporately provided insurance no longer covering "name brand" Rxs) and I am getting wonderful anti-oxidants as well.

Recently (in the last 3 months) I've been on an Irish Breakfast Black Tea streak (Trader Joe's, sells them in boxes of 60) - I wish they were organic, but oh well. The bags are string less, so at 3:45am (Daylight Savings Time sucks!) I stumble to the microwave, nuke a cup of R-O water, and plop in a tea bag. One HEAPING tiny spoon of Stevia mixed in, I'm ready for conference calls with India, Atlanta, and South Carolina by 4am. Beside the tea cup, I take a 16oz glass of water into my office. Each time the tea cup gets to about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch (6.35 to 12.7mm) from the bottom with tea, I refill from the water glass. As the day goes on, I get 3, 4, 5, sometimes 6 or 7 cups of tea out of it this way. Residual Stevia in the cup continues to compensate for the bitterness of the black tea, and it's a tasty, antioxidant laden, sweet treat, throughout the day. As long as the bottom of the cup is not emptied, the residual tea there acts as a "seed" for the next cup, infusing the refill water with more delicious tea goodness. If the tea gets too weak in the afternoon, then adding a 2nd tea bag along with the first gives an added caffeine boost for the afternoon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The The Infected

Dern you Marketplace background segue music!

Catchy Tune. "It's got a nice beat, and I can dance to it" ... for the last 24 years!

CDS Explained, Simply

I heard Michael Lewis (author of The Big Short) earlier this week being interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show, about the global financial shenanigans, and he explained Credit Default Swaps (CDS) simply, like this:
- your next door neighbor's house use to be worth about $750,000 a few years ago
- the neighborhood has been growing and maturing, and now, it is worth $1,000,000
- seeing this increase in perceived value, you go out, and you buy an insurance policy on your neighbor's house, to insure it for a $1,000,000. It's not your house, it's your neighbor's house.
- now, you take this million dollar policy, and you re-package it, and re-combine it with policies on other neighbor's houses, and you parse it up, and sell it again and again and again, to "spread out your risk".
- after all those re-arrangement shenanigans, that million dollar insurance policy, is NOW worth A BILLION dollars. Remember, your neighbor's house is still only worth a million dollars.

So, with that massive over-value, of a million dollar house, there is SIGNIFICANT incentive to Burn The House Down.

Hearing that, made me SO ANGRY, as the light bulb went off over my head. An hour of yoga later, I felt much better.

Diane asked Lewis "the right says this is all Barney Frank's and Chris Dodd's fault, due to their pushing of the Fair Lending Act". To which Lewis replied 'The Fair lending Act was such a small part of the overall inflation in worthless mortgages. Yes, some mortgages were given out to people who should not have gotten them, but it was the re-packaging of that debt that multiplied the impact 1000s or 10s of thousands of times. It is the largest Wall street investment firms who have the vast majority of the blame who are responsible - those that are 'too big to fail'. Frank & Dodd have 1 to 2% of the blame at most'. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Donut Holes & Epaulets Needed! Stat!

No time for blogging today! I am very busy gathering up all the donut holes I can find before the new Socialist Totalitarian Government Take Over of Health Care takes them all away from seniors on Medicare. I want to corner the market on them, so that when all my fellow Tea Bagger Americans want their Medicare Part D loop holes back, I'll have a Massive supply!

Once I get all the donut holes gathered, I am going to install some GIANT epaulets on some of my jackets, bigger than the ones Optimus Prime has on his shoulders, to keep the Guv-mint from 'looking over my shoulder' when I am at the doctor, monitoring my health care!

Maybe I can enlist Optimus's help in gathering up all the patriotic grandmas too, before Obama's death panels get them! Run grandma run!

At least now, all the child molesters and rapists will be able to FINALLY get some Viagra! Yes, Senator Coburn of Oklahoma (a real medical doctor!) understands psychological disorders and social deviancy so well, that he knows rape is not an act of violence and aggression, noooo! It's a sexual attraction that old white men can't muster enough testosterone to maintain an erection when they try to perform it.

On a bright note, AZ State Attorney General Terry Goddard said today that he is NOT going to join the Confederate Health Care of Umerika's law suits to block implementation of federal health care reform in Arizona, contrary to Governor Janet Brewer's instruction to do so. Goddard sites constitutional scholars on his staff who said it's a frivolous lawsuit with no merit - duh!

When McCain and Kyle keep saying the people of Arizona 'don't want this bill' they need to really check their constituent email. I've been steadily sending both of them correspondence stating they NEEDED to cooperate with the Democrats, collaborate, and work with them - but ideologues don't wanna listen. Oh, and it ain't a bill no more, senators. It's a law. 'Da Nile' is a river in Egypt.

Intimination - Angry Tea Baggers Show Their True Colors

Republicans Continue to Support Violent Opposition:
Congressman's Brother's home cut propane gas lines declared as "collateral damage" at
Bricks thrown through representative Louis Slaughter's (D-NY) office.
Phone threats and obscenities left on congressional voice mails to Stupak.
Death Threats of being a "dead man" to Democratic SW Ohio Congressmen Steve Driehaus from John Boehner - Minority Leader Boehner said of Driehaus: "He's a dead man, he can't go back to Cincinnati's west side"

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Rachel accurately draws a straight line to connect the dots between these current threats, and Timothy McVeigh & militia groups in 1995 who made the same supportive signals to Texas and Idaho Congressional Representatives who advocated violent action prior to the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist bombing. It's not a "wacky extrapolation" or grasping at straws. It's a broader perspective that Republican elected leaders are advocating for their supporters to violently "take back" what they feel they are entitled to have.

The video is worth a watch, link here.

From Hamilton Ohio, with Love

Hell No You Can't (Featuring John Boehner)

I saw this on the end of Olbermann / Beginning of Maddow last night. It was pretty funny & poignant. Very nice juxtaposition

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mercury Cove

Sunday afternoon, home alone, I watched The Cove via Netflix DVD. I did not want to see it in the theater, but thought it would be interesting to see in my own living room. All in all, it was not a terrible documentary. A little too "Discovery Channel Hyped" - where lack of extensive footage of varying events lead to a massive emphasis on preparation, expectation, 'assembling the team', but with only a small portion of the whole film focusing on the dolphin slaughter they were intending to prevent. There were a couple of nearly tear-jerking moments that really played upon human sympathies. Louie Psihoyos did a good job putting together his film that the Japanese government and local Taijii fishermen Did Not want told. Like asbestos farmers, slave traders, and confederate separatists before them, the proud Taijii fishermen believe that what they are doing (in their case, the eradication of dolphins) is a noble cause, a way of life, ingrained in the history of their community. They believe it is akin to "pest control" as the dolphins eat "too many fish".

