Friday, April 30, 2010

2005 Luis Segundo Correas Malbec Valle Las Acequias

Along with the Monte Ducay Cariñena, I picked up a $9.99 Malbec at Trader Joe's. I have to admit, I am sort of a sucker for modest labels. If there's some kind of art work, or hologram, or tongue-in-cheek name, I tend to avoid buying or drinking it (Fat Bastard, Menage-a-trois, DaVinci, Pinot Evil, etc). But if it's a straight forward, unpretentious label, where I can see
varietal (Malbec), year it was bottled (2005 in this case), region (Mendoza, Argentina), and it's not flashy or ostentatious, and it's less than $12, I'll probably try it.

Only thing this wine was missing was a D.O.C., or government quality control demarcation... but this wine was a good one, especially for less than $10. I enjoyed it this week, as have several other online reviewers (links here, here, here, and here). It was bold, but my bottle was not overwhelmingly so. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy it as well.

Monte Ducay Reserva 2005

Browsing trader Joe's wine aisle last Sunday afternoon in Arrowhead, I spotted this yellow paper wrapped Spanish Red: 2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena Reserva (Spain, Aragón, Cariñena) for a whole $6. There were 2 bottles left on the shelf, in a space that used to hold at least 2 cases, so I grabbed both. I was not disappointed.

Very drinkable. Expand your horizons beyond Merlot and Cabernet, and try some Cariñena. It's good stuff. Others agree (links here, here, and here). And now, I have another bottle to enjoy, or take to friends this weekend!

The Defense of Marriage Blanket

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this gem. Though Dr Desert Flower and I don't have much of a need for one, we know several households who might benefit... for only 3 easy payments of $39.99! (use digestive enzyme supplements! They work! ...or stop eating frankenfood industrialized junk, that is indigestible.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

By Yemen

"Byyyyyyyy Yemen" - the guys at Mennen Speed Stick have to hate this video (link here) from the Daily Show.

I heard on the radio earlier this month, that the little spoiled brat (Anwar al-Awlaki) from the United States who fancies himself a rebel jihadist, now relocated to Yemen, where he can mis-interpret the Qaran and recruit the feeble minded, disenfranchised, and other spoiled brats like himself to his mis-guided cause of hatred, is now on the military's and CIA's "dead or alive" list. There'll be a predator assassination via hellfire missile.. in Yemen. It's just a matter of time now.

Portuga Vinno Regional Estremadura

Along with the cheap Malbecs that I picked up at Sprouts last week, I purchased a $6 Portuguese wine - 2007 Portuga, Vinho Regional Estremadura, imported by HGC importers, San Jose CA. It wasn't bad, for $6. My last encounter with Portuguese wine was with a group of Spanish clients, at a business dinner, where they elected to go to a Brazilian Steak House (all you can eat protein). NEVER offer a Portuguese wine to a group of Spanish customers - really, really, bad idea.

It was only the 2nd time I was threatened with a knife at dinner. The other was a Frenchman from Alsace who was FIERCELY patriotic & "Anti-Allemagne" when I mis-spoke to say that Belfort was "both German & French".

It's not easy to find good, drinkable $5 and $6 bottles of wine in the US, but I am going to keep trying.

Funniest Unintentionally Sexual Books

Thanks to my buddy Todd for this hilarious link (here)

Goodbye Peanut Butter

Now that I have discovered Almond Butter at Trader Joe's - and it is gluten free, vegetable oil free, vegan friendly - I will likely never eat Peanut Butter again. The stuff is heavenly delicious. I never knew such a food stuff existed.
Almond butter on organic celery
Almond butter as an ice cream topping
Almond butter on crackers ir "Almond Butter & Jelly" (if you want the carbs from the crackers or bread)
Dried Apricots dipped in almond butter
72% Cocoa Squares with almond butter spread on them

...and each time, licking off the butter knife of it's creamy goodness. MMMMMM.

This is one of the '4 food groups' now, chez nous. I don't think the jar will last longer than a week before it is empty and in the recycling bin.

The solid pound of dark chocolate lasts just about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Large Events, Juxtaposed

Eyjafjallajokul erupted this month, for the first time in over a hundred years, halting commercial air traffic over Europe as it's ash cloud spread. It is a natural occurrence, not caused by, or accelerated by, man's puny efforts to control his environment. Force Majeure.

Looking at the photos below of the lightening in the ash cloud, it is easy to see how the Norse believed Gods lived within the Earth, and were angry when roused and brought out into the wider world. Fascinating, frightening, stunning, beautiful.

These ash clouds extended upwards of 50,000 feet at times. Amazing. It's nature.

Contrast this with the complete incompetence British Petroleum has exhibited this week in deep water oil rig safety, floating platform fire suppression, automatic well head emergency shut off at depths of greater than 5000 feet, humility to not brag about how they are spending $3 million a day (and would have been MAKING how much?) in trying to clean up the mess they own and created. BP, who purchased the mega conglomerate of Amoco 12 years ago, will now be the largest polluter of the Gulf of Mexico. They're going to be "setting fire to parts of the slick with flares" later today - some of the 3% of the millions of gallons of sweet crude that are near the surface and not yet dispersed.

