Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chiricahua'ed

We hiked in the Chiricahua mountains this morning, in the SE corner of Arizona. Lovely weather. Beautiful scenery. A National Park not over-whelmed with visitors on a holiday weekend. Dr. Fragile Desert Flower's knees gave out, precluding a full day of hiking, but it was a nice day even with the fore-shortened hikes. Pics to follow tomorrow. Good to be home and sleeping in my own bed tonight. Holiday Inn Express Sierra Vista SUCKED - last minute reservations, lowered expectations.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Familiar

My Familiar has bonded with her main domestic source of testosterone quite strongly. Over the last 3 or 4 months, she's begun to follow me throughout the house, wherever I go - something she's rarely ever done in the last 16 years. Dr Desert Flower and I think she might be getting cataracts, and relying upon hearing, smell and touch more than sight.

I've set up a stack of boxes, just under my office window, covered in a soft towel (to catch her hair) where she can perch just below the window sill at almost eye level with me when I am sitting at my desk. Sometimes, when I am on a particularly stressful work conference call, or dealing with an irate customer, it's quite relaxing to just watch her sleep.

She's lost 5 lbs over the last year, and is down to 11 lbs now, sharing the same "elderly cat / high fiber / indoor / hairball control" Science Diet as her leptin deficient, morbidly obese 18 lbs sister. While pear shaped sister is afraid of her own shadow, my Familiar is rather fearless, she just doesn't like to be held upside down, and will deeply claw you to remind you if you happen to try and invert her while holding her. She kills insects, spiders, arches up to scare away feral cats who approach the patio glass doors, rules the couch, plops herself down on the bed (which is leptin cat's primary domain) whenever she pleases. She's the alpha cat, and "owns" the house.

She's been an excellent Familiar and has acclimated to the desert quite nicely - as long as I brush out her undercoat 3 or 4 times a year with our furminator blue handled brush, filling up a empty tissue box stuffed with cat fur in the process. I hope that someday, in the next 3 to 5 years, when inevitably her telomerase stop normally activity, and she dies of old age, it is in her sleep, quietly, and not with extreme pain, stress, and suffering. Just having her around has helped reduce my cortisone level, and are contributing to my wellness.

Chateau Bellevue For $10

We picked up a $10 bottle of Château Bellevue Bordeaux 2008, Appellation Bordeaux Controlie, at Total Wine earlier this month. It's a negotiant wine (Mis En Bouteille par H.B. A.F. 33500 194 Gironde) but it's also a Alfio Moriconi selection, and I've found that I can trust Alfio. As Total Wine's European buyer, he's got good taste.

I've not been able to find many reviews of this wine online, but I enjoyed it. Nice mineral finish. Wonderful Bordeaux for $10. The French have raised their prices over the last 2 years, but this one has still not broken the $10 ceiling. I hope it remains inexpensive, as I like to keep a bottle or 2 or 3 in my wine rack.

"Illegal" Is Not Monolithic

From living in Arizona, and visiting Mexico, China, and a dozen other countries, I've come to understand that "illegals" as the Conservatives like to call them, and "undocumented persons" as the Liberals like to call them, are not a homogeneous, monolithic, stereotypical block. There's a wide variety of illegal aliens in the US, Away from the SW border states, if the illegal alien is not of Hispanic origin, they are likely here from over-staying a student, tourist, or work visa. As you get closer to AZ, CA, TX, and NM, and to some of the distribution hub cities along interstate routes that coyotes travel, the illegal immigrant demographics change considerably, tending to be more from Mexico, Central America, NW South America, or from China - from poorer, less economically advanced countries of origin. These Hispanic and Chinese illegal immigrants are more "desperate" in nature, taking more risks to be in the wealthiest democracy in the world, brought in by human smugglers, organized crime, and other dangerous means.

Some arrived here in the last dozen years. Some have been here their whole life, have families, and have American children - born here, you're an American, even if you were conceived 9 months prior in Guayaquil Ecuador. Some of these life-long undocumented persons have built businesses, meet payrolls, pay payroll taxes (albeit often through shell company accounting set up in a legal relative's name), and contribute to GDP. Most of these illegal aliens are law abiding, hard working citizens eager to work for any wage, in miserable conditions, that most legal American citizens won't apply for. Some of these illegal aliens are part of the smuggling human traffic rings, narco subculture, down right evil. To lump them all together, is easy, and makes good sound bites. To say "throw them all out, Deport now!" is ridiculous. First, because it is would be impossible to find them all. Second, because there's no funding to find them. Third, because they have families, the social services networks could not handle millions of children being dumped into it when their parents are suddenly deported.

Fourth, and most difficultly, entire sectors of the US economy would collapse (farming [that would be bad], industrialized food production [not so bad for me, but bad for most Americans], construction, etc) if there was a sudden vacuum of workers willing to work for dirt wages in terrible conditions. College graduates aren't going to put down their cell phones and PSPs long enough to work for $3.50 an hour, or want to do something 'awesome' with their new degree. High School graduates will demand higher wages, better working conditions, and improved working environments - all of which are good things, but none of which are cheap, or which can over-come financial inertia required to implement the improvements. Especially not when banks are refusing to lend to small businesses. "Oh, you want to make improvements and need capital because your workers refuse to work in your sh*thole?" - yeah, I can see that conversation happening at B of A, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citi loan desks all across the nation. Good material for a SNL skit maybe.

So whenever I hear Liberals ardently defend all illegal immigrants as a monolithic block, I cringe. They're not helping. When I hear black-and-white Conservatives demand instant deportation to free up jobs for Americans, I have difficulty not laughing, do to the absurdity of this concept. I did a poor job expressing this in my last post, and hope that today's more detailed and nuanced entry helps visitors to understand my perspective more clearly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arizona Is Safe, If You're Legal

All the exaggerated hype about how illegal immigrants are all criminals, and are raising crime rates, is not supported with the facts (links here Cato and here WSJ, that liberal rag) Phoenix is safer now than it was been in the last 20 years, as long as you are not an illegal immigrant. If you're a legal resident, violent and property crimes are lower. If you're an illegal, you're likely to be a hostage, kidnapped, home invaded, sure... but still, living in the US's 5th largest city, my crime rate is pretty darn low.

A well armed citizenry, and urban sprawl (spread out the people more, and they don't fight / try to kill each other, as much as in large crowded dense-packed cities) have contributed as well. 16.6% lower violent crime... maybe I won't go out and buy a hip holster for my side arm.

Spill Baby,Spill

Very disturbing images here (link).

It's the little things...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"They 'trust me', dumb f*cks"

Mark Zuckerberg is evil (link here).
How did you get all that info (on other Harvard grads)?
"They 'trust me', dumb f*cks" .. was his reply.

I've deactivated my FB account, and I'll be deleting it next month. the amount of FB activated spam I've been getting on my personal Gmail account, is ridiculous. Go to Openbook (link here) to see how all of your FB information is completely open to the public. FB privacy settings are a joke.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Shortest Distance...

...is not always a straight line. If you draw a straight line, between Cincinnati to Atlanta, it does not cross Crescentville, or the far North West suburb or Hamilton Ohio. But today, a large US corporation's intranet network was brought to a sudden halt, when a fiber optic network hub line was cut "between Hamilton, OH and Crescentville, OH."