The Japanese government, through their representative to the International Whaling Commission and their financial lobbying of indebted third world coastal nations to bribe Antigua, St.Lucia, The Marshal Islands, Cambodia, and others, supports this misguided theory. With Japan's substantial financial resources, they donate millions to poor Caribbean, African, and SE Asian nations to vote in concordance with Japan on the promotion of increasing whale slaughters in the name of egotistically stubborn cultural psuedo science. It's pretty sad and twisted. Way of life? Yeah, so was burning of witches, jus primae noctis, and sacrifice to Nanauatl to make sure the sun rose in ancient Mexico.

The Taijii fisherman are ironically right in one way - the dolphins ARE eating alot of fish. As an apex predator in the ocean - dolphins attack sharks, as has testified, in the protection of humans - only people kill able-bodied dolphins. Dolphins eat many pounds of smaller fish per day... smaller fish that ate still smaller fish... that ate accumulated heavy metal contaminated plankton and algae. So the dolphins meat slaughtered around Japan has mercury levels at 2000 ppm. "2000 ppm, so what?" you might ask. Well, 0.5 ppm is considered a "high"level of mercury in commercially caught apex predator fish like tuna, shark, and swordfish. Check out the NIOSH REL and ACGIH TLVs... zoiks! ...and the EPA site as well.

So mercury is really bad stuff to living, breathing, sentient vertebrates. That includes both humans and cetaceans. Except most humans eat less fish than cetaceans consume, so it builds up more quickly in the cetacean's body - especially in muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is a sushi favorite. The higher up the food chain the marine predator is, and more mature it is, the more mercury is in the meat.

This brings me to the most disturbing part of The Cove DVD extras. In the extras, Louie Psihoyos the producer, tells about how he met with a group of 6 Japanese neuroscientists who work at the National Institute for Minamata Disease (NIMD) in Minamata-shi, Kumamoto Japan (link here). These 6 professional, experienced scientists are studying neurological disorders caused by methylmercury poisoning (水俣病, Minamata-byō) - specifically from the widespread mercury poisoning in Minimata in the 1950s by the Chisso corporation.

Japan knows all too well about how nasty mercury poisoning can be. At the dinner, Psihoyos (a vegetarian) ate sushi. It was Japan after-all, and he loves sushi, as many Americans do. NONE of the Japanese neurological researchers ate ANY sushi. Psihoyos noticed this, and asked them why? Unanimously, they said that all sushi is laden with mercury. Surprised, Psihoyos said "well, I love to eat sushi, and I have not had any mercury exposure." The group of researchers all laughed heartily, and recommended that Psihoyos get tested, for residual mercury levels. The next day he did, and it showed levels dozens of times higher than are recommended for human exposure by the US and Japanese governments.

Psihoyos asked the 6 researchers - who all requested to remain anonymous to retain their jobs at the institute - how they determined how much mercury was in sushi. The researchers explained an experiment they ran:
- each researcher took a baseline residual mercury level blood test
- then they began to eat 200g of cheap canned tuna per day, for 30 days (I just checked a single serving can of tuna in my pantry, it is 198g)
- they charted their blood mercury levels, daily
- after 2 weeks of eating one can of cheap tuna a day, all six of the researchers' blood mercury levels DOUBLED.
This alarmed them - as it would alarm me too! So these neuroscientists modified their experiment:
- instead of buying the cheapest canned tuna, they bought the more expensive "sushi grade" tuna, and ate 200g per person, per day.
- they continued to graph their blood mercury levels, daily.
The slope of the graphs of each researcher doubled again, becoming much steeper, much quicker, and at 3 weeks after the start of the experiment, blood mercury levels were now 4X higher than the baseline tests, pre-experiment. The neuroscientists ENDED their experiment, after 3 weeks, and none have eaten sushi since.

To me, that's telling. It's fact, not fiction. I used to enjoy the occasional tuna roll or even a can of tuna as a quick snack... but I am not sure I can comfortably enjoy it again in the future. The mercury accumulation can't be "flushed out" readily by anti-oxidants, or rigorous exercise... it just stays inside the body and slowly makes you less human, attacking the nervous system (blindness, loss of taste, smell, hearing, muscle control, memory, headaches, cognition...). Eating apex predator fish is not worth it to me. And I hope my wife and friends and relatives who are inexorably devoted to sushi & fish consumption don't ingest so much that they begin to accumulate elevated levels of mercury in their bodies as well.

LEAST MERCURY (generally the younger fish, who are not apex predators)
Enjoy these fish:
Crab (Domestic)
Croaker (Atlantic)
Haddock (Atlantic)*
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Perch (Ocean)
Salmon (Canned)**
Salmon (Fresh)**
Shad (American)
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)
Trout (Freshwater)

Eat six servings or less per month:
Bass (Striped, Black)
Cod (Alaskan)*
Croaker (White Pacific)
Halibut (Atlantic)*
Halibut (Pacific)
Mahi Mahi
Perch (Freshwater)
Tuna (Canned
chunk light)
Tuna (Skipjack)*
Weakfish (Sea Trout)

Eat three servings or less per month:
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)*
Tuna (Canned Albacore)
Tuna (Yellowfin)*

HIGHEST MERCURY (all apex predators at top of the food chain in their marine environments)
Avoid eating:
Mackerel (King)
Orange Roughy*
(Bigeye, Ahi)*

* These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods.
** Farmed Salmon may contain PCB's, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.