Completely avoidable, but that would eat into profits.

And it will take weeks, or months, to drill relief wells that will reduce the pressure of the broken spaghetti mess of pipes that are currently spewing crude oil into the gulf.

One massive emission into the environment again, Completely Natural and unavoidable. The other, completely man made, and totally avoidable. Yes, accidents happen, but this is a colossal screw up that killed 11 petroleum workers so far, and will kill untold numbers of birds, fish, turtles, plants... wiping out entire ecosystems, all in the name of "drill baby drill!"

TMBG - Don't Let's Start

They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start
this has been running through my head all morning... perhaps partially inspired by someone on FB (that I don't know) who was itchin' for a fight that I won't give them.

"Wake Up! Smell the cat food, in your bank account"

"Everybody dies, frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Birthday DDF

Dr Desert Flower Turned 32 last week, while she was out traveling to DC for work. I got her a potted ficus (cut flowers don't last, and are only temporarily lovely) and this little plaque that the florist conveniently had near the cash register - point of purchase =P

Our octogenarian cat still tries to get out - we got her from the shelter... and she was a year old and an "single mother" who has just weened several little mouths when we got her.

Our septuagenarian cat is afraid of her own shadow, paranoid, and would die of fright if we took her outside... so she will never try to escape.

Cheap Malbecs

As a son of Eastern European immigrants, I have inherited some serious cheapness. When I am at Sprouts, and I see a $4.99 Malbec, it is hard for me to pass it up. Malbecs, in my perspective, are under-appreciated.

These 2 selections were drinkable, and for $5 a bottle, just fine.

The Marcus James Malbec Mendoza 2009, is OK (links here, here, and here). The Falling Star Malbec Cuyo Argentina 2008 is not bad (links here, here and here). I was happy to find both at Sprouts, on sale. At $5 a bottle, they're hard to beat for a drinkable table wine.



I am reading Martin Ewans' incredibly insightful history of Afghanistan, and I cannot stop thinking of Family Guy's Glenn Quagmire. Not for his lecherous, inappropriate, obnoxiousness... but for his last name. Sending more 'trainers' to ramp up the Afghan army to 300,000 strong (announced today)? There's a large sucking sound coming out of the Hindu Kush and Helmand River Valley... =(

Grant Park Chicago, August...

Green Day
Social Distortion
Jimmy Cliff
Gogol Bordello
Blues Traveler it worth a flight to Chicago the first weekend in August? Some of the other bands / acts playing in Grant Park that weekend give me a down-right allergic negative reaction. I don't know. Part of me WANTS to go, but a more rational part of me says "bad idea" - like the classic skit, "bad idea jeans".

73% won't last long

Dr Desert Flower picked up these dark Belgian chocolate covered almonds at Trader Joe's last Sunday. YUM! they are not lasting long. They'll be gone by the weekend.

Highly recommended, and good for you too!


Gustav Holst - Moving

Every time I hear Gustav Holst's "The Planets" performed well, I find it quite moving.

Dr Desert Flower and I enjoyed the Greenville Symphony Orchestra playing "The Planets" at the Peace Center years ago, and it gave me a lump in my throat, almost bringing me to tears of joy. Powerful stuff.

Other planets:
Jupiter (amazing)
Venus (serene)

Strafed By A Tarantula Hawk

I was strafed by a Tarantula Hawk for the first time this year, while weeding & picking up trash and cigarette butts from my front yard yesterday. The body the size of a jump drive, and wings that sound like dry paper fans slapping, these massive insects always startle me a little bit when they fly close by.

I know they're not interested in me, since I have just 2 legs and not 8, but it's a little unnerving to have them flying within arm's reach (mine, not theirs) .

My milkweed's flowers look just like these (sans mites in the close-up). The tarantula hawks get "drunk" on the milkweed nectar, and tend to fly in slow lazy circles after feasting. I don't want one of these girls mistaking me for a threat.

I've not yet seen a tarantula or scorpion ("Rock you like a hurricane!") in my yard... but I know they exist in the Sonoran desert. As our sub division is built upon reclaimed farm land, the Orkin Pest control told me that the residual pesticides the farmers used cleared out most all of the indigenous ground critters years before the homes were built. That has a good foreboding for termite eradication as well, since we have only the ground dwelling ones here, and not the swarming Formosan termites that the South East US and Hawaii tend to get.

Monday, April 26, 2010

with Apricots

For my money, English Stilton with Apricots is much more tasty than Wensleydale with Apricots. Costco sells they LARGE Ford Farms cheeses, and the Wensleydale has a somewhat bitter, lingering after taste that neither I nor Dr. Desert Flower enjoys very much.

Trader Joes on the other hand, sells these wedges of English White Stilton that are marvelous. Smooth, a touch of sweetness, creamy, delicious! they also sell a "with dates" variety, but we like the apricots better.