So if you're a data packet originating in Cincinnati, you need to go at least 10 to 20 miles north, before you turn around and head nearly 500 miles south to Atlanta. And if you are someplace else in the world, and that precious main trunk fiber optic line is cut, be prepared to work offline most of the day, without access to your company's web based applications.

Maybe the data is just trying to find an efficient path around Kenfucky, after last week's revealing primary elections? I don't know.

Lost An Hour Of Our Lives On Lost Highway

Over the weekend, we watched Lost Highway as a Netflix rental, and lost an hour of our lives. Dr Desert Flower and I both like David Lynch's work. Yes, Eraserhead was weird, and Dune was over-the top, but we both enjoyed Twin Peaks, Wild At Heart, and Mulholland Drive (somewhat). Blue Velvet, as messed up as it was, has remained a quotable standard over the last 25 years. But Lost Highway... so many long, long, drawn out Lynchian shots. An inane plot "twist" in the mid-section transformation that made no sense. We fast forwarded through the tortuously slow sections, and laughed at some of the very absurd sections.

Who would have thought that Bill Pullman (President Whitmore, baby!) and Robert Loggia would not live up to expectations? Gary Busey, Henry Rollins, and Richard Pryor's characters were throw aways. Robert Blake was weird but also comically creepy. Perhaps if we would have been drunk, or on a controlled substance, or recovering from anesthetic, it would have made more sense or might have been more enjoyable. Marilyn Manson played a snuff-porno film star (who was extinguished, we think) as an added hilarious anecdote near the end. Spoiler alert? No, the lost hour of our lives was what spoiled it.

We Got Fez'ed

Saturday night, we had symphony tickets (Great Opera Choruses - it was well performed, but not much to write about, other than to say the majority of the audience were born during the Coolidge and Harding administrations, and among the younger ticket holders, as one of the few a straight males attending, I was one of the least fabulously dressed. I'm not really MOVED by opera choruses).

Before dinner, we had reservations at Fez on central. We'd seen that they were included in the Symphony Club's "10% Discount" list for ticket holders (basically means, you don't pay tax in Arizona), and had heard nice things about the place. Well we pulled up, and there as a large Rugby party on-going on the patio. Several teams were there, enjoying happy hour, as we walked up in symphony attire (suit & tie for me, nice dress / skirt / heels for Dr. Desert Flower).. and I thought.. "well, we'll see see...".

We were seated quickly at our reserved table - the place was packed. Our cordial server Candace Jean was delayed in taking our order by a previously large table, but once she took it - and I let her know we needed to be out in an hour for the symphony - our drinks arrived promptly, and a GIANT appetizer - romaine chicken lettuce wraps arrived a moment later. Wow! It was a Large mound of dried pears, dates, cherries, almonds, minced chicken, in a delicious pomegranate vinaigrette. Just typing this here, my mouth is watering, in remembrance of this succulent dish, which we devoured.

DDF's Apricot martini was the essence of apricots. Fragrant, tasty, wonderful. My house Cabernet [it was happy hour, oly $3 =) heh heh heh] was fine. The main courses arrived as we polished off the last of the lettuce wraps - I got the Lemon Caper Chicken and DDF got the Apricot Salmon. Scrumptious! Great! Savoury. A fantastic first impression, truly.

Excellent, friendly, prompt service. Mouth watering food. A pleasant atmosphere. And we got out of there for less than soixante-quinze (sixty and 15... or 75 in English) dollars. I've had pathetic Phoenix meals for alot more (Yard House, et al), and so-so meals for just as much. Tom Jetland's kitchen produces amazing creations. We'll be back.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spotted At The Corner Grocery

Dr Desert Flower and I stopped at the Avondale Fresh & Easy Grocery Friday night after a So-So Mexican dinner to pick up some ice cream, and ran into this product on the shelf:

Whoever buys this, might want to see a urologist about their condition. Maybe get some antibiotics...

Hey, Gordon Sumner, what's up with the brimstone?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happiest Girl

While blog surfing today, I ran across this DM song - Happiest Girl (audio link here). I'd never heard this song before. I like it. Tip o the hat to Amy for the link.
Lyrics
Happiest Girl lyrics
Happiest girl I ever knew,
Happiest girl I ever knew
Wanted to feel the joy,
Flow between our lips
Wanted to feel the joy,
Flow between our hips
Happiest girl I ever knew,
Why do you smile the smile you do
Happiest girl I ever knew,
Happiest girl I ever knew
Wanted to feel the joy,
Pass between our eyes
Wanted to feel the joy,
Pass between our thighs
And I would have to pinch her,
Just to see that she was real
Just to watch the smile fade away,
See the pain she'd feel
Happiest girl I ever knew,
Happiest girl I ever knew
Wanted to feel her joy,
Feel it deep within
Wanted to feel her joy,
Penetrate my skin
Happiest girl I ever knew,
Why do you smile the smile you do

Hyper & Normal Bees In The Back Yard


I've been watching the bees pollinate the French lavender and the lantana adjacent to my pool deck, and I've noticed there's 2 distinctive species of bees. The first one, I call the "Hyperactive Bees" have more distinctive black and white stripes on their abdomens. They hover, much like a hummingbird does, able to move rapidly laterally, and do sudden accelerations and turns. They dart from flower to flower, and they aggressively chase each other if two get too close. They maneuver like sweat bees in Indiana and South Carolina sometimes do, but they are distinctly bee shaped, bee colored, and bee sized. They completely ignore me as I stand and sit and do various yoga poses, sometimes flying within a few inches of me, oblivious.

And for all of April, and most of May, I thought these were the only bees that I would see in my backyard. But then Wednesday, the "normal honey bees" discovered the French lavender, and moved in. They Do Not fly laterally. They are slightly more "hairy" then the hyperactive sisters, but not hairy enough to be declared "killer bees" or "Africanized bees". They move in normal, 'bee motion', almost in slow motion, going from flower to flower, gradually, directly. These girls seem to cooperate and exhibit far less aggression to their sisters. Unfortunately, they are interested in the big clumsy biped mammal, a few feet away. A gold anodized camera, red framed sunglasses, blue shorts or shiny beads of sweat on a hot Arizona day, and they tend to investigate me if I lean over or too close to the lavender blossoms... so I have to be careful. It's been a few years since I was last stung by a bee (between my fingers), and I don't want to be stung again.

I'll continue to rescue the not-so-smart bees who come to drink from the pool and get sucked in by surface tension. Using the pool's leaf net - which might be anti-evolutionary perhaps, but with the mass bee die-offs that have been occurring nationally, I figure ever bee I save is good karma paid forward - I scoop them out, and then once their wings dry off (in a minute or two) they fly off the leaf net as it hangs along the wall adjacent to the pool. I'm glad I can occasionally pick up a few girls from time to time at my pool, even if they have exoskeletons and they're an incompatible species. =P

Still Not A Fan Of Bland Beef

During an ethanol, cheese & local fruit run to Costco last week, I picked up these Quick'N Eat! Fully Cooked Angus Beef Patties, made by Lopez Foods, Oklahoma City OK. 12 patties for $10. It's been years since I had Angus beef at home, so I though "less than a dollar a patty... that's not bad." Well, it's not that good either.

They're kinda bland. Yes, they're relatively cheap and very convenient - pop them in the microwave and irradiate them, and they're sizzling hot and ready to eat, but after trying to melt several cheeses on it, covering it with various leftover sauces, and trying my best to keep an open mind, I cannot recommend these pre-cooked patties.