There's a package of Kroger Frozen Orange Roughy, left over in the bottom of our freezer from when my mother in law came to visit last October while we went to Hawaii. I can't bring myself to cook & eat it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nature by Numbers - Cristobal Vila's brilliance

Many many thanks to Ron's better half JJ for this link (here) that she posted on her social networking "wall". At that linked website, you'll find Spanish filmmaker Cristobal Vila's latest short film Nature By Numbers that was posted on youtube (link here) only 11 days ago - and already has over 100K hits. It is beautiful. Amazing, clear examples of the
Fibonacci Sequence
Golden Ratio
Angle Ratio
Delaunay Triangulation
Voronoi Tessellations, I wish I had this when I was in Jr High and High School, before the interwebs were invented. Wow. And the music, "Often a Bird" by Wim Mertens... almost hypnotic.


...and for those of you with kids who are school aged... please, expose them to this, as early as possible. The earlier they start comprehending these concepts, the sooner they'll see them - Everywhere around us!

The Persistance of Clooney

Fantastic Mr. Fox - Wasn't (fantastic, that is).
Saw it on the plane, or at least the first 70% of it before Delta cut it off. No loss. Kept hoping it would get better, it didn't. Kinda creepy too.

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? - Clooney was very good in it, and it's one of my favorite Coen Brother's movies, after Raising Arizona, Fargo, and No Country For Old Men... and along with Hudscuker, Miller's Crossing, & Burn After Reading. Oh Brother was playing on the TV one night when we got back to the villa and it was raining in St.John (Broadcast out of Puerto Rico).

Up In The Air - Watched it on the return trip. Somewhat likable, and again Clooney acted well. I just didn't like the premise of the film, finding it painful to watch in many places. The plot"twist" to me, was entirely predictable, but I was not the target audience.

On a side note, non Clooney related... I did enjoy "Law Abiding Citizen" which I watched on private video screen on the plane - back of the seat in front of me. It was good to see Gerard Butler keep his shirt on for a change, and I enjoyed the 'look what a driven genius can do' motif, even if it did have a ridiculous ending that was so full of plot inconsistencies as to nearly spoil the film. Overall, I enjoyed the ride that Gary Gray took the viewer on. Too gory for Dr Desert Flower's delicate tastes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sail Pepper - for local flavor

While in St.John, we booked a sunset sail On the 23ft sloop Pepper (link here). Captain Fred and Renee were wonderful hosts. Renee kept the Cruzan rum flowing into our cups as Fred kept a steady hand on the rudder. Initially, the weather threatened to spoil our evening, but by the time we arrived at Maho Bay, the light rain had abated, and winds had died down somewhat.

Fred sailed us out towards Great Thatch Island between Whistling Cay and Mary Point, towards the edge of US / British Territorial boundary. 'The weather started getting rough' but the tiny sloop was not lost. Wave crests that blotted out the view of Great Thatch Island and sent bow spray over the passengers (including Dr Desert Flower's hearing aid! yikes!) began to rock our small craft, when Fred turned us around and back into Francis Bay towards Cinnamon Cay, where Tim and I had tried to snorkel the day before, but had to call it off due to choppy seas. By the second glass of dark rum, my grip on the boat's edge had relaxed. By the third glass, the sun was setting, and I was having a marvelous time. My other cruise-mates had 2 glasses - Tim had to drive the winding mountain roads back to Cruz Bay afterward and the wives are light weights =P

It was Fred and Renee who taught our experienced hosts Tim & Jill the vernacular "St.Trauma" for St.Thomas in 2009 - once you take a careening, poorly maintained, jammed-full-of-tourists van ride from the St.Thomas airport to the Redhook ferry terminal, you'll understand why it's accurately called "St.Trauma". This trip, we learned the traditional jingle about Caneel Bay:
"for the newly wed, and the almost dead. The well fed, and the over-read." There are some suites at the private Caneel Bay resort that go for $12,000 a night - about 40X beyond my price range. I came up with these limerick additions:
"Caneel Bay: for the ridiculously paid who could not otherwise get laid"
"Caneel Bay: for the small member compensating and the chronically constipating"
"More money than sense, collagen lips & silicone chests"
We talked about customs & immigration hassles to get to the British Virgin Islands, the best places to see octopus and sea turtles on the island, how more and more yachts are showing up flagged to the Marshal Islands (damn Republicans and their tax loop holes!). It was a very pleasant cruise.

Pepper also has daytime guided snorkeling cruises as well. Check out their website.

Don't Let the Name Dictate What You Order

Reflecting back on my last business trip, I realize I ate at several restaurants named for one thing famously, and ate something completely unrelated to the names. I enjoyed each meal, be it fine dining haute cuisine, or basic practical fare.

Charleston SC, Fish Restaurant (442 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403)
Though there was a great deal of local fresh Fish on the menu, I am a sucker for duck. I had the Duck l'Orange. My son had the Coq Au Vin. I selected a wonderful Red wine:
Tempranillo Ergo Rioja 2007, which complimented the birds rather well.
For desert I enjoyed the Flourless Chocolate Cake. I can't remember what Christopher had for desert, but he enjoyed his immensely as well.

Then, the next week up in Greenville SC, I ate at:
Panera - Spanish for "Bread Box". There, I had the Caesar Salad that came with a delicious Fuji apple.

Atlanta Bread Company - I had the Greek Salad, which came with a sourdough bread side that I fed to the geese at the corporate pond next to the HQ.

Whenever possible, I avoided generic corporate chain restaurants (Panera and ATL Bread, exempted, as I know their menus) and tried to eat local fare. Being low carb, breakfast was unnecessary. Lunch was eaten out of obligation to colleagues as each meal was a business meeting - a small salad each lunch that left me stuffed. It was good to get home to my wife, my low carb kitchen, and my back yard that was (and still is) in full bloom.

We definitely need to sell this house in the Spring next year or in 2 or 3... it's really so pretty with flowers and fragrance in abundance.

Zemlinsky & Mozart

Last Saturday night, Michael Christie Directed the Phoenix Symphony AND the Phoenix Symphony Chorus in Zemlinsky’s cantata, Frühlingsbegräbnis, and Mozarts first work as a 10 year old, a 90 second Kyrie (K.33), followed by his last work, the unfinished Requiem completed by Robert Levin (K.626). (links here and here). It was a powerful performance. My German is very rusty, and I only caught about 1/3 of the context, but the works were sung with energy, delivered effectively. The vocal soloists were good, but I just don't think I have a refined appreciation for a soloist accompanied by a full symphony. I wasn't MOVED by the soloists, though Jason Grant (Bass) was very expressive. The massive chorus, occupying the stage behind the musicians, did their best to fill the lack luster acoustics of Symphony Hall. It worked. Would have been interesting to hear them at the modern (and nearly acoustically perfect) Peace Center.