Had you told me I'd be eating ANY cheese with fruit in it a year ago before I went low carb, I would have laughed at you. Now, it's a staple in our refrigerator, enjoyed often.

Château Bois Redon, Bordeaux Supérieur

Château Bois Redon, Bordeaux Supérieur, from Total Wine, is a wonderful $10 Bordeaux. It is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Some reviewers don't like it (link here) but others, myself included, enjoyed it (link here and here and here).

As the Bordeaux producers raise their prices, this is a lower priced hold out that is worth buying, and enjoying, inexpensively.

Alfio Moriconi Selections at Total Wine have consistently impressed me, for consistent quality and good variety. A good "go to" wine.

Oasis Mediterranean Hummus with Pine Nuts

This stuff, is da bomb. A giant tub, for $7 at Costco. Organic celery, or organic carrots (for me), I cannot get enough of this stuff. Cumin, olive oil, pine nuts, chickpeas, it's delicious. I've found I can devour a tub of it in a week, left to my own devices while Dr Desert Flower is busy jetting off to conferences. She prefers it with whole wheat pitas - too many carbs for me.

Costco also has jalapeno flavored tubs of this hummus as well, but I don't like my hummus to have a kick. Introduced to it by our friend Tory in Gilbert earlier this month, I'm on my third tub already. MMMMM

Cheap, Drinkable Leccino Zin

At Fresh & Easy last week, I picked up a Leccino Lodi (California) 2006 Zinfandel for $5.99. Like many other Zins, it was very flavorful, but this one was not overwhelmingly so. Fruity, akin to a Syrah, it went well with Pollo Asada and Carne Asada that I grilled up over a 3 day period.

It's nothing to "write home about" but it was not bad. For $6 it is hard to beat.

Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black

Thanks to my buddy Dave for this insightful link (here). Awesome contrast.
"Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" - by Tim Wise.

Drill Baby Drill, all along the Deepwater Horizon!

Another long term, awesome idea, brought to you by Quick Creationists and other Fundamentalist fools. Link here, to the Deepwater Horizons complete cluster f*ck.

Yeah, let's install these all along the East Coast, Northern Slope, and California Coast! I love me the fossil fuels!


Brought to you by America's Natural gas and Petroleum Industry and API, their lobbying group. [Funny, API's website doesn't mention the platform failure and massive spill... hmmm]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Lupus of News

Alongside the ancient Roman rapper quotes from Catallus that TDS evoked last week, Jon Stewart accurately called Fox News "The Lupus of News":
"Fox News, you may be able to detect a 'liberal pathogen in their blood stream', however faint. But Fox News is such a crazy over reaction to that perceived threat, you're like an auto immune disorder. I'm not saying the virus doesn't exist in some small quantity, but you're producing waaay too many anti-bodies. Fox News, you're the Lupus of News."

So very funny, because it is so completely accurate.

And yes, Lupus is a terrible disease that many people suffer chronically from, but as the Daily Show Field Producer "7" stated on TDS forum: "I suppose there should be no jokes about death either. Or diarrhea because diarrhea sucks. Or farting loudly in an elevator because anyone who's done it surely is scarred for life. Or divorce. Or broken bones. Or or or."

And anecdotally, it cracks me whenever House's (a Fox Show) team tries to call whatever disease they are over-analyzing "lupus". No House writers, it's not lupus.

I will be quite sad, and we'll all be at a loss, the day that Jon Stewart retires from TDS. His shoes will be hard to fill. Maybe at that point I'll just cancel my satellite Qwest subscription and watch Colbert downloads online.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Toppington Von Monocle

Toppington Von Monocle, Jon Stewart's "biggest fan" quotes the ancient Roman philosopher Catullus's Poem 16 on the show, (link here) last Tuesday night: "Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo" regarding the sophistication of the Daily Show audience, and what Toppington wants to do to Fox news commentators who attack TDS.

For a link to see exactly what this translates into, see here: wiki link
or here: Guardian UK link

(the wiki link is not recommended for Work environments, where a Work IT Admin tracks all of your internet usage)

TDS writers are amazing - comedy genius. The Gospel chorus that Stewart then uses (twice this week) is hilarious as well.

Following the craft of comedy, which for 1000s of years has included social commentary. Not trying to be "Fair & Balanced" - but then again, that's not Comedy Central's completely ignored catch phrase or motto!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Bring a chicken to the doctor"

Thanks to my buddy Matt for this hilarious link!

How many chickens... at approx $2 per bird, did she pay for all that plastic surgery? Sue Lowden, just another right wing nut case. Let's see is Nevadans are dumb enough to elect her.

A well thought out product name.

Is it the "nook ereader"? or, like it sounds on the radio, "nookie reader"?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Evolving Taste, for Cocoa

Over a year ago, I tried to enjoy 2 bars of Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate (both 70% and 85% cocoa varieties), and did not like them. They presented a bitter taste that was not enjoyable. I avoided G&B for more than a year, and then this Winter, an old friend of mine who is a devout organic vegan told me how Green & Black was delicious, a favorite, 'the best' and I thought - are you kidding me?