If I had a house full of hungry teenagers, or various progeny or party goers to feed, or I was starving, this could possibly be an option. But for the discerning pallet, they are rather lack luster. Good beef should speak for itself, without a plethora of sauces or cheeses being required to make it mouthwatering. These are more or less, just digestible protein filler.

Inexpensive Organic Chilean Carmenère

Last week I enjoyed another delicious Organic red wine. This was my first from Chile. The Natura Carmenère, Valle Central 2008, from Emiliana. Grown in the Colchagua valley, it's 87% Carmenère, 4% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, and 4% Tempranillo.

Dark, rich berry flavors, I enjoyed it with various protein dishes. It was a whole $8 at Sprouts, and worth every penny. It's one of the best organic wines I've had, and I highly recommend it.

Texan Language & Perspective

As a resident of Arizona - which is now the focus and butt of national and international jokes, avoidance, and scrutiny - and as the writer of a blog that gets several dozen hits from Texas every week, I wanted to take a moment to remind visitors here, that Arizona does not have a monopoly on kookocracy, and the people who promote kookocracy. We're just trying to catch up with some of the other states. For today's blog posting, we'll focus upon the Republic of Texas.

Our last president said he was from Texas, though he grew up in Maine, and attended daddy's ivy league alma mater. He had a proclivity for droppin' all the g's from nearly all his gerunds, and creating his own words.

W was not the only one who wanted to ban spearmints involving human-animal hybrids. Staffers would frequently need to spline things to him, or spleen them repeatedly.










He said he could speak Spanish, but il est parler Espanol comme une vache Polonaise (he spoke Spanish like a Polish cow). Succeeding W as the Lone Star State's governor is secessionist Rick Perry - man, I hope Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico build a border wall after Texas secedes!

While Arizonians have a xenophobic streak in them that has gotten the state national attention, we've never had a President or a Vice President of the United States from Arizona. And while W was a recently disastrous president from Texas, there was another Texas candidate, back in 1992, who was of diminutive stature, and a very wealthy business man, H.Ross Perot. He was wacky enough to make W look somewhat normal in retrospect.

For an excellent & hilarious example, you can see the Classic SNL skit parody, depicting the 1992 Presidential Debates (transcript here) with candidate Perot, very on-the-mark:

"Bernard Shaw: ... If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor the death penalty for her assailant?
...
Jane Pauley: Mr. Perot? Rebuttal.
Ross Perot: I was hoping we'd get into the issues, but if this is the way the game is played - fine. So, if somebody were to lay a finger on Kitty Dukakis, I wouldn't kill him right away. That'd be too easy. I'd wait for a hot Texas day, see? Tie him to a stake, get an ant trail going. You know, Texas red ants, inch long! Just love to bite into human flesh, catch what I'm saying here? See, they're eating him alive, nice and slow like. And I'd sit with him in the shade under an umbrella, maybe with a lemonade, sit back and say to the fella, "How do you like them apples?" And he'll be screaming, "When am I gonna die?" and I'd say, "I don't know exactly, and frankly, I resent your question." Catch my drift? (Heh heh heh...)"

If I've offended any Texans, I don't apologize. Other states will come later. I'm offended by many of my fellow Arizonians, but in a democracy, that's normal.

#t=0m23s








Everything's bigger in Texas.... except when they're tiny.

AZ BUYcotters Referred to Hispanic Businesses

On KJZZ's Here and Now program this week, Attorney Grady Gammage and Columnist Jon Talton joined host Steve Goldstein to discuss passage of AZ 1070 - the "Show Me Your Papers Please" immigration law enforcement bill (audio link here). They talked about the "Kook-aucracy" that Arizona has installed, through extremist primaries where "neither Ronald Reagan nor Barry Goldwater could win a primary today" if they ran since they don't pass all the wing nut litmus tests and loyalty pledges.

Towards the end of the interview, it was mentioned that there's been many calls for a "buycott" by other red states to intentionally try and buy as much as they can from Arizona to support the xenophobic policies, and Talton said "yes, and they are being referred to Hispanic owned businesses" by the chamber of commerce and other civic and state agencies! Awesome!

Rand Paul, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The more this libertarian extremist opens his mouth, the more I love him. Yes Rand, show us your true colors.
""What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'" Paul said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." ''I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.""

Yes Rand, and Massey Energy is a poor, beleaguered, tiny little business barely scraping by, whose only purpose is to provide awesome paying, intrinsically safe jobs to the coal workers of Appalachia, they'd never ever operate unsafely, ever.

Saying the United States Executive Branch is putting a "boot heel" on "BP's throat" is sort of like an Ewok trying to stand on Jabba The Hut's throat.

Please Rand, continue to speak more of your devout Libertarian beliefs in national forums, so that more Americans can Kenfuckians can hear you.

22 Years Of Paying Federal Taxes

22 years ago today, I graduated from college with my 10 month old child in the arms of my lovely wife in the audience, and almost $60K in student loan debt, an entry level engineering job waiting for me at Michelin Tire's Spartanburg South Carolina radial truck tire plant, and the keys to a brand new '88 Honda Civic EX sedan in my pocket. It was the first time I'd ever made enough income to Owe federal taxes - no longer being able to draw on the earned income tax credit for individuals with wages below the poverty line.

22 years later, I now pay almost as much in payroll taxes each year, as I annually grossed in my first post-college job. The '88 Civic was taken from me by a drunk who T-boned my car at 6am while I was on my way to work on Thursday morning in 1995. That 10 month old has now graduated from college himself, and getting earned income tax credits, without the burden of student loans, or the growing job market that his father entered. Dr Desert Flower is no longer working retail on commission at JC Penny, but is just as lovely today as the day I married her.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thriving Hibiscus

The Hibiscus that didn't do much all Winter, is going gang-busters in the backyard. Heat activated growth enzymes, strong UV, a partially shady wall, and ample water - viola. The picture here, depicts a 6 feet tall plant.

From a flora perspective, the Hibiscus is sort of the "show off" of the flower community. HUGE stamens, massive blossoms, beckon "come hither" to hummingbirds and pollinating insects.

"Feed me, Seymore"

I Need Some Occam's Razor Refill Blades

OK, if your pool pump is starved for water, you start at the pump, and work backwards, right? Well, you could do that - that's what I did. Or, you could start At The Pool, and go forward, step by step, to get to the pump.

The filters and screens, were all cleaned out. I disassembled what I thought was a 3 way ball valve, but it actually turned out to be a very robust 3 way gate valve, with intact seals that I was careful not to damage or destroy. Perplexed to see the valve in working order, I snaked a garden hose down the pipe from the valve back to the pool, blasting water along the way.

I had convinced myself there must be SOME KIND of blockage in the line. How it got past the plastic strainer basket, who knows? But dern it, I was gonna find it!

I found no blockages in the line. I reassemble everything, and then took things step by step

So I valved the system to suck from the bottom of the pool, and then also turned on the suction discharge booster for the skimmer, which injects water through the bottom of the strainer, to create a venturi effect, and draw in more water through the strainer basket. After running the pump for about 20 seconds this way, the skimmer basket began to run dry, with a waterfall of refresh water, finding it difficult to make it into the skimmer. WTF?