Switch, Downtown Phoenix

Dr Desert Flower and I ate dinner at Switch (link here) in Downtown Phoenix last Saturday night before the symphony. It was the third time we've been there. Delicious food. Eclectic decor. Attentive and friendly staff. Convenient parking. Alternative clientele - we were probably the least flamboyant, straightest couple there. She had crepes and Caposaldo Pinot Grigio, and I had the Creole Shrimp with andouille sausage, accompanied by the Correas Malbec (menu here). It was efficiently served, tasty on the pallet, and we heavily tipped. Highly recommended if you are downtown Phoenix and want a lovely place to slip into for an hour or more.


Thanks to my intelligent & lovely wife for pointing out this hilarious old video:

'Word on the street' is that Jim Demint's Facebook and Senate Webpage are being flooded with it. I voted against Jim, the evil land developer from Sullivan's Island, and, a member of The Family.

RNC Language Recently

Republican Rhetoric from elected leaders has turned violent. "Baby Killer" last night. And "Fire Nancy Pelosi-Support the RNC Money Bomb" from a Michael Steele broadcast email today. Killer? Bomb? Really?

The 144 Americans who die every day that they are not insured, that's alot of death as well, but you never heard the RNC talk about that. 104,000 Iraqis killed. That's terribly violent, but I guess those are acceptable deaths according to the RNC.

You'd think a bunch of Old White men - for the most part - would not be so in favor of death, as they have one foot in the grave.

Contrasting Yoga Environments

In the Winter here, I typically do yoga on a yoga mat, poolside, in the sun. The vitamin D is refreshing, gives me a chance to see hummingbirds, smell my lemon tree, and humans are inexorably drawn to bodies of water. It's sort of the "standard" to which all other yoga venues are in my mind. On the pool deck, I use an old, clean, twin bed sheet - that doubles as a painting drop cloth - to keep the dusty pool deck from contaminating my mat.

In the summer here, when the sun's rays bake the yoga mat to a burning 130F+, I have to move inside, or in the the shade at least. When it is not noon +/- an hour, finding full shade can be difficult in the Arizona summer. Doing yoga indoors is not as refreshing and satisfying as it is doing it outside.

When we went to Hawaii last October for a genetics conference, we had a wide ocean view 16th floor balcony on which I practiced yoga almost every day. The breezes and view were invigorating, but the humidity made it a sweaty endeavor. It's the 2nd best place I've ever practiced yoga.

Last August, for our anniversary, Dr Desert Flower and I went to Sedona for the weekend, and there was a balcony there as well on the small Hilton Hotel room I got with HHonors points. Same low humidity and climate as home (a little cooler) but the view was not as good, over-looking a parking lot. (We Did see bats at sunset, which was really cool)

Last month I traveled back to my company's headquarters, and did yoga in the Hilton & Hampton hotel rooms where I stayed each evening. Same sheet barriers used, but Ew! The smell of hotel carpet permeated the sheet and my mat, requiring a thorough cleaning. The softness of the carpet also lead to a "sponginess" that took some getting used to. Watching the Olympics on the TV while doing yoga was also somewhat surreal.

Earlier this month, I attempted to do yoga in St.John US V.I.. The villa's downstairs where we stayed was too tiny to facilitate rolling out a yoga mat, so I attempted to do it on the pool deck just after dawn one morning. Lots of no-see-ums and tiny biting insects appreciated my close proximity to the bougainvilleas at the edge of the pool deck, and enjoyed feasting upon my flesh & blood. That made for a not-so-relaxing experience. 2 days later, I did yoga, pool adjacent, far away from the shrubbery, and this helped to dissuade the insects from biting me, but, it began to rain 15 minutes into the session, sort of spoiling things.

On two different St.John beaches, I practiced yoga. On Cinnamon Beach, I did it at the mangrove tree line, where the sand was firmly compacted. This worked well for standing poses, but seated poses were not a good idea, with the number of crawling insects busily carrying away mangrove fruits and various foliage. For the seated poses, I did those on the towel, in the softer sand, closer to the shore line. I don't like to do yoga in public, and prefer to have some privacy... except after drinking, and then I throw privacy to the wind and my don't-give-a-dern factor tends to multiply.

On Trunk Bay's beach, on our last snorkeling day, I tried to "compact" the sand near the high tide line, a few feet from the end of my towel, with my feet. Gradually, pressing down with my heel and ball of my foot, I tried to "flatten & compress" the sand, in 3 areas about one foot square - one to stand in the middle and one to do spread-leg downward poses for each foot. This was a failure. The sand was not fully compressible via the weight of a 92Kg man. While the venue was lovely, with gently crashing surf behind me, tropical mountains, palms, and soaring pelicans abundant, the shifting sands caused me to pull several muscles and strain connective tissues in the upper legs and lower abdomen. I paid for this on the long flight home the next day, and for 2 days afterwards, hobbling a little - in conjunction with my stubbed toe from 10Mar10.

I cannot recommend anyone taking a yoga mat that they want to keep to a St.John beach, with blowing sand, salt, very soft surfaces, and the impossibility of minimizing contamination. It's really impractical. If you do attempt to do yoga on a sandy beach, be very careful about "extreme" poses that could cause you any strain. Stick to simple seated poses on a large beach towel, and avoid over-extension.

Once, about 30 months ago, I did yoga in business class in a Delta 767-ER on my way back from Barcelona Spain to Phoenix via ATL. No one was seated behind me or beside me in my middle row seat (sparsely populated that flight, 2L, 2 middle, 2 right seating - only United tries to Cram a 3rd seat int he middle of a 767 in the US). The seats reclined to about 170 degrees. Dark cabin lighting gave the illusion of being "alone". The seated poses were easy. Lack of turbulence provided extended opportunities to do the standing poses without being in the aisle. As the passengers disembarked, and elderly lady asked me how long I had been practicing yoga, and that she'd never seen someone do it on a plane. It was only at that point that I realized, the 'illusion of being alone' in the plane's cabin.