So I got a Target coupon in the mail for a $1 off one bar of Green & Black... and with an open mind, purchased a bar of 70% (they were out of 85%). Then, last Saturday night at Sprouts, I picked up the "Endangered Species" 72% bar. A Sprouts employee said "the better chocolate is on the other side" - referring to the G&B and Lindt & Ghirardelli in the next aisle.

After trying the G&B this week, following a 1 year hiatus and having divorced myself from a life of high carb intake, I found the G&B actually quite delicious. What I'd previously thought was bitter and unpalatable low quality, my taste buds and parietal lobes now recognize as quite tasty. The "Endangered Species" brand (with embedded espresso beans) was OK, but sort of gimmicky - nothing to write home about.

If you have tried Green & Black's organic chocolate previously, and didn't like it, don't write it off. Try again, after working yourself up into the +80% cocoa range, reducing carbs, and dropping 20% of your body weight. Just don't eat 100% baker's chocolate like my friend Zim did!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

AZ & SC Compete For Most Willfully Ignorant

Like the kid in Sixth Sense who said "I see dead people" ...well, here in Arizona, "I see stupid and scared people". Man, I thought South Carolina was bad when I lived there with their secessionist, bigoted, heritage-of-hatred, South will rise again, segregated "Christian" churches, we-don't-need-you-damn-Yankees-here, ignorant perspectives. But here in Arizona, they're trying really hard to surpass South Carolina in the really dumb bills being passed in the State Assembly.

Today, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill (link here) that "require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president." How completely idiotic! Hey, Republicans (it passed on a party line vote), the birth certificate provided IS REAL, you willfully ignorant anachronisms! (links here [Snopes no less], here, here, and here). Yeah, but these are the same morons who deny climate change because the East Coast had alot of snow this year. Does Pox News have a coded "zombie signal" embedded in it's HD feed, that is hypnotizing it's viewers perhaps?

I agree with Phoenix Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who said 'the bill is one of several measures that are making Arizona "the laughing stock of the nation."'

The Barber of Seville

We are going to see Rossini's The Barber of Seville this weekend here in Phoenix (link here). I am tremendously looking forward to it, and hope I won't be let down when Bugs Bunny doesn't make an appearance. Every time I see this classic cartoon, I crack up. Deve Vedere.

I hope those of you with children enjoy watching this together, on the interwebs. Yeah, the cartoon has violence in it... but Fudd IS a hunter, and one cannot hunt without some violence intrinsic to the process.

Scared, Angry, Selfish, "I got mine, FU!" Rich Whites

Wow, so many rich white people really do not like or are afraid of President Obama. The voting record (link here) is reflected in the current Tea Bagger demographics. It's a good thing the United States is becoming less homogeneous over time. Thanks to Dr. Zaius for the link.

Your Tax Dollars, At Work

Tax Dollars from all over the entire Western World actually. This place is MUCH bigger than anything I've ever seen in orbit, in reality.

AZ Hummingbirds Enjoy Spicy Foods

The hummingbirds here in Arizona seem to have a preference for "spicy" protein, alongside their voracious consumption of high carb nectar. Last year, I watched an Anna's humingbird pluck a tiny spider out of the middle of a spiral orb web amoungst the Aloes. Last week, I watched as a black throated hummingbird female hovered just beneath a pool deck chair, and appeared to "drink" from the bottom of the chair. Upon closer inspection, I found tiny webs beneath the deck chair, now devoid of arachnids. Then, yesterday, while doing yoga, I watched another black throated female stop and pluck tiny spider mites from the underside of the pool fencing (fences required by Phoenix City code) just above my flourishing lantana.

Each of the arachnids consumed were no more than 3 millimeters, toe-to-toe diameter.Tiny little spiders, with tiny amounts of venom, maybe they help "boost" the immune system of the little hummingbirds? Maybe the hummingbirds just have a preference for spicy snacks that have a kick... or 8 kicks =P

Tarantual Hawks Have Returned

The giant wasps are once again drinking from my milkweed plant in the front yard, as they were last year. Now that I know what they are, and have a healthy respect for them, they are indeed beautiful creatures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bad Pump Seals Lead To 1 Hp Motor Bearing Failure

Having an engineering degree from a reputable college and keeping a real-world focus means that I can sometimes (but not always) avoid having to pay contractors for mechanical and electrical work that I am able to properly execute without hurting myself, blowing anything up, and not needing to be "rescued". So after I took Dr. Desert Flower to the airport on Saturday for her Scientific conference in DC, I made sure I had my cell phone charged, my employer provided insurance card handy, and took my tools out to my back yard to work on my swimming pool pump. The pump had been over-heating, and automatically shutting off on thermal over-load over the last week, after running for about 2 hours. The pump was (in retrospect) also running much more noisily this Spring than it had in the last 3 years. My hope was, I would find some kind of hairball wrapped around the pump impeller, or a dead beetle across the starting capacitor leads, or a bunch of dust over the windings - one can always hope.