Then it dawned on me... an hour into the rebuild and diagnosis. The intake flapper, that is supposed to keep debris that has been sucked into the strainer from backwashing back out into the pool (pictured to the right here) WAS STUCK! A fibrous piece of cellulose had wedged itself against the edge of the flapper, so it could No Longer Flap! Stuck in the UP position, it was creating a dam that starved the pump. Jamming my arm and hand through the opening, I knocked the blockage loose, and once again water FLOODED into the strainer. Problem solved.

The simplest solution is typically the best one - Occam's Razor. It is reassuring to know that the 3 way valve is in good condition, the pipes are clear, and the pump has enough head pressure and suction to feed the cleaning heads, filter AND solar heater, all at the same time.

A Bad 3 Way?

No time for blogging today! I think I have a bad 3 way valve. When it sucks from the bottom of the pool, no problem, it all works well. But when I turn it over to "SKIMMER" the leaf vacuum runs dry and the pump cavitates. Yikes! I pulled each of the screens and filters, and it still won't flow. =(

Those 8 allen head screws on the top flange will come off this afternoon, during my normally scheduled yoga hour. My guess is the ball is loose, or something is jammed in it. Il faut voir - ya veramos.

If it's not one thing, it's another - Rosanna Anna Danna.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shadow of One's Former Self

I think the love handles are definitely gone now. Taken today, at the rotational center of the yoga environ video posted yesterday.

A good rhythm has been developed, to go to Costco every 2 to 3 weeks for ethanol, hummus, double cream cheese, local produce, and organic greens. Every other week to Warsaw Market for polish sausage and occasional perogies or cheese. Trader Joes or Sprouts every other week for staples. Yoga daily. Stationary bike 3 or 4 times a week. Free weights alternate days (Not tyrannosaurus arms, Zim =P) ... and rarely, ever, any grains at home; hard to avoid grains when eating out, but I remain vigilant. Minimal carbs by fruits, veggies, cheese, and sauces. No franken foods. It seems to be working.

Take Me To The River

Talking Heads - Take Me To The River (1979) - kewego
Talking Heads - Take Me To The River (1979) - kewego
This has been running through my head all day today. Maybe since it's been so windy, and I've been fishing out leafs, blossoms, and various flotsam out of the pool... dunno.

TVLKING HEVDS - as my friend Ron's T-shirt from Paris used to say - where he walked up to them playing a free concert, in a park, about 25 years ago.

Phoenix City Solid Waste - Efficient Customer Service

A few months ago, I noticed that the Phoenix City Garbage Truck had crushed my recycling bin container with it's massive hydraulic claw, used to lift it up and into the back of the truck mechanically. The claw's fingers dug into the can's sides, puncturing and crushing it. Last week, I noticed that the punctures had become longitudinal seams, 2 feet long, 4 to 6 inches wide, and when the wind blew strongly, the recycling (especially paper) would blow out through these gaping cracks. I duct taped them, but the city's hydraulic claw ripped right through the duct tape.

So I looked at the Phoenix City Solid Waste website (link here) and found an email address to contact. On 14 May, I wrote to them to let them know my recycling bin had been crushed, and asked how I could get a new one? 2 hours later, I received a reply to leave my bin out on Monday, and it would be replaced by the city. Monday arrived, and I rolled out my damaged, and re-duct taped bin. Tuesday morning around 9am, I heard the drone of a hydraulic lift's pump. Dashing out onto my driveway, I found a 20 foot long truck in the street with a friendly city worker, hoisting my damaged bin on the truck's hydraulic lift. The "shiny new" blue recycling bin was already resting curbside. I asked him if that was a normal failure mode, and he assured me he sees it all the time. His truck's bed was FULL of new and used trash containers, in various states of degradation.

It's nice to see my tax dollars at work, actually providing an efficient, useful, prompt service. It's also one of the reasons Dr Desert Flower and I chose to live WITHIN city limits, as opposed to outside the limits, to benefit from the city services.

Fogsealing?

Today we got a notice on our home's front door, informing us that the street in front of our home will be "fogsealed" sometime in the next 2 weeks, and not to park on the street during this period of time. Well, we never park on the street. I grew up in a home with a very crowded 2 car garage into which one large 70s car could barely be squeezed - the rest was full of junk, that took 40 years for my parents to finally get rid of. Our 2 cars fit nicely into our Arizona garage, no problem. But fogsealing?

First of all, what the hell is "fogsealing"? We don't get fog here, and it's so windy, I can't image "fogging" the road effectively. A Google search showed nothing is "fogged", it is sprayed.
And what they spray, is nasty:
"The emulsion soap is designed to penetrate
into small pores on the pavement surface, and the residue contains asphalt, rejuvenator oil, and polychloroprene latex polymer. After 1:1 dilution with water, the emulsion residue content was 37.5%, and the viscosity was 22 seconds Saybolt-Furol. Western Emulsions sprayed the
material with a Bearcat distributor. The emulsion was 170 degrees F."

Ew. The Phoenix City door hanging flier states to not drive through it for 3 hours after the application, to allow for drying. Yuck.

Our subdivision street is only 6 years old. 7 years ago, this was a farmer's field, and years before that, it was Sonoran desert. The road is not cracked, or pot-holed, and appears to be in better shape than any Indiana road of the same age I'd ever driven upon, but ok... use my tax dollars to seal it, and to spray nasty chemicals onto the road in front of my home. I guess.

If the road was 10 or 15 or 20 years old, and in rough shape, sure, seal it. But a 6 year old, little used, hardly-any-heavy-truck-traffic street, it seems superfluous.

In The Land Of....

Growing up in NW IN, I was the land of Catholics, and Dutch Calvinists (Christian Reformed Church). Catholics got blue laws repealed, enjoyed their bingo and Knights of Columbus Poker Nights (that involved drinking! OMGosh!) and a symbiosis was reached between the Dutch and the Catholics.

When we lived in South Carolina, it was overwhelmingly the land of the Southern Baptists. Officially, no dancing, drinking, R-rated movies, liquor on Sundays, bars had to close at midnight, draconian Leviticus social laws enforced. Unofficially, "whenever 2 or 3 were gathered, one found a fifth" and we've already discussed how Red States don't practice the family values they preach.

Here in Arizona, it is a toss up between Catholics and LDS. I was doing some blogger.com searches earlier today, and found some 10,000 bloggers in Arizona listed. When I changed my search criteria to exclude "temple" but still include "location: Arizona", the total dropped to 1/2 that. Catholic churches are ubiquitous here, sure. But the subtle, white steepled LDS temples are in every little town and berg throughout the Grand Canyon state too. As you drive through one stop-light towns, you see the white steeple, and as you get closer, you read "Latter Day Saints" signs in small print. They're everywhere, both online, and off.

As long as they leave us alone, and don't try to drive their theology into politics, I am fine with so many believers living all around me. Well... as long as they leave us alone at least.... =\

Taliban Training Video Uncovered

The unsuccessful attack today by the Taliban on the heavily fortified Bagram Air Force Base (link here), appears to have followed the methods that the Viet Cong used in Kubrick's classic, FMJ.

Advance to the 4 minute mark, and watch the advanced tactics and weaponry employed, very similar to today's attack:

Seriously, 20 tribesmen from the 13th century, armed with RPGs and suicide vests against the most heavily guarded US Air Force Base in the world? It does suck that they injured 9 coalition troops and killed one contractor, and that 1000s of rounds of coalition ammunition were used to decimate 20 very stupid, delusional, misinformed fundamentalists. They're not with 72 virgins now, no. If they did reach an afterlife, it hopefully involves "being hollowed out and used as prophylactics by thorn-cocked Gulbuth The Rampant" (link here).