As the sun's radiation continues to warm my pool, I plan on swimming in early April - il faut voir. Pool temp is 69F as of yesterday. More sun, and it will continue to climb. I documents last year the beer-pool-yoga, and I intend on renewing that. Wine-pool-yoga may be a lower carb alternative that needs to be explored this year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Now, Senate, it's your turn.

11:30pm Eastern Time... The US House gets enough votes that it FINALLY passes Health Care Reform. (link here).

"6 mins ago

11:30 PM ET: Still a few minutes left before the vote closes, but Democrats have picked up more than the 216 vote necessary and the House will pass the "fixes" they wanted to the Senate bill.

11:19 PM ET: The "motion to recommit" has failed, 199 to 232. The House now moves to its final vote on the fixes it wants to make to the original Senate bill.

11:12 PM ET: CNN is reporting that a Republican member of the House yelled "baby killer!" at Bart Stupak when he stood to speak against the motion to recommit. Reminiscent of Joe Wilson yelling "you lie!" at President Obama last year? We're looking into who it was.

11:08 PM ET: Democrats now have more than the 216 votes against the motion to recommit and will be able to have a vote on the Senate fixes bill."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Snorkel not Snorkel!

Just when I try snorkeling in the Caribbean for the first time in my life last week, and enjoy it tremendously, I don't even get to revel in it for more than a week. Another stupid Congressman goes out and publicly disgraces himself and drags the word 'snorkeling' along with him. Instead of floating serenely looking down at corals and tropical fish, having a school of hundreds fry all around me, or a pelican floating a few feet away from me, at one with the aquatic world before my eyes... the word conjures sophomoric, juvenile, disgusting Navy sexual pranks & unwanted advances. Ew! Thanks Massa, for tainting the word "snorkeling" for English speakers with your fixation on your own taint.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kindle, eReader, or good ole books?

I'll take the good ole books, thank you. My reasons to do so, are legion:
  • there's no on or off switch, so it's fine during take offs and landings
  • once you buy it, it does not cost anything in energy to read it. Sure, you need a source of light to read it at night, but what humans walk around in total darkness all evening?
  • once you buy it, YOU OWN IT. You don't rent it. You can do what you want with it. It's yours.
  • you can give it to anyone as a gift, or as a recommended read
  • you never have to "charge it"
  • in a post-apocalyptic landscape, you can use it as fuel for a fire, or as a spacer, or ballast... there's no shortage of post-apocalypse uses.
  • you can mark notes in the margins
  • you can use it to hold your boarding pass, or other documents
  • it's fully recyclable, and requires very little fossil fuels to produce
  • Southern Pines grow so fast in the SE that they can generate a nearly unlimited supply of renewable, cheap paper. No need to go to Saudi Arabia or anywhere else to get the resources for the petroleum based plastics that go into an electronic book reader.
  • No need to mine copper, gallium, or a host of other expensive elements of which the US is resource poor and must rely upon imports to sustain manufacturing.
  • If you're a tea bagger, and want something to burn (pre-apocalypse) at an angry rally, it works well for that too
  • when you take it to the beach, and sand gets blown over it on a windy day, it will not damage or endanger a book
  • you can use it to shade yourself from the sun, or a bright light, when held at the right orientation or when laid over your face on a day at the beach.
  • if it gets a little wet (at a pool, in the rain, at a squirt gun fight, in a sprinkler accident), it will not fail. Just fan it out to dry, and it'll be fine. A little wrinkly perhaps, but it will not be ruined.
  • you can show it off if you want to as you read it. It has a Cover! And if you want to be clandestine, you can cover the book with your own book cover as I was required to do for text books in grade school
If you want an eReader or a Kindle, I am happy for you. Good for you. I have no use for them, and if anyone gives me one, I will re-gift it to some tech-hungry youngster who does not share my appreciation for the more traditional ways of reading.

The Scent of a Blooming Lemon Tree

Our organic lemon tree in the back yard is in full bloom this week. It's aroma is very close to that of jasmine. Hummingbirds cannot resist it, flying sorties in and out of the branches, drinking from the tiny little blossoms, some so small, you can't see them from more than a few feet away.

One thing the inter-webs can't do it replicate smells. It's a same. The backyard - when there is no wind - is flooded with the wonderful fragrance. When there's a gentle breeze, it wafts to the nostrils, deliciously... intoxicating.

Planted 2 years ago, in our first Fall in Arizona, it was no more than 6 feet tall in a 30 gallon bucket that the 4 Mexicans and their bi-lingual 20-something Caucasian supervisor from Moon Vally Nursery planted, far too close to a pygmy palm that it now over-shadows, and 6 feet from an Ocotillo that ravaged the North side of the tree last year (no lemons borne there), but which has been since transplanted to my new neighbor's house. Now, the tree is over 12 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and producing copious fruit and blooms.

Highly recommended if you are a transplanted mid westerner or north easterner to the Sonoran desert, and are obsessed with wanting to grow your own citrus in the land of plentiful sunshine and desiccant-like low levels of humidity.

Jon Stewart Channels Guano Beck Perfectly, Again

Last night's Daily Show (link here) was a keeper for sure. Jon did a perfect Beck - it's easy and very funny to parody the craziest people. Last November (link here) he did a piece on the misguided Mormon, but last night's show opening was hilarious, magnificent, dead on. "Conservative Libertarian" - every time I watch the clip, I cannot stop chuckling.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Almost there...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rachel Maddow had a very nice fact filled summary and time line last night on what is ahead on the health care reform bill. When each provision would kick in for children, for:
  • pre-existing conditions,
  • rescission,
  • max yearly benefits,
  • being able to cover your children until they are 26,
  • not being able to be denied coverage,
  • 85% of your health care premium being required to provide health care back to you, etc etc
The amount of guano, hysterical, truly insane "the sky is falling" tea bagger and repugnican rhetoric is reaching a crescendo, against health care reform, against complying with the census, by the birthers & other conspiracy theorists. Rachel documented some of that too. It's far too much for me to repeat here, but definitely worth a watch.

If it doesn't get passed, then there really way more insane, selfish (I got mine, FU!), gullible nut-jobs in the US than I thought, and far too many spineless federal politicians. We shall see.