So I downloaded the Hayward Pump manual here
link (found after searching for 10 seconds via Google) Pages 5 and 6 I found extremely helpful and enlightening. Dis-assembly went without any problems, both electrically and mechanically. Hayward makes a user-friendly product. Listening very very closely, I could actually hear the mechanical grinding of the motor's ball bearings, when turning the free wheeling motor shaft, fully disassembled.

Another minute of Google searching I found replacement motors and seals online here and here so I could understand what ball-park was a reasonable price, and where I might begin to be ripped off. I called my local Leslies' Pool Supply, (here) and spoke with the manager "Benny" who assured me, they could test the motor and capacitors if I brought them in. Into the car my motor went, and I drove the 2 miles to the Pool store. Indeed it was the bearings Benny confirmed, and they had a replacement motor - Great! But no replacement seals in the Phoenix Leslies' network. Benny assured me they would have new seals by Monday afternoon - so I brought my bad bearing motor back home, and reinstalled it, with the worn seals. I then took 4 hours to manually backwash the eight large cartridge filters with a garden hose, one by one - need to do that twice annually.

The filter head distributor had been leaking, so I thought "I'll seal it with silicone" and allow the silicone to "cure" over-night. I had applied JB Weld to it previously last year, but it continued to slowly leak over time, and eventually, became a steady trickle. I removed the JB weld with a flat head screw driver (carefully digging into it) and applied silicone in it's place. Then, kicked back, and watched the sunset.

Early Sunday morning, I figured I'd
- get some Hardware Store shopping done (insect barrier for the trunk of the lemon tree, epoxy & putty to fill the pool deck cracks, burlap drop clothes to pick up hedge clippings, a new spray bottle for applying 10:1 bleach since my last one was punctured by stray cacti needles)
- start up my rebuilt pump, and clean / skim the pool
- trim all the bushes in the front and back yards
- apply the insect barriers to the lemon tree trunk
- apply the crack filling epoxy to the pool deck's failing seal
- have some lunch
...but the best laid plans of mice and men...

Installing the rebuilt pump with bad seals was a Bad idea. A Very bad idea. Once I got everything hooked back up again, the worn seals failed, and the motor did not just leak water, it GUSHED water down the front flange of the motor. I turned off the breaker after just a minute of operation, spewing perhaps 5 gallows out via the blown seal. My pool was starting to accumulate debris on the surface, blown from the wind. The lack of water movement had initiated some black algae growth on the Eastern wall of the pool near the automatic pool leveler. This would not make it to Monday, without a big mess. The filter cover leaked like a sieve as well, the silicone caulk failing miserably. So I grabbed my downloaded Hayward Northstar Pool Owner's Guide, and headed to the Shasta Dealer, ready to pay an arm and a leg for the spares needed - my first born living out of state and no longer barter-able.

Shasta indeed had the spare seals, o-rings, and a $165 plastic filter cover - total injection molding costs perhaps $2, assembly $3, and design, distribution and marketing, perhaps $20, so a $140+ profit margin, thanks Shasta! Nice mark up!

Drove straight home, installed the cover and new o-rings, disassembled the pump and motor AGAIN, and headed back to Leslies' Pool. Benny was very helpful in installing the Shasta purchased seals onto the new Emerson motor he was selling me, and reassembling the impeller and diffuser with me. Back home, I installed the new motor and pump assembly, and it started up with no leaks. 430pm Sunday and I was at the same place I wanted to be 24 hours earlier. 2 hours later, lemon tree wrapped, trimmed, and shrubs shaped up, I was exhausted. 2 glasses of Malbec (posting later this week) and 2 blog postings later, called it an early night.

Had I not possessed a basic knowledge of electrical wiring, shaft clearances, torque, mechanical assembly, bearing function, hydrodynamics, and elastomeric sealing, I would have had to pay a contractor a hefty sum to do what I did "for free", costing me just parts, and gasoline to drive and get the parts. A day later, the 1 Hp Emerson pump motor is humming quietly, no more grinding noises coming from the bearings, and I know exactly why. The ants are fearlessly traversing the anti-insect wrap around the trunk (will be time for me to coat it in the anti-insect white paint that I also picked up).

One of the nasty prickly pears that lost an arm in my front yard, I foolishly transplanted, costing me a pair of leather gloves, old & worn out 40 waist sized work pants (that also had a bunch of silicone wiped on them from the o-rings), and multiple cactus needle finger sticks. I also planted 5 more lavender plants this weekend around the pool, bought for $2 each on clearance at Lowes... Miller Time? No, I'm old. Naproxin time. =)

Hello My Baby

John Hurt's classic performance...

My buddy Ryan's wife Alix is due to deliver their first child in 3 weeks. Ahhh.. and our son will be 23 in 3 months.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bittersweet Infection

As Dr Desert Flower was packing Friday night, her ipod device thingy (itouch, ipod, i-something or other) was plugged into the stereo playing Bittersweet. It's melodic and pleasant, and Shana Halligan has a very sexy voice - and she's not unattractive either. Tonight, composing blog posts and drinking cheap Malbec, I've got Bittersweet on Pandora playing (link here) - it's good stuff.