AZ Prop 100 Passes!

I am amazed honestly, that Arizona voters approved Prop 100 by a 2 to 1 margin (link here). Faced with a state budget in the red by BILLIONS (one of the worst in the US), if Prop 100 had failed, thousands of cops, teachers, fire fighters, park rangers, prison workers, and other state staff would have been laid off.

The 1 cent sales tax (which is regressive, but, in desperate times, desperate measures are called for) will help to fund these essential state services. It doesn't mean there won't be further cut backs, they just won't be as severe.

Arizona has some of the nation's LOWEST property taxes ("keep yer guvmint hands off my prop-tee!"). When we moved here in 2007, and our home - which we bought at the time for 50% more than our previous South Carolina domicile now that we are 2 incomes with Dr Desert Flower done with grad school - the AZ property taxes were less than 1/2 of what we paid in SC. So 50% more house, for 1/2 the tax of the smaller, cheaper house. When the housing bubble burst, and housing prices (and assessments and resale values) plummeted, so did the already minuscule state revenues.

I really figured with so many passionate red state mind sets here, a vast retired population who no longer have kids in school, and the libertarian vein that runs through the West, that Prop 100 would have failed, by a narrow or a wide margin. I'm surprised, and delighted, that it passed, by 2 to 1. It gives me hope for the future.

It's still sad that 1/3 of Arizonian voters wanted to defeat it... but you know, 17% of Illinois voters voted for extremist Alan Keyes when he ran against Barack Obama, and 23% of US voters still were devoted to Bush at the end of his disastrous 8 years of idiocy. In a democracy, there will always be dissenting perspectives, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spectracide Is Superior To Ortho

Just because we don't have lawns full of green grass in Arizona (and if you do have a full yard of grass, why do you live in the desert again?) does not mean we lack weeds. With the abundant Spring rains we had that filled the Salt and Agua Fria rivers, weeds are plentiful this year.

I used to use Roundup, on the basis of a) it worked rapidly and killed weeds and b) Dr Desert Flower was a proponent of it, saying how once it hits the soil, it begins to break down & degrade into simple carbon and nitrogen compounds, so it doesn't build up soil toxicity. Then I saw Food Inc, and how Monsanto is destroying small independent farmers who don't use their seeds - but whose neighboring fields do - and I vowed not to buy Roundup again.

On a side note, I know a "Master Gardener" in South Carolina, Kelly, who told me to use boiling water to kill my weeds. I went out and bought a tea kettle, and boiled water, and poured it on my South Carolina hearty weeds, and it took forever and it stunk terribly (imagine rotting cabbage smells), and it used a great deal of fossil fuel generated energy to make the hot water... so while boiling water is the least environmentally invasive solution, it's a massive pain in the neck.

So last year I went out and bought a gallon of Spectracide. It was made by United Products, a conglomerate, but not affiliated with Monsanto. It worked. I ran out of Spectracide about a month ago, so I am at Home Depot and they have Ortho in gallons, so I buy one. First subtle warning sign of the market - it was 1/2 the price of the Spectracide, which I should have realized was a bad thing straight away. But I dumbly thought I was getting a bargain! I bring the Ortho home, and spray some of the weeds around my house, and the weeds laugh at me. They wilt a little the first day, and then keep right on growing, and pollinating, and thriving. I reapply 2 days later, DOUSING the weeds, dripping wet - like one plunger pull, per weed - and then they slowly, over a period of about a week, turn brown and die. Not very efficient.

Across from our mailboxes is an abandoned foreclosed home, with 5 to 6 foot tall weeds in the front yard. I see it everyday when I go to get my mail, and I noticed that some of the giant weeds are starting to pollinate - Ugh! SO I go and get my gallon of Ortho, and from the side walk, apply about 1/2 a gallon. Again, the weeds laughed at me. So 2 days later, I put all the rest of the gallon, aiming mainly at the seed pods, getting ready to fly in the wind, to knock them down to the ground of the foreclosed home. 4 days later, the weeds are still thriving in the foreclosure, Ortho uselessness proven again.

So I have purchased a gallon of Spectracide. It has one of those annoying triggers to it, that cramps my hand after repeated use, so I will rinse the Ortho gallon, and transfer Spectracide ingredients into the Ortho pump-pull, making sure to not mix residual herbicides.

Use boiling water if you have the time, patience, and ample heating sources
Use Roundup if you support the demise of the small American farmer and the dominance of giant agribusiness to bring you all of your food.
Use Ortho if you want your weeds to laugh at you, and waste alot of time putting herbicides on your lawn that don't work,
OR
Use Spectracide, and kill your weeds quickly.

My Local Team Is Superior To Yours!


This T-shirt's message kills me.

Having gone to a small NCAA Division III college, and growing up watching da Bears, da Cubs and da 'Hawks frequently lose, I've never placed alot of faith in the geographic eccentricity of sports superiority or inferiority.

I do enjoy watching da Bears play in the Fall, but come December, they're typically out of the running for lack of leadership and a functioning quarterback.

As Los Suns play some California team for the acting, er, I mean NBA finals (and the Sun's star player is Canadian!) I find this semi-relevant, and slightly amusing.

I'll be quiet now. It's my blog though and I can post what I want to... =)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Pest Control Is Hard To Find

Cobra Pest Control LLC - AZ Lic # 8502
623-247-9546
Billy is a very nice guy, professional, unassuming, knows his stuff. He's no Dale Gribble (thank goodness!). Billy was doing a pest control application at my neighbors when I walked over and spoke with him 2 weekend ago.. The next Monday he came over, sprayed judiciously (not manically) and put out boric acid traps indoors for the Argentinian sugar ants. He's taken care of my black widow and ant problems. I'm a happy residential customer. If you're on the West side of Phoenix, and looking for a small business pest control to use, I recommend Cobra Pest Control.

Teaching Effective CPR

+90% of all men, and some 10 - to 20% of women (more after 2 drinks) will watch this video, from start to finish. Some might learn / retain something useful from it. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link)

There, I Fixed It

I got this from my Godfather today (link here)
http://thereifixedit.com/
Hilarious stuff!

Cool Weather Yoga Environ

This week, the Phoenix valley is going to hit 100F, and it's not so much the heat, as it is the blazing sun that makes standing on a rubber yoga mat in bare feet, quite unpleasant. As I have referred to my backyard more than once here, I thought it might be a good idea to show what it looks like. Video was taken on a breezy Sunday morning. Being home alone all day, and seeing Dr Desert Flower a little more than an hour each day, the back yard garden, and the hummingbirds and lizards who populate it, help to relieve stress and keep me sane. Yoga will have to move to later in the evening, when the direct sun pounding down over-head, pressing me into the concrete, is not as severe.

Her Cheap White Sister Is Delicious Too!

Last week I raved about how good the cheap Vola Sangiovese was that we picked up at Trader Joe's. The Trebbiano Pinot Grigio we had last Thursday and Friday, and found it crisp, with a light mineral finish, not over-bearing. It tasted much more like a $9 or $10 bottle than it did a $2 bottle.