Common Atkins Errors

Dr. Davis has a nice post (link here) about common errors Atkins dieters make. I'm not an Atkins follower, despite being categorized that way by people who are afraid of fat and nutritionally brainwashed by the misinformed. Dr. Davis makes some excellent points. I too need to eat less bacon - it's become like a food group to me, and I don't want gastrointestinal cancer, so I'll cut down on it. He's said, as I have said many times (and Michael Pollan has too) "We should consume less meat, more vegetables and other plant-sourced foods." I concur completely.

On the over-consumption of dairy, I've virtually eliminated dairy from my diet except for aged cheeses and butter. I think I'm moderating these intakes very well, and my Hemoglobin A1c testifies to that. I do miss the yogurt though...

Excessive caloric intake and weight gain is not an issue for me personally. 204 before vacation. 213 after vacation. 207 last night after dinner. 206 at 11am today after bacon & eggs... darn... there's that bacon again!

OK... less bacon going forward. =)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Cruz Bay Iguanas

The villa we rented on the South Shore of Great Cruz Bay in St.John was smack dab in the center of Iguanaville.

There were iguanas in the palm trees lounging on fronds.

Iguanas in the wisteria - which they munched as a delicacy like a cat devours catnip.

Iguanas being very very friendly to each other on the drive way.

Iguanas posing for photos on the drive way.

Lounging iguanas are very cool, and by proxy, very relaxing. We saw a few in the wisteria along Great Cruz Bay Rd. The ones in the palms above the pool, we kept thinking (and hoping) that one would fall down into the pool and swim around, but no such luck. The largest iguanas we saw were about 4 feet long.

Iguanas are not graceful climbers. The slowly amble up a sturdy tree trunk, and find a sunny spot to soak up solar radiation for their cold blooded metabolism. Once they're sufficiently warmed up, they don't bother to climb down. No, instead they leverage their potential energy and drop down into the bushes below. I've heard stories of iguanas dropping 60 feet onto hard ground and not being injured - how they do it, I do not know. We watched many an iguana drop from the 30 foot palms, the 15 ft tropical lemon trees to the driveway, and the 15 foot tall wisteria bushes.
Once they drop into the bushes, they slowly & awkwardly crawl about, seeking out leaves and nutritiously delicious flowers - they are vegetarians.

We really enjoyed hanging out with the iguanas, and thought they added ambiance to the villa. Very cool reptiles.

First Day of Phoenix AC

House internal temp got up to 78F today, so I turned on the AC, thermostat set at 76F, for the first time all year. We didn't run the central heat all winter - yeah, there's no climate change. It's a myth [last year, we ran the furnace throughout January & February].

Pool should be warm enough to swim in by Easter! il faut voir.

A Useful St.John Prayer

This was seen at The Tap Room, in Cruz Bay US V.I.

The Tap Room is a fine place to imbibe some of the island's finest beers.

Limin Time Sunset

Arizona has some lovely sunsets for sure... but Greater Cruz Bay in St. John US V.I. gets it's share of lovely sunsets as well.

Keep in mind, the camera settings were not optimum in this photo, as nearly every sunset, my blood alcohol content was "do not drive" level. But it was beautiful.

What To & What Not To Take to St.John

In case you're thinking about going on a tropical island vacation, I've compiled this short preparation guide, to help you if you've never been to the Virgin Islands before.

First, what you don't have to worry about:
What not to take on a St.John Vacation
(when staying in a rental villa with Caribbean Villas & resorts)
- more than one large roll-on luggage bag per person
- an Igloo Cooler; the villa we rented had 3
- Laundry Detergent; I took a sample pack of Tide, there were 3 other packets at the villa and a large box of powdered Tide as well. There was fabric softener too.
- Garbage Bags; ample supplies of kitchen and large trash bags were provided
- Bug repellent (DEET); villa had 3 spray cans
- more than 2 pairs of socks
- dress shoes; it's all casual
- rum; it's extremely cheap on the island
- bath towels & wash cloths
- an umbrella; you're gonna get wet, don't worry about it
- plastic 16oz drinking cups; villa provided. The 4 I brought, remained unused
- wet wipes / baby wipes; villa recycling septic systems can't take them
- a jacket or sweater; it's the tropics and it does not get cold
- a National Park Pass; it doesn't get you into the beaches where you have to pay for access, but it's ok, since it is only $4
- a bottle opener or cork screw; the villa had a plethora

Before your first trip to one of the 3 small groceries on the west side of the island, take an inventory of what is in the fridge and pantry. We found Tequila, Jim Beam, Sambuca, 2 bottles of Margarita mix, 3 bottles of salad dressing, pickles, butter, blue berry preserves. We left the Jim Beam & Sambuca =P Bleh! Then, at the grocery, be careful not to over-buy food. Remember, it's all brought in by ferry and the prices are hiked accordingly.
- $7 Ben & Jerry's pints
- $5 Organic Spinach
- $8 Orville Redenbacher 3 pack of Popcorn
...we left in the condo, for good karma.

What one should bring on a St.John Island Vacation
- tons of sunscreen; 1 can of spray/day in the sun
- cash; many places do not accept credit cards (like the ferry ticket office!)
- waterproof camera with which to take underwater photos, or photos in the rain
- flask of favorite whiskey; I brought Makers Mark
- dried Fruit & nuts; Apricots, Mango, Almonds, etc
- antihistamines if you have allergies; it's the tropics, everything is in bloom
- duffel bag to put island purchases in for the flight home
- beach towels, 2 per person. Yes, the condo provided 4 towel, but it's nice to have extras.
- Ipod; villa had speakers in each bed room and the living room area
- shampoo & soap sample sizes
- yoga mat & an old sheet to spread out under it (villa provided mats were really disgusting, covered in little kid goo & slime)
- books to read; I took Armageddon in Retrospect, K.Vonnegut; A Brief History of Time, S.Hawking; The Truth About Chuck Norris - 400 Facts About The World's Greatest Human, I.Spector; Afghanistan - A Short History of Its People And Politics, M.Ewans, and finished all except the Ewans work)
- Organic Lemons (& Limes if you got'em) from your backyard citrus trees for your drinks
- PATIENCE. Not much happens quickly on the island. Foot & auto traffic is slow. Service is slow. Progress is slow. Swimming while snorkeling is very slow.