Meatball? But I Ordered Meatballs...

Yesterday, after rebuilding my pool's Hayward pump, and allowing some sealant on the Sta-Rite filter cleaner's cover to dry, I enjoyed the sunset with a can of Marcona Almonds, several beer, and a chorus of little avian friends who were busy calling out to potential mates, rivals, and warnings of possible threats to their families, flocks, competitors. It was a lovely sunset, but more sustenance was needed that just almonds and beer at the end of another long day. The thought occurred to me... a new Indian place (Indian Garden) that is opening in Avondale, next to Sprouts... and since Dr Desert Flower is in Washington for a scientific conference with her company, and Indian food typically agrees with her less than it agrees with me (which is not a great deal), I thought - quelle bonne idee! I will have Indian food tonight!

I get there, and the health permits are posted on the door, but it is 745pm and the place is pitch black - obviously not open for business yet. Still hungry, I go over to Tagliani's Italian Cucina, across the parking lot. Dr Desert Flower and I had eaten there on several occasions in the past - when Christopher has visited, when we've had a hankering for Italian food, and when her mom's come to visit. Dinner in the bar area assured us good service. Dinner in the general dining area, the service was lacking and food served late and cold. 745pm on a Saturday night, and their parking lot is empty. Bar has 4 patrons (2 couples) in it. Bartender is prompt, and serves me a delightful glass of Coppola Rosso, which I found very drinkable and enjoyable. That's where my enjoyable dining experience ended though.

Take a look at their "pick a pasta" menu (link here). Dr Desert Flower has told me how good it is on more than one instance, so I tried the gnocchi, with rustic roma sauce, mushrooms, ricotta, and meatballs (that's meatballs, with an "s"). A weak house salad arrives, with mostly white iceberg lettuce, and 2 small slices of almost crisp cucumbers, one cherry tomato cut in half. Really, one? That should have been a portend of the future. 10 minutes later, my main course arrives. Once scoop of gnocchi, a table spoon of runny ricotta (still cold) in the middle, with some red sauce splashed around it, perhaps a table spoon of low quality canned (in Indonesia or China probably) generic mushrooms, and a single golf-ball sized meatball. Seriously, one meatball. it was a good tasting meatball, and the sauce and gnocchi were fine... but one meatball?

I left after paying the $20 bill a dissatisfied diner. I doubt I will be back after so lack-luster a meal, and I seriously cannot recommend it to others, unless you are looking for somewhat inexpensive, low quality Italian food, made in a kitchen that does not have much pride in what it produces. Too bad Indian Garden was not open!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Arizona's Packin Serious Heat

Conceal Carry Permits are no longer needed in Arizona (link here). Yeeeee Hawwww! The wild west is still alive and well. How many citizens will be killed, by unstable, furiously angry, stupid cast members of Idiocracy who inhabit the Grand Canyon state, remains to be seen. yes, it WILL reduce some crime... if everyone is packin, then criminals will think twice.... but...

I am thinking about road rage... and when I was 18 and my brother was 20 and we were driving back from Chicago after working painting all day at our father's print shop on printer's row South Clark street, and my older brother merged onto the highway too rapidly for a fellow Chicagoan motorist (in a van with Indiana plates no less) and the person we slightly cut off pulled along side us, pulled out a chrome plated hand gun, and pointed it up at the van. My brother took off in what became a high speed chase... escaping onto the Skyway when we took the right hand ramp at the last minute and our pursuer was in the lane to our left. And Illinois had NO conceal / open carry law.

Yes, IL is not AZ, and less than a 100 years ago, people were all carrying firearms in this territory (we've not hit our centennial yet). I was chased in NW IN once too by an armed couple in a large boat of a car who were furious that we pummeled their vehicle with snow balls before the chase began... And in Arizona they've had an open carry law since becoming a state... but now everyone can carry a gun on their person, in their car, under their coat, and no safety class is needed. The 'federal screening' is a joke - I've had it done each time I've bought a firearm, and the 2 minutes it takes are rather meaningless.

Hopefully, no one I know will be shot by this new expansion of individual rights in the Sonoran desert. Il faut voir.

18 Holes?

I'm not a golfer... but even if I was, I'd hesitate to play a round of golf at this Country Club (link here)... just by the name of it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Possible Pigovian Solution

Tip of the hat to my buddy Matt for this link (here) to a Krugman article that explains the economics of climate change. It's somewhat long (10 pages), but it is thorough, and written so that even a Econ 101 dunce like me can understand it.

Some of my favorite quotes from the essay:

"If you choose to drive a hybrid car or buy a house with a small carbon footprint, all you
are doing is freeing up emissions permits for someone else, which means that you have done
nothing to reduce the threat of climate change. ...But altruism cannot effectively deal
with climate change."

"The bottom line, then, is that while climate change may be a vastly bigger problem than
acid rain, the logic of how to respond to it is much the same. What we need are market
incentives for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions — along with some direct controls over
coal use — and cap and trade is a reasonable way to create those incentives."