Well, yesterday we drove up to Arrow Head's Trader Joe's, for our weekly grocery pilgrimage, and were delighted to find they had a similarly LARGE front display of this inexpensive vintage. They also had a tasting on-going, wherein the Trader Joe's lady pouring stated this was a 'limited one time buy'. We picked up a case of red and a case of white. If you come to dinner chez nous, these will be the 2nd bottles we shall open. If we come to visit you in your home, be assured, we'll be bringing a bottle or two of these (along with other less cheap varieties as well).

I haven't bought a case of wine in many years, but it is rare indeed to buy 2 cases and pay less than $50 for 24 bottles. Good stuff. Buy it while it lasts.

Happy in Exile

Rolling Stones - Happy

Remarkable that Keith Richards is still alive.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Go Cocks!

Seems like no matter where Dr Desert Flower and I go, there we are.
Cock Fighting Ring busted in the West Valley (link here).

We apparently cannot get away from the "Go Cocks!" mentality, even when we move to a xenophobic sonoran western state.

Bacon Coffee


Bacon Coffee?
it's a real website, at http://www.torani.com/
Listed there, you'll find The bacon bourbon sour ...I am not so sure about how it might taste. I do enjoy bacon, but I don't think I want to drink it.

Boric Acid & Corn Syrup! MMMM

Finally, a good use for High Fructose Corn Syrup!

We had the tiny, itty bitty, little brown sugar ants coming up in our kitchen - through cracks in the foundation under the kitchen sink's island, and in the bath rooms. Put out Boric Acid traps - boric acid solution mixed with high fructose corn syrup - and 4 days later, not a single ant has been noticed! The Boric Acid irritates the ant's exoskeleton, screws up their digestion, and causes them to dehydrate. This makes sense since I saw a few ants in the shower and sinks, the first day after putting out the Boric Acid traps. It doesn't hurt humans, since we are not touching it or ingesting it. Science is awesome.

Just Eat Worms

Personne ne m'aime. Tout le monde me déteste. Je vais manger des vers.

Nadie me quiere. Todo el mundo me odia. Voy a comer gusanos.

Niemand mag mich. Jeder hasst mich. Ich will nur essen Würmer.

Nikt nie lubi mnie. Wszyscy mnie nienawidzi. Bede po prostu jesc robaki.

Yoga Do's & Dont's

I stumbled upon this piece in the LA Times today. Not exactly sure how old it is, but it has some basic, useful information (link here). Look at your knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips as part of a free body diagram (FBD) and don't over-load them accordingly.

Picture 9 helped me to keep good knee alignment today as I did yoga by the pool and lavender, and picture 10 helped me to lower my shoulders. Useful for people like me who don't like to do things in a class room with others, but who also don't want to hurt themselves.

American Music - Violent Femmes

What kind of Music do you like? Well, "American Music" of course!



This was running through my head repeatedly yesterday.
Dr Desert Flower, our son, and his gf at the time saw these guys play in North Charleston back in 2006. It was an awesome show - spur of the moment, bought the tickets Sunday morning of the Sunday night show while we were visiting our son in Charleston, then drove 3 hours back to Greenville to get 3 hours of sleep before going to work Monday morning - ugh!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Cattails of Niagara Falls

I've told this story verbally, many times to old friends, new friends, small groups, larger parties... but I've never written this story - or others like it - down before. Consider this a "trial balloon". If it goes over well here, I might compose a whole book of these, and perhaps publish it someday - probably after my parents pass away, to avoid them the embarrassment.

Niagara Falls
When I was a kid in grade school, my parents insisted that they had to take the whole family on a vacation, to someplace, once a year. Whether we could afford it or not, we all piled into the family car for a 1 or 2 week long trip, somewhere. In the mid 70s, it was a sky blue 1962 Cadillac Sedan de Ville that my father bought used, and that lacked a reliably working reverse gear. In the late 1970s - after the Cadillac gave up its last gasp - it was a chocolate brown 1970 Pontiac Catalina sedan. The Niagara Falls trip - taken before the 1973 gas crisis, was the 62 Caddy, fins and all. A mammoth, a giant boat of a car to a 6 year old.

My older brother and I would have the massive back seat all to ourselves. A large metallic Coleman chest cooler between us, we were told to strap in with our lap seat belt when seated. No shoulder belts or car seats for little kids back in the early 70s! But we'd frequently each take to the floor, where a deep foot well was large enough for a 6 year old to curl up, and sleep, ear to the floor board, listening to the drone of the drive train and tires on the highway. Separated by the rear wheel drive axial drive shaft hump, it kept my brother and I from annoying each other as well.

At this stage in their marriage, my parents did not like to plan. There were no cell phones or GPS back then, and my dad would frequently load the car up with food and gas and clothes and a Rand McNally Atlas, and head out across the interstate highway system. Feeling nostalgic for Niagara Falls, where they'd spent their honeymoon, my parents wanted to take their sons there to show us the falls and colonial forts. So we headed out of Northwest Indiana and headed East, all day, and all evening. It's supposed to be a 9 hour drive, but my parents like to stop at buffets for meals, read road side historical markers, and take frequent bathroom breaks. Rarely, did we ever pass a rest area without stopping for someone to empty their bladder.

I do not recall the uneventful journey through Indiana, Ohio, and NW Pennsylvania. I do recall getting a huge case of the "are we there yet?"s as we drove in the dark, through Western New York. Looking out the Cadillac's massive windows I recall seeing mile after mile of cat tails and interstate fences. Sometimes I would try and focus on a patch of cat tails as we flew past at 70 mph, and watch them as we sailed passed. Most of the time, there were just a blur - millions of cat tails alongside the interstate drainage ditches.

Well, we got to the intended hotel (Some kind of "Travel Lodge", I remember a sleep walking bear wearing PJs in the sign) in Niagara Falls NY that my parents figured would be able to accommodate us, and of course, they had no vacancy. It was sometime between 9pm and midnight at that point. So dad got his boys, the suit cases, and his wife back in the car, and headed to the next hotel. There, we all clamored out, and waited in the lobby, to hear the front desk clerk tell our father that he was very sorry - there's a convention in town, and every hotel is sold out from Niagara to Buffalo. We packed up into the car, and mom and dad had a heated discussion, in Polish. I tried to sleep down on the foot board well again, but dad kept accelerating and decelerating, each time a new hotel would appear along the road, until the red "NO" vacancy neon lights were visible (my dad is red-green colorblind, so he didn't see the red "NO" distinctly). Mom enlisted my brother and I to keep our eyes open to spot distant hotels, that they might have missed from the vantage point of the front seat. My older brother and I maintained a hawk-like vigilance, looking for the lights of any hotel.

Sometime around 3 or 4 am, we pulled into the parking lot of a flop house motel. It did not look fancy, but it did have red velvet covered benches in the lobby. I remember the red velvet, because I hopped up on a red velvet covered bench, and started to fall asleep as my father tried to check the family in. When I was a kid, I could fall asleep sitting straight up, anywhere. In the car, in a church pew, in class, I'd fall asleep and people would see me and worry I was going to fall over. In Catholic Mass, people who were kneeling behind me would sometimes hold their hands out, like parenthetical brackets, a few inches from my head or shoulders, waiting for me to fall over, but I wouldn't fall. I would just sit up straight, and sleep soundly.

