Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang

The first time I saw this video, I was in Milano in 2000, and it was on a evening "video show" channel - not MTV.  I could not stop laughing.   I heard it on the radio the other day in Phoenix, and it made me smirk.

Verizon Needs To Stay Out of NAM

I am a very slow "texter".  Everyone I know has a I phone, android, or other phone-like device that has an extended keyboard, allowing them rapidly send text messages to me.  I however, have an old Nokia with a 12 button keyboard.  I tried, ineptly to enable the T9 anticipative text option on Saturday night.  Within a text message, I toggled "options", and found it was already on "WORD" and not "symbol" or "numeric", so not there.  In the "Tools" menu, I found a "NAM" setting, and being an idiot engineer, I toggled it, not knowing what it was, and erroneously thinking "this won't hurt anything" from NAM1 to NAM2.

I tried to text message, send photos, call voice mail, and call my dear wife, and nothing worked.  Since I am in mountainous Pennsylvania I figured it was because I was in a low signal area.  I did not attribute any of the loss of function to NAM2.  I tried to send a picture of an ostrich swallowing a bottle from a Guiness promotional poster, no less than 12 times, to my buddy Ryan.  It failed every time.  The next day, I am driving along and I saw a Verizon Wireless store.  AHA!  They'll certainly be able to explain why I get no signal and a message that says "connecting to an eternal operator" when I try to access my voice mail.  I tried it in the parking lot, and indignantly I thought "we'll see about that!" as I stomped into the store.

There was a 10 minute wait at the very busy store.  I queued, trying my best to pretend I was as polite and patient as a British citizen typically is, and I never can seem to pretend to be successfully.  Various Erlenmeyer flask shaped customer service agents helped many customers, as I silently fumed and tried again and again to send the same messages futilely.  THEN, I remembered the "NAM" setting, and wen into the menus to toggle it, as a young female technician approached, and asked politely, "what is the problem?"  I toggled the setting, went to send the same message, and viola, it worked!  Thinking me insane, the young technician, who was probably all of 21 or 22 years old, asked if she could see.  I went to show her the phone's display, and she marched off with it "I'll be over here" as she scurried away across the store.  Huh?

I followed, not wanting to lose my phone.   She had headed to the technician counter, where she asked a senior tech what the NAM1 and NAM2 settings were.   They were both perplexed.  I said "I am not old enough to have been in 'Nam, all I did was toggle the NAM1 and NAM2 setting, and the phone didn't work, so what does NAM1 and NAM2 do on a Verizon Nokia?"  The technicians stood around, shrugging.  And then the young female tech says "you should always leave it on NAM2".  HUH??

No, that was the whole problem of why I was in the store in the first place.   Had I never toggled it off NAM1, it would have worked.  Going to NAM2 disabled the phone completely.  If it had been a Alltel phone, it would have locked up and nearly self destructed - gracefully Verizon let me toggle it back without a mother-ship intervention.  I told young tech that she was wrong, and she immediately snapped back "what's your phone number and account password?!?".  'Account password'?  I have no clue.  Dr Desert Flower pays the bill online, and has not shared the 'password' with me.  Young tech demanded my driver's license.  I told her I did not want to renew my contract, or add any features, that I just want my NAM1 toggled phone back now, thanks, I'll be going.  She'd determined that I must be a phone thief, and since I'd insulted her intelligence telling her she was wrong (she really Was Wrong) she was going to confiscate my phone if I could not prove it was mine.

Driver's licensed tendered, she compared it to the address on her screen, and was satisfied that I was not a cellular thief.  Handing me back the phone, she repeated her erroneous recommendation to "leave it on NAM2", and I reiterated that "No, NAM2 was the problem, it needs to be on NAM1, thanks anyways."

Googling NAM and Verizon and Nokia, I determined that the NAM settings were where the phone stores it's identity, and should not be messed with (link here).   I also determined that my phone cannot do T9, so therefore, everyone needs to have patience with me, and know that when they text me, I cannot rapidly text them back.   It's an arduous endeavor, to send even the shortest of messages in reply.  And Verizon, you really need to stay completely out of NAM, you don't understand it, and your State College PA store doesn't know how to recommend fixes to confused customers who have ignorantly toggled the settings.

And yes, I need to get a phone with an extended keyboard, that can also send pictures to email, so I stop asking my friends to do it for me. It's annoying and inefficient for them.  I know. I know.

Elk's Club? Really?

Either I am getting ALOT older than I feel, or the bar tender I spoke to Friday night was not a very good reader of people.  Bartenders are supposed to, by the nature of their profession, be good people readers, as they serve up libations to paying customers.  It was Friday night after a long, hectic, stressful work week, but I did get to watch both Colbert and Daily Show while working out, and showered before enjoying a dinner of locally raised Asian pork tenderloin, and as I sipped a glass of Hennesy digestive, I inquired to the amiable bartender who looked and sounded like actor Toby Jones from the Dr. Who "Amy's Choice" episode (and Harry Potter movies as well, for those who watch that sort of thing) "What is there that is fun to do on Friday and Saturday nights in State College PA?"