"Just as there is a rough consensus among climate modelers about the likely trajectory of
temperatures if we do not act to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, there is a rough
consensus among economic modelers about the costs of action. That general opinion may be
summed up as follows: Restricting emissions would slow economic growth — but not by much."

The Congressional Budget Office, relying on a survey of models, has concluded that Waxman-Markey “would reduce the projected average annual rate of growth of gross domestic
product between 2010 and 2050 by 0.03 to 0.09 percentage points.”

"The truth is that there is no credible research suggesting that taking strong action on climate change is beyond the economy’s capacity. Even if you do not fully trust the models — and you shouldn’t — history and logic both suggest that the models are overestimating, not underestimating, the costs of climate action."

"...the economic analysis will be ready. We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We
have a good sense of the costs — and they’re manageable. All we need now is the political will."

New York City Accent Infections

Matt Stone and Trey Parker have forever infected my brain with "Sheila Broflovski Syndrome". This morning, I am listening to a radio interview on KJZZ where a woman named Dr. Jane Aronson from the Worldwide Orphan Foundation was speaking... and each time she said certain things in her very prominent New York City accent, all I could think of was Mrs. Sheila Broflovski.

On the flight from NYC to St.Thomas last month, the head cabin matron / flight attendant sounded just like her too. It was impossible for my brain to process the words independently, and I think I am pretty adept at languages.

Call = cwawwl

Normal = nooooomal

Orphanage = Aw-For-nehge

Opportunity = Op-pooooor-two-nity

Tom = Toe-meh

Traumatized = Traw-meh-TYE-zhed

Foster Care = Faw-stah Khhhh-air

Disorder = Dis-Ore-duh

Horrible = Haaar-able

Pathway = Paaah-thway

Sister = Sistah

I know people who live in NYC - they moved there after high school or college. And I know and work with people who used to live in NYC, or who went to school there for many years... but they do not speak like Sheila Broflovski. Now, whenever I hear a middle aged female NYC accent, I want to respond to her "What What What!?!?"

A Pair Can Beat A Murder

This came from a retired colleague of mine, who is a former military pilot. He got it from "a gent who runs a 2000 acre corn farm up around Barron, WI not far from Oshkosh, who used to fly F-4Es and F-16s for the Guard and participated in the first Gulf War"

I enjoyed reading this tremendously.

Submitted for your enjoyment, and as a reminder that there are other great, magnificent fliers around.

I went out to plant corn for a bit to finish a field before tomorrow morning and witnessed a Great Battle. A golden eagle - big bastard, about six foot wingspan - flew right in front of the tractor. It was being chased by three crows that were continually dive bombing it and pecking at it. The crows do this because the eagles rob their nests when they find them.

At any rate, the eagle banked hard right in one evasive maneuver, then landed in the field about 100 feet from the tractor. This eagle stood about 3 feet tall. The crows all landed too and took up positions around the eagle at 120 degrees apart, but kept their distance at about 20 feet from the big bird. The eagle would take a couple steps towards one of the crows and they'd hop backwards and forward to keep their distance.

Then the reinforcement showed up.

I happened to spot the eagle's mate hurtling down out of the sky at what appeared to be approximately Mach 1.5. Just before impact the eagle on the ground took flight, (obviously a coordinated tactic; probably pre-briefed) and the three crows which were watching the grounded eagle, also took flight thinking they were going to get in some more pecking on the big bird.

The first crow being targeted by the diving eagle never stood a snowball's chance in hell. There was a mid-air explosion of black feathers and that crow was done. The diving eagle then banked hard left in what had to be a 9G climbing turn, using the energy it had accumulated in the dive, and hit crow #2 less than two seconds later. Another crow dead.

The grounded eagle, which was now airborne and had an altitude advantage on the remaining crow, which was streaking eastward in full after-burner, made a short dive, then banked hard right when the escaping crow tried to evade the hit. It didn't work - crow #3 bit the dust at about 20 feet altitude.

This aerial battle was better than any air show I've been to, including the warbirds show at Oshkosh ! The two eagles ripped the crows apart and ate them on the ground, and as I got closer and closer working my way across the field, I passed within 20 feet of one of them as it ate its catch. It stopped and looked at me as I went by and you could see in the eagle's manner that it knew who's Boss Of The Sky. What a beautiful bird!

Hydraulic LCF in LA Water Systems

Heard an ironic, and somewhat ridiculous story (link here) on the radio just now, that water conservation regulations in Los Angeles - where lawn watering was prohibited on some days, and allowed on other days - lead to pressure spikes and troughs that lead to widespread failures (101 failures in a year, more than double the previous years' records) in cast iron pipes, most of which were 30 years old or more. Human behavior, it's so predictable!