Money leaves your pocket quickly. The weather changes quickly. I've heard barracuda swim very quickly, but we did not see any barracuda this trip - not even that guano crazy barracuda-wanna-be governor who quit her job and now spends her time on Facebook and getting paid to talk to the gullible!

I hope you find this short guide helpful. If you have any questions, do not be shy about asking in the COMMENTS section!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Best Scrambled Eggs

While in the Caribbean, our friend Tim cooked us all bacon and eggs each morning - except for the one morning we all went to Jake's, and the last morning where I cooked up the last package of bacon just before we had to check out at 10am. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy, and delicious. Tim's an excellent chef.

His method was as follows:
  1. Bring the large eggs to room temperature - a bowl of warm tap water, helped to accelerate this process.
  2. Add about a teaspoon to tablespoon of half and half per egg (we had no cream)
  3. Whisk with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  4. Non stick pan with butter on medium low heat (villa had a gas stove)
  5. Increase to medium high heat once curds start to form
  6. Serve from bowl with a large spoon, to keep the fluffy yellow eggs in-tact, accompanied with buttered toast, bacon, coffee or tea
My attempt to duplicate the same method chez moi this afternoon did not produce the ethereally light texture, as I used left over 2% milk from my mother-in-law's visit, and did not let the eggs come to room temperature before scrambling them. I'll have to try again tomorrow. =)

South by SW - Stella By Starlight

Our son has begun to do some studio work, and play drums live with a Charleston SC based group "Stella By Starlight"(link here). It's an interesting band with a unique sound. This week he will be playing with them in Austin Texas at the South By Southwest 2010 music and art Conference (link here). If you're going to the festival, check them out. If you're not in the neighborhood, you can listen to some of their tracks, links are here, here, here, and here.

Seatguru does not lie

The Seatguru site (link here) does not lie. Delta's 757s suck. Most of the 757s are older than my son and are in severe need of an upgrade. Delta has refurbed a few, but most are Reagan era builds. Uncomfortable, tightly spaced seats that do not recline. Scratched windows with shades that don't go up or down easily. Blurry/static-filled over-head screens that anyone over 5'11" bashes their head into when getting up to use the antiquated, poorly ventilated, cramped bath rooms. Dr Desert Flower and I sat in 6C and 6D from St.Thomas to Atlanta.

The tricky part of Seatguru, is understanding which of the many different configured aircraft that the airline will shuffle you onto. The plane you booked your ticket on may be downsized to something smaller if they don't sell out (or over-sell) the flight.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mystery of Missing Checked Bags, Solved

As we were sitting in one of Delta Airline's 757-200s at the tiny St. Thomas Airport Saturday for an hour, waiting to take off, I heard the head ground crewman say to the pilots at the cockpit door "too heavy? by how much?" A moment later, the yellow vested crew chief exited the aircraft and the pilot announced "we have a problem with our weight and balance in the flight computer, it's a safety issue we're working on, sorry for the delay." Well, weight and balance can be a problem in small and large aircraft, sure. I've been on Lufthansa CRJ aircraft (20 rows of seats) flights where they asked you your weight before they assigned you a seat, and Gawd Forbid you change seats mid-flight, or the Air Nazis, er, I mean Flight Attendants would reprimand you to return to your original seat At Once! Jawohl!

So when Dr Desert Flower, who was seated beside me next to the window, said "they're off loading bags!" - it did not surprise me. I'd heard the forward cargo door open beneath our seats a moment before. She counted 10 large roll on bags (approx 50 lbs a piece) being off loaded. None of them had the yellow "Priority" tags on them, as ours did, since we flew 1st class and I am a medallion member frequent flier with Delta. The St.Thomas ground crew placed all 10 bags on a large rolling cart, wheeled it away from the aircraft, and there it sat, for another 30 minutes. Once the pilots rebooted the flight computer enough times to get it to take the new weight and wind speeds, they closed the cargo door, drove the conveyor belt truck away, and left the 10 bags on the ground, as we took off for Atlanta.

So the next time you're booking a trip on a full flight, and you're checking a bag, consider that your bag is not intrinsically linked to you and your boarding pass. Your checked bag is just more ballast in the hull of the ship, that may be jettisoned if the Boeing software can't reconcile the passenger, cargo, fuel, and provisions' weight inputs. Why they didn't empty out the lavatory sumps (liquid human waste weighs alot more than checked luggage) I do not know. Somewhere, some MBA calculated that it is cheaper to pay for lost luggage & courier delivery than it is to pay a waste discharge fee in the St. Thomas airport, and so those 10 bags that some "non priority" customers were counting on had less value to Delta than the blue dyed human waste stored in the plane's lavatory tanks.

How do I know they didn't discharge the lavatory waste? The surly flight attendant who refused to give me a double whiskey on the rocks (really? you can't serve a double? the last 5 flights I took this month had no problem serving me one... but ok young missy, it's your plane and your rules) brought around a snack tray that previously had Sun Chips on it, before it reached Dr. Desert Flower and I in the last row of 1st class. Now Sun Chips are not low carb, but they are tasty, so I inquired "are there any more chips?". "No, we only have what we brought from Atlanta on board" the Flight Matron replied. An hour after we took off, she came around to "take our order" of "curry chicken, or curry chicken, since the pasta is imaginary" (those were her words, seriously). Twenty 1st class seats, and she admitted "They only gave us 7 pastas in Atlanta". Would have sucked if I was a vegetarian. I told her that curry would leave me in the lavatory the rest of the flight, and she brought up a fruit and cheese plate that they were selling back in coach - which was the only nice thing she did for me (1 of 20 1st class passengers she looked after) the whole flight.

So Delta sends planes to the V.I. with round trip provisions. Delta Doesn't take on food or water once they land in the V.I., and doesn't discharge human waste, taking on Only Fuel - since it would be unsafe to land with 60% full fuel tanks. Besides, a 757-200 doesn't really have a safe 8 hour flight range with 2 full power take offs involved. And Delta (now the "world's largest airline) values not paying the waste disposal fees on the island more than they value re-uniting passengers with their checked luggage. Wow.

It looks like Delta took on all of Northwest's worst customer service aspects, and repainted their aircraft white after absorbing them. What a shame. I used to like flying Delta.