Toby Jones's look-a-like ruminated on this for a moment, and mentioned that a theatrical play's run had just ended, and that the hockey team was not playing this weekend, and then he said to me "The Elk's Club down in Bouillard has comedy nights on Saturday".  Elk's Club? I've got nothing against Elk's Clubs, Lion's Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Knights of Columbus (except the KofC's rabid anti-abortion activism), and other civic minded "clubs", I've just never a) been much of a club joiner and b) was not born before or during the Eisenhower Administration.  I thanked Toby for his advice, paid my bill, and vowed quietly to myself that I'd not eat there ever again on a Friday night, or Saturday for that matter.

It sort of reminded me of the first time I was invited to a KKK meeting in Spartanburg SC, while working with the plant emergency response team.  We did fire fighter and first responder training, and all of the plant security guards were required to join.  I was the only engineer, and only salaried person, to volunteer and join the team, and one evening after work when I was in the guard house at the main plant entrance and talking to the other fire team members, the head guard from that shift said to me "We're havin a meetin this weekend, and there'll be a lighting ceremony. You can come. If you don't have your own hood, we'll give you one at the meetin".  A Klan meeting, really?  Did I look like a ignorant, bigoted, racist hate monger?  I politely declined, being about 30 years younger and at least 30 IQ points higher than the senior guard who was inviting me.

No Elk's Clubs, Klan meetins, or college bars for me.   I found a nice Bistro (Zola's) for dinner, and a Irish Pub (Kildare's) for a Guiness dessert instead.  More on those later.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Heated Pool" Paradigm

I was booking my hotel for a business trip to central Pennsylvania several weeks ago, when I saw on the hotel's webpage "heated pool".  "Heated Pool"!?!?  Awesome! I thought, and I actually packed a swim suit in anticipation of being able to take a swim in the evenings and weekend that I had to stay there for the extended business trip.  It was 75F in Phoenix as I was packing my suit case.  The fact that it was 15F in State College PA didn't register, or if it did briefly register, I logged it into the "they must have one impressive and capable pool heater!" neural storage location.
There are lots of rabbit tracks in the snow, all around the pool area.  I've not lost my Chicagoian driving instincts, and the Altima rental car handles adequately, but a nice pair of snow boots would have been something good to bring.

Obviously there will be no swimming this trip.  The exercise room has a "True" brand tread mill, elliptical machine, and recumbent bike, along with a tiny series of wimpy "medicine balls" rated from 4 to 12 lbs.  Where's the 40 lbs dumbells, and the weight machines?  Oh well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Afternoon's Prayer

Tip of the hat to my friend Dr Claudia and her brother Bob, for forwarding this nice little prayer:

Let us pray:  Our Papa, Who art a Bear, Halas be thy name.  Thy championship come, thy play be run, at home as it is away.  Give us this day our Sunday win, and forgive us our turnovers, though we pounce on those who turnover against us, and lead us not into fourth and long, but deliver us from Rodgers.  In the name of Ditka, Butkus & the Holy Payton.  As it was in 1985, so shall it be in 2011, reign without end.  Amen

=P  LOL!

And if you're a Green Bay fan, "well, bless your little heart" - as they say in the South East US.  You had your Jesus, he "retired", and then retired 3 more times after he left Wisconsin.   Rodgers can be your next Jesus, next year if he doesn't get injured or traded.

I just hope it is a good game today, and not a blow out, either way.  And Go Steelers!  New York teams are chronically myopic in their view of the universe (Yankees, Giants, Jets, especially; Mets not so much since they're more like the Cubs).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Infektion und scheußlichen Gemetzel

While I was working out in the yard today, I noticed something not quite right about my milkweed plant in the front yard next to the turret.  Parts of it had a yellowish, orange hue to them.  The milkweed is supposed to be green or blueish green, so I thought maybe my color sense was messed up for a moment.

Upon closer inspection, I found it had some kind of infection.  Not sure what it was, but it was definitely spreading.  I got out the hand clippers from the garage, but milkweed is a very fibrous plant and resisted clean cutting, and the garage clippers are almost as old as my son and well worn, so around to the back of the house to get the rotary assisted Fiskars.  As I began pruning, I noticed the yellow orange globs to be moving, and tiny little winged creatures with transparent wings flitting here and there amongst the colorful blobs.  This was not a fungus or bacterial infection, this was an army of insects, at various stages of development, eating its way into all the new shoots the milkweed was sending out.

I got a large yard waste sized garbage bag (ForceFlex, is a sturdy bag of choice, for prevention of punctures and  tears), lined an old liquor bottle case with it, and started tossing pruned stems in it, as the blobs slowly crawled and the winged variants flitted about.  Took almost an hour to clear the plant of the invaders.  Below many of the colorful blobs were darkened, sticky, non moving masses much lower on the stems.  I didn't know what those were at the time, but I pruned them off as well.