Well, a working girl, who as I recall was wearing either leopard print knee high boots, or a leopard print miniskirt, sat down on the bench beside me. I remember the leopard print, because I don't think I had ever been That close to anything leopard print before, and I recall being woken up suddenly. I was being dragged off the bench by my arm by my mother, away from the hooker, who had seem amused by the little tow headed boy sleeping while sitting up beside her as she rested her tired, high heeled dogs, her arm around my little shoulders.

Up to the room our family went. I was blurry eyed, with the scent of menthol cigarettes in my nostrils. Being 6 years old, I remember the door knob and lock at eye level, and seeing the semi-repaired door frame where the locked door had been previously kicked in as the door frame was shattered inward. Exhausted, I climbed on on the heart shaped bed, and fell face down, asleep, on the king sized bed's crusty plush velor comforter of this very high class motel. Though parts of the bed spread were crusty and crunchy, other parts of the velor were soft and smooth, and it was much nicer than the sticky carpet to which my my shoes had been adhering. I didn't care if this place had a pool or not, I was just So Tired! My older brother found the bed vibrating coin operator, and plunked a quarter in it. The bed started pulsing, as I drifted off to sleep, my mother yelling at him to not touch that again, and him saying he thought it was some kind of candy machine.

I don't know how long I slept, but it wasn't very long. My mother refused to unpack, based upon 1) the water dripping from the ceiling, onto the bed, which wet a large portion of the bed [it wasn't hitting me, so what did I care?] and 2) the motel picture bouncing on the wall as a couple in the adjacent room enthusiastically, and loudly had sex. They were getting the most of the hour they were paying for, the head board of their bed banging against the wall. I do have a vague memory of my mother yelling in Polish to my father, as she tried to drone out the neighboring room's erotic screams. I saw my first ever bullet hole in the wall, next to the door as I was leaving the room. I remember looking at it as my mother grabbed my arm and pulled out of the room and into the hallway. We hauled our American Tourister suitcases down the hall way, and back down to the lobby. The hotel's owner only charged my father for an hour, and we packed back up into the car and drove to a truck stop where we all slept in the car.

Many years later, after my own son was grown and we'd moved to Arizona, my parents came to visit. As we were enjoying a bottle of wine watching a memorable Arizona sunset, my mother brought up "all the vacations they took us on when we were kids, even when they couldn't afford it, and oh, the memories!" And I remarked "you mean the endless miles of cattails near Niagara, and the hooker I fell asleep next to in the rent-by-the-hour-motel? That vacation?"


...let me know what you think in the comments, or via email (justjoepblog at gmail dot com, no spaces) as far as this being the first of several dozen or so David Sedaris-ish stories. I'm not as gay or as dry witted & funny as he is (or as he supposedly is, Dr Desert Flower and millions of others loves his books, but I've never been able to make it more than 1/2 way through one before thinking it was too histrionic to continue reading). I've had some weird things happen to be as I grew up, and as a PhD in English Literature once told me "Joe, you have a penchant for 25 cent words".

Yellow Tail Failure

I try to not malign a wine (or any food or beverage product) until it has proven itself to be inferior. Over the years, I've tried 3 different varieties of Yellow Tail Australian wines. I've tasted partial glasses of Shiraz, Cabernet, and Chardonnay, on occasions of gatherings of Scientists in South Carolina at Dr Desert Flower's former employer, at social gatherings where it was the only wine available, and at several private social parties. On each occasion, I found the wine to be vastly inferior swill, and have never been able to finish a glass. Notes of
- paint solvent
- tobacco
- mushrooms
- old socks
- musty closets
- moldy basements
where memorable. Sinks, toilets, and potted plants were the recipients of the remainder of the glasses I'd poured.

Nearly every wine store and grocery I have been to in AZ and SC sells this swill. I know lots of nice people who actually enjoy drinking it, but I avoid it like a vampire avoids garlic. Multiple bad bottles, over a span of years, I have no interest in trying this nasty stuff again. Many Australian wine producers bottle some wonderful stuff, but I cannot say I have ever had a good glass of Yellow Tail.

Safety Dance


Curses, Market Place! Where's my hat? So many little people...

I Love Cougars

This is one of the most beautiful cougars I've ever seen.

Did you expect something else? Get your mind out of the gutter =)

I still don't want to hike in the White Tank mountains after dark.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Persistence of Bougainvilleas

We've got bougainvilleas growing outside our dining room window, that are now 10 feet tall.

We transplanted a bougainvillea into the front court yard, that is now huge, and generated (literally) a bushel of petals that swirled to a 1 foot high, 3 foot diameter pile on our front door welcome mat.

Outside the big bay windows of our living room, is this bougainvillea, growing as huge as Barry Bonds on steroids did, but taking in just Arizona sunshine and 30 minutes of drip irrigation, 3 days a week.

Bougainvilleas can be beautiful, and hummingbirds apparently think they are delicious, but my goodness they generate lots of purple blossoms that float through the breeze like thin tissue paper / onion skin paper! ...and invariably wind up in the pool, or in large piles, or as underbrush beneath all the other surrounding plants. It's ok... their beauty is worth the hassle I guess, and the blossoms are not toxic. But you gotta watch out for the oxalates in the sap and thorns. They have pricked my fingers and irritated my skin several times when I've been dumb enough to garden without gloves. Nearly everything that is pretty in the desert has a vicious defense mechanism.

'Family Values' Weaken Families

The National Journal (link here) has a nice summary article on Naomi Cahn and June Carbone's new book Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture. I heard this on NPR today (link here), and it was an interesting interview. Factual, logical, eye opening.

"You can do a good job of predicting how a state will vote in national elections by looking at its population's average age at first marriage and childbirth."
and
"
If you want to find stable two-parent families, bypass Palin country and go to Pelosi territory."

Callers into the NPR interview kept saying "Education" was the determining variable on the successes of their marriages, control of their re-productivity, and their children's delinquency.

Young, But She Costs Only $1.99

We stopped at the East Phoenix Trader Joe's last Sunday, after a delicious Mother's Day brunch at Sophie's Bistro, and found a HUGE display of Sangiovese (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) Vola, 2009 Umbria, Bottled by UPG 7038, imported by D'Aquino Italian Importing Inc, Duarte CA. A whole $1.99 for a 750 ml bottle? Sure, why not. I put a bottle in the cart, along with a Trebbiano Pinot Grigio of the same producer (also $1.99). I opened it to accompany dinner Monday night, and WOW! This was a good bottle of wine - not a rot gut $2 bottle by any means. It was tasty, with a full flavor, slight mineral finish, easily mistaken for a $9 or $10 bottle.

Wish I would have bought a whole case. Now, if Arrowhead Trader Joe's carries it... that'll be wonderful!

I disagree with bjwdad - I liked this young, cheap Italian red alot.

The Oil Volcano Will Not Be Stopped Anytime Soon

On NPR yesterday, I heard Debbie Elliott's stunning report (link here with audio & transcript) about the Federal Investigation into BP's less than safe exploration of the Gulf of Mexico, and the resulting Deepwater Horizon explosion, sinking, and continual spewing of millions of gallons of crude oil into the gulf. After hearing the following statements, I now understand that this gushing volcano of oil will not be stopped anytime soon, unless maybe someone lets the Russians nuke it (as they have already done 5 times on previous Russian leaks).