LA residents, in fear of fines - and some wanting to be environmentally conscious - didn't water on the restricted days, and then the allowable days, BAM, everyone opens the spigots around town. Cast iron's LCF (low cycle fatigue) properties are pretty pathetic, from an over-all comparative material strength perspective. Couple this low resistance to cyclical stresses with an aging, corroding, under-capacity metropolitan water system built on massive fault lines, and it is no wonder the number of failures are climbing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Today's Big Number: 200

200 last night, after chopping up a 1000 lbs of cactus. Now it's time to "stop trying" and just eat carbs from time to time. I'm not going to stop eating protein, local & natural foods, and avoid food stuffs whenever possible, though I did have some Peeps that we picked up at Target on 75% post-Easter discount while our Fence Post cactus was busy falling down in our absence - I bought the Peeps, Dr.Desert Flower doesn't like them. I washed them down with 3 bottles of beer - mmmm.

I used to have a 50" chest, and that's slimmed down to 46", while waist went from +40 to 35... but 34 pants fit me again for the first time in 23 years. Bike riding has thighs up to 23 inches now, so I want to moderate that and avoid an Eric Heiden (27") look. It only took me 8 and a 1/2 months to drop 20% of my body mass by ceasing to eat grains, cereals, and so called "low fat" foods. Thanks to my friends Ron, Zim, Matt,and Mike S for setting good examples for me to follow!

Mexican Fence Post Cactus Succumbs to Wind

My Mexican Fence Post Cactus that WAS taller than our home, succumbed to a powerful East-To-West wind gust Sunday afternoon while Dr Desert Flower and I were making a Costco-Target run. Luckily, it did little damage to the garage and roof when it fell. The adjacent yucca was 1/3 flattened, but has recovered, to approximately 1/2 it's former shape.

It took me the better part of 4 hours to machete, and hacksaw the fallen cactus arm that weighed approximately 1000 lbs - remember, it's about 80% water, and the rest is dense-packed skeletal structural cellulose. I got stabbed multiple times in the hands, forearms, and thighs, despite double gloving, and wearing 2 layers of shirts and thick denim jeans.

My 75 gallon, roll-to-the-street dumpster, has a "max 395 lbs" rated limit. I figure I've reached that with the damaged arms. The other 400 or so lbs, by these four thigh and abdomen sized arms, will have to wait until next week.

The remaining 200 or so lbs, of various arms from 1 foot to 5 feet long, I transplanted, along with other previously amputated arms, beside the "creek bed" and lantana in the front yard. I secured the transplanted arms using old shower trim rubber seals that I had a whole bag of in my garage.

Once next Christmas gets here, I've got some blue lights to simulate "water" in the rocky creek bed - lol. The black throated hummingbird females were very busy drinking from the ocotillo behind the new transplants, and as you can see, the bougainvillea is in massive bloom in the court yard. The milkweed directly behind the fence post cactus is where the tarantula hawks were getting drunk last year.

I was going to proactively trim the now 2nd largest arm that is leaning out towards the street, but a dual nest - mourning dove on top, and vireo below - has been built in one of the nooks of the branching arms. So I will have to wait until the baby birds leave the nest before fore-shortening that massive arm.
Some of the arms I transplanted into some small pots, so if you're interested in getting some of the children from the parent plant that grew 22 feet in 6 years on some kind of mysterious plant steroid, come on by and I'll send you home with one!

I hope if the other arms come off, they wait a while. An hour of yoga was not enough to completely reset my shoulders and lower vertebrae, which are still unhappy with me. More ethanol and naproxin will be required this evening! =)

View From My Yoga Mat

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog has the "view from my window" segment he updates daily. This is my backyard... "view from my yoga mat" - lantana, spanish lavender, hibiscus, and honeysuckle. It's not a bad way to spend an hour, and the black throated hummingbird fly-bys are pretty enjoyable.

Yelp! Yelp! Yelp!

When I was transplanting my prized Mexican Fence post giant cactus that fell over in a gust of wind yesterday afternoon in my front yard, I kept hearing a VERY LOUD yelping.....
My neighbors 2 doors down who were drinking beer on their porch with their chihuahuas and pit bull heard it too.. but their dogs did not go over to investigate, and their lawn chairs too comfy to walk over and look perhaps...

So today, while looking at cacti destruction and photographing for blog posting, I heard it again.. clarion.. YELP YELP YELP!!

Walking over to the abandoned home whose yard is full of weeds, I found this one live, and one dead kitten, immediately adjacent to the driveway. The one live one was panting. Small enough to fit in a small sized coffee cup, they have not been weaned yet - and the two old septuagenarian and octogenarian felines chez moi would eat them alive... so bringing them into my home is out of the question. Nature will have to take its course, unless anyone you know in Phoenix wants to adopt an unweened abandoned kitten?

I guess this means a) the feral cat population is low enough that stray males are not eating these abandoned kittens and b) the stray dog population is low enough that none have come over and had a kitten snack yet. As this house is across the street from my mailbox, once decomp sets in, something will need to be done. In the coming heat of summer, they'll be ripe for about 2 week.

...and this is not a scared little Facebook kitten, with it's flipper caught in a lobster trap, whose fields need watering. It's a real one.