Extreme Moisture / Dryness

In the mode of Khan's "Dirty silverware stored next to clean" contrast, the remarkable moisture content of tropical humid air vs desert dry air still has my senses reeling. Phoenix has an average relatively humidity less than 30% for 350 or so days a year. It's the Sonoran desert, it's supposed to be dry, and full of cacti. The Virgin Islands get very little annual rain fall, and have a very harsh climate. Sure it is tropical, and has twice as much humidity as the Sonoran desert, but we saw fence post cacti, prickly pear, and various ocotillo like succulents all over St.Thomas and St.John... and it rained for 60% of the vacation, but that's highly unusual for the V.I.

Sweating in the Virgin Islands meant being wet for most of the day, and changing clothing more than once a day. Sweating in Phoenix (except in July and August) is nearly imperceptible on exposed skin with a light breeze, as it nearly instantaneously evaporates while the human body tries desperately to cool itself through turbulent convection enhanced evaporation. Yet both locales support succulents, small lizards, and have a general lack of land based gastropod mollusks. Mold thrives in RH above 65% - as the Carolinas were covered in the stuff on nearly every surface (side walks, deck chairs, siding, brick, crawl spaces, air vents, closet walls, etc). The Sonoran desert has a definite lack of a mold-friendly environment. The V.I. had somewhere in the middle ground between SC and AZ in regards to observable mold, at least in the places tourists go (I did not inspect any crawl spaces while I was vacationing there).

We ran a dehumidifier in the rental villa for a day, and it FILLED the 2 gallon reservoir in about 10 hours. Wow. Quite humid. I could run a dehumidifier here in Phoenix all month and not get that much.

So my respiratory system went from a tropical, humid, semi-moldy environment in the V.I., to the mold haven of Atlanta Hartsfield airport Saturday evening, and onward to the desiccant like Sonoran desert by midnight Saturday night. At least the coughing spells have decreased incrementally, since last Friday evening. Now if I can just get back into drinking a 1/2 dozen large glasses of water a day, since the cheap Caribbean rum is now 4 time zones away. =)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Triangle Man Enjoys A Beer At The Beach

Drinking cans of Amstel Light on the beach was an afternoon staple. The Dutch had colonized the Virgin Islands when the Danes cold not get anyone to immigrate there to run the spice plantations that were manned with slave labor. Amstel is brewed in The Netherlands, and is one of the least expensive - and most drinkable - beers on St. John. Glass is of course, prohibited on the beach. The last time I had Amstel Light was some 20 years ago when I unknowlingly walked into a bar in Chicago Wrigleyville's Boys Town area on Lincoln one rainy afternoon about 20 years ago with Skeets and Sam so that Sam could talk to one of her friends who worked there / danced who was having some social crisis. It was the only bottled beer that Chicago bar / club served, so it was with some reluctance that I agreed to Amstel last week, but hey, it's been 20 years, these were cans (not bottles). The sun was intense - we went through 2 spray on cans of factor 50 sun block, one large Coppertone SPF30 bottle, and several other small sizes of 15 & 30 block... and a case of Amstel Light.

Rain, Drink, Snorkel, Rain, Drink...

Our week in St.John with our close friends Tim & Jill was quite rainy, but also alot of fun. Dr Desert Flower and I learned to snorkel. Tim & Jill had been there the year before & "knew the island" so Tim piloted the Jeep Liberty rental over snaking, hair-pinned, narrow, steeply inclined, vaguely maintained mountain roads adeptly, and guided us to the beaches:

  • Monday, Salt Pond - we saw sea turtles! urchin, coral, sponges, and many, many fish
  • Tuesday, Hawksnest - choppy seas, too rough for me to snorkel, and then it rained
  • Wednesday, Cinnamon Bay - it rained after being there less than 2 hours
  • Thursday night, Maho Bay - went on a sunset cruise on the 23 foot sloop "Pepper" (more on that later)
  • and finally, on our last day of snorkeling, Trunk Bay - awesome snorkeling in the Nation's only underwater National Park trail

The week went sort of: Rain, Drink, Snorkel, Rain, Drink... [repeat]. Cruzan rum is bottled on St. Croix Virgin Islands, and it pretty darn cheap ($9.99 a liter) and delicious. Unlike Bacardi, Cruzan gives me no "bolt gun to the forehead" headache. It rained like a biblical flood the day we arrived, and waited for our luggage to offload from the ferry in a downpour. Then Sunday night, we tried to eat a new beach-side cafe called "The Spyglass" and it was akin to The Bishop's last golf game in Caddy Shack with torrential winds blasting the entire bar - a soggy credit card receipt, blown back hair, soaked clothing, after 10 minutes and 4 fish tacos, we sought more secure shelter. Monday morning the radio announced that St. John had hit a new record 1 day rain fall! Lucky us!

Maintaining a good face mask seal for snorkeling is easier when your face is not covered in sun tan lotion. Snorkel first, apply sun screen later. Spit in your mask, and smooth out the mucus-y spit with your fingertips. Think that's gross? Ok, then enjoy the fog that will fill your mask. Put your fins on IN the water, not ON the shore, and in waist deep water to aid in buoyancy. Face the shore - it's easier to walk backwards in fins. Swim calmly and slowly, and not flailing about, and fish tend to i) approach you curiously, ii) use you from shelter from predatory birds overhead, or iii) ignore you completely and go about their business iv) use you as a hunting blind to circle around and eat some of the tiny fry that have formed a huge school on the other side of the floating biped. Having a respiratory infection with a cough is NOT conducive to enjoyable snorkeling, as coughing up mucus and blood into one's snorkel is unpleasant and attracts the wrong kind of aquatic life - better to rest upon the shore and get your lungs' capabilities back to normal. If you've never snorkeled before, splurge on a good snorkel with a valve that pops shut when it submerges. It helps to minimize the amount of "salt water nebulizer" effect of gurgling and inhaling stray sea water (those of you with small children or severe asthma know what a "nebulizer" is).

Don't bother packing an umbrella. It's just dead weight, and you won't have it with you when the tropical rains blow in. If you do keep it in your hand, that hampers your beer, whiskey, and rum drinking, and it'll get blown away / inverted by the tropical winds. Leave it at home. We over-packed, by a factor of two - dragged home a 50 pound checked back of clean clothes & yoga mats. Completely unnecessary. One large checked bag is all you need for a week on St.John. More on that later... many posts to come!