"He testified he looked up, he saw this mud coming from the oil's derrick. And soon thereafter, he heard an explosion." ...so the rig was not yet fully operational, they were drilling the well head, and a massive methane bubble surged up through the mud through which they were drilling, and exploded (as methane is prone to do).

"the Coast Guard captain who is co-chairing this investigation asked the question, well, could it possibly be that because there was no coordinated fire fighting effort, that putting water on this fire overnight and into the next day could've contributed to the rig eventually sinking to the bottom of the ocean?" ...another colossal cluster f*ck, except instead of the rocky, virtually uninhabited by humans Alaskan shore line and a finite supply of oil from one Exxon oil tanker, there's 20X as many humans living on the gulf shore and the massive underground storage that has ruptured will leak, virtually forever. Makes Russian nuke fusion of mud-to-glass, sound like a pretty good idea.

Keep in mind, BP is not trying to plug an existing, previously fully functioning well. No. they are trying to cap a new well, that exploded when it was first drilled. So much fun awaits in Gulf oil exploration!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Waning Petunias

The petunias that Dr Desert Flower planted last Fall flourished poolside all Winter, and most of the Spring. We'd planted ice plants the previous Winter, and they did all right until the hellish Summer arrived.

With rising temperatures and a higher angle of sunlight pounding down upon them, the previously plentiful petunias are now retreating, slowly but surely.

Sunny Arizona, No Place For Cheap Chinese Junk

Last Fall, we bought an umbrella last year to shade us in the back yard when the sun is setting, and to keep the mid-day sun from BEATING down upon us. It was on sale at Home Depot for 1/2 price in the fall - $100 down from $200, not a bad deal. It lasted just over 6 months, before failure.

We never kept the umbrella spread out in a storm. We did leave it on our deck, folded, typically. When a large wind storm would blow in, we'd lay it down so it wouldn't blow over. Last weekend, we found that it was ripped at the apex. Not from mechanical over-load, just from normal Arizona solar UV exposure. It hasn't even gotten into the triple digits very much yet this year. Awesome. Another high quality product of Chinese manufacture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Delicious Lemon & Lavender with a Honeysuckle Chaser

As I tread water in my pool this afternoon, I watched with joy & delight, as several of my avian girl friends - the black chinned hummingbirds - drank from my lemon tree (which is STILL blossoming for the 4th straight month!), French Lavender, Lantana, Sawyers Hybrid Lavender, and then finished with a Honeysuckle chaser, before heading over the wall. Over a 20 minute period, I watched 3 different females follow similar routes. Get some plentiful and citrus-y lemon blossom nectar, then chase the lavenders swaying in the wind, and stop in for the honeysuckle at the end. We planted the honeysuckle back in February, and it's climbed the 6 foot fall in just 3 months.

And the back yard Ocotillo... the girls find that irresistible. hovering around the top, cranking their heads at funky angles to get to every little blossom, no matter what angle it is presented.

It's very cool, to be a big, clumsy biped, swimming in a di-hydrogen oxide and chlorine solution (at 78F pool temp), and still be able to watch these tiny avian beauties drinking voraciously from the blossoms all around the pool, enjoying the fruits of my gardening labor. Like with most males... it's all about making sure the females have enough to drink. LOL! (3 bottles of Cruzan rum went into the recycling bin this evening for pick-up tomorrow, coincidentally).

Leahy, Kagan, and Moses Go In To Take The Bar...

You remember Patrick Leahy? The one Dick Cheney told to go F*ck himself? He had a great quote today: "“The president could have nominated Moses the Lawgiver,” Leahy said. “In fact, I told the president, I said, ‘You realize if you had nominated Moses the Lawgiver, somebody would raise, ‘But he doesn’t have a birth certificate. Where is his birth certificate?’”

Those Vermontians (Vermont-onians? Vermonters?)... they elect Democrat Leahy and Socialist Bermie Sanders (both of whom I think are not bad guys, and either of which completely blow away the two douche bag / wind bag / old fools Arizona has elected) but they also allow concealed carry without a permit.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stevia Solubility

I've been running a long term experiment on Stevia solubility, in both coffee and tea. After taking nearly 6 months of data, I have the following conclusions:

1) Solubility of Stevia is temperature dependent. Add it to an iced coffee, and it will clump considerably. Much stirring will be necessary to break up the clumps - which can be crushed against the side of the glass or cup with a spoon, but not so easily. Add it to nearly boiling water, and it will instantly vaporize upon entry into the solution, with a "sizzling" sound - I am not sure if that is denaturing any of the molecular bonds... but it is an instant dispersal.

2) Add Stevia prior to tea. Before you place your tea bag into hot water, put the Stevia in. THEN, put the tea bag in. Adding the tea bag first, the Stevia tends to cling, and clump onto the bag, increasing the heterogeneity of the concentration in the solution.

3) Hot Topping is preferred, to cold topping. When I traveled around the world as a quality engineer for 3 years with a veteran 40 year metallurgist who came from the aircraft industry, I learned about hot topping and cold topping in ESR and VAR alloy steel making. Hot topping is putting the catalyst in the bottom of the ingot and advancing the hot electrode down into it. Cold topping is putting the catalyst on top of the hot ingot, and hoping all the nasty imperfections rise up and get bonded there - we never actually qualified any third world suppliers who practiced cold topping... but I digress. Putting the Stevia in the bottom of the cup, and THEN adding hot coffee on top, virtually guarantees that you don't need to stir. The hot liquid's hydrodynamics did all the stirring for you, and distributed the delicious sweetener homogeneously throughout the mixture.

This Mother's Day, Dr Desert Flower and I are enjoying Stevia in our coffee. We hope you have a wonderful mother's day too!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

West Side Farmer's Market Failure

Dr Desert Flower and I went up the Westgate this morning to visit the advertised "Farmer's Market" after missing it last week, and sadly, it was a waste of time. The displays were:
  • A group of Harleys demonstrating "motor cycle awareness" ??
  • A Kettle Corn vendor trailer
  • A lady selling "local hand maid" purses (perhaps they were)
  • A local beef jerky maker
  • A hand made copper fountain seller
  • A local salsa maker
  • A couple selling chilies
  • The local fire department booth for fire awareness
  • A sad little carnival dunk tank
  • An olive oil bottler
  • A guy who made garden ornaments (like glass & metal butterflies or dragon flies on a stick)
  • A lady selling some kind of local cracker / snack food unleavened type breads
  • A lady with a table of fruit and veggies she obviously just purchased at Sam's Club or Wally World (heads of broccoli wrapped in thick store rubber bands, Dole[TM] Pineapples, 50 cent avocados that had little yellow stickers on them) ... none of them local
We'd gone there with high hopes of finding organic free range eggs, locally grown produce, maybe some local butter, or cream, or milk, or cheese, perhaps getting a business card or website address from a local agricultural co-op or share farm... Nada, nichts, pas de toute, nuthin. Like most things on the West Side of Phoenix, it was a sad little effort, half hearted, to satisfy the lowest common denominator of idiocracy. And there were several other couples walking around like DDF and I: people in causal attire, or business suits, couples without children and with extra income to spend on local, high quality, sustainable farm products. Some had their canvas shopping bags with them (as DDF and I had taken our Sprouts bags). Not much was being bought. When you call it a "Farmer's Market" and no "Farmers" come (except for the couple selling chillies), it's a failure. We need to move to the East side, once we are not as far underwater as the Deepwater Horizon's failed well head is.