Turns out, it was not just one invasive species attacking my milkweed, but it was a grotesque symbiosis of Oleander Aphid (Aphis nerii) and a parasitic wasp known as Lysiphlebus testaceipes (link here, thanks Texas A&M!).  "In most cases, many of the oleander aphids become infested with a parasitic wasp... Infested aphids swell, turn brown and die. The wasp cuts a hole in the back of the aphid’s abdomen to emerge."
Mmmmmm, like Alien face huggers.  I am glad the aphids are "medically harmless" since they make orange stains over skin and clothing when touched.  And when did "honey dew" become synonymous with "aphid cr*p"?  I used to deliver Honey Dew melons when I drove produce delivery trucks.   They did not consist of aphid droppings.

After amputating all the infected stems, I finished my yard work, which included "vacuuming" and mulching up all the remaining dead lantana and bougainvillea leaves, post frost, and then dumping the finely ground organic material into the bag with the aphids and wasps to smother them.  Yes, I know it is not landfill friendly that way, but we have no grass or "beds" in my yard, as it is a desert scape of crushed rock.  There really is no place to recycle and reuse crushed poisonous bougainvillea leaves chez moi.  Large yard waste bag triple tied air-tight, and dumpstered.  I hope my poor assaulted milkweed recovers soon.  The tarantula wasps will be arriving soon and will be very hungry.

Curious about the title translation? link here.

Black Sun, Black Moon...

"Black Sun, Black Moon, 2 Snakes, Facing each other!!!"  One of my favorite lines from Conan the Barbarian, or Conan the Librarian.

And don't forget the 160 quotes (link here).   Also, I stumbled upon Conan the Barbarian: The Musical this evening as well...  too darn funny!

So when I was in Cobbler's Pose the other day poolside, I began to spontaneous laugh when I saw this a few inches away.  Sometimes my mind runs off in random directions....


And no, I cannot bend as far forward as the lady in the youtube video does, but it is a good pose for opening up the hips. 

It is interesting to note in retrospect, that when I was a little kid in elementary school, I used to have completely flat feet.  Up until about 7th grade, I had to wear these painful insole arches in my shoes that FORCED the center of my feet up, forging arches into each foot.  Nearly 1/2 a century later, those formative foot tortures have lasting effects.

New Social Netwrok Site Starting Up....

There's reports out, that Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook are teaming up to put out a new online site for their users to meet and share information, relating to each other.  The name they're floated for the site is easy to remember:   YouTwitFace.

Thought it was a joke huh?  Silly you  =P (link here)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tale of Two Grass Fed Ranches

My last trip to the Central Phoenix Farmer's Market the weekend after New Years, I hoped to snatch up a cornucopia of locally grown foods harvested just prior to the recent frost.  While I did find some local celery, everything else was stuff I already had at home or don't particularly like, so I sauntered over to the JH Grass Fed Beef booth, run by John B Holbrook (link here).  Mr Holbrook is a nice enough rancher.  A friendly guy, he sells locally humanely raised lamb and beef from a large cooler on the back of his truck at the market.  I've previously raved about Double Check Ranch's delicious pasture raised beef (here and here), but I always like to have "have a plan" and single sourcing can lead one into complacency with that single supplier or despair if that supplier goes out of business or has problems... so I thought I'd give Mr Holbrook a try. 

I looked over his price list, and bought 2 rib eyes, thinking it'd be about $20.  After plunking them on the scale, and punching in his calculator, he said "that'll be $33.50".  Gulp.  Strike 1. $33.50, man, these better be some awesome steaks.  Later that week, I prepared the steaks in a very similar manner to how I had prepared my Double Check steaks.  I was a little disappointed to find out that a dollar or more of that $33.50 included paying for inedible bone.  The bone had been band sawed, so there wasn't even any marrow to enjoy, sadly... but it was not refreshing to see these big ole bones left on the cuts.  Strike 2.









I tried to keep a happy face on, and thought about how much better local, humanely raised food is compared to trucked in franken food from the industrial food complex... and Holbrook's webpage and his flyer handouts have pictures of him and his grand children on horseback... so it's good that I give him a break and try his food.  "It'll be awesome".

Well, I grilled it up, and it was "OK".  It wasn't bad, but I was not WOW'ed as I have been consistently with Double Check.

The heirloom fire roasted tomatoes, organic  portabello mushrooms, organic yellow and red peppers, and organic scallions turned out wonderfully.  Really tasty, really juicy, complimenting an OK steak.  Made 2, ate one, stored the 2nd one in the fridge for dinner the next night - with a final futile hope that the flavors would all combine and enhance over-night.  No such luck, the 2nd night was no better than the first night, maybe even slightly drier.  Sigh.  Strike 3.

For comparison sake, I grilled up more Double Check later in the week.  I'd gotten the variety pack from double check of 10 lbs where they offer a substantial discount.  I chose a chuck roast, and since I did not have enough time to slow roast it, I grilled it.  yes, I know, you're not supposed to grill a roast... but I was pressed for time.

Notice how there's a gorgeous, thin layer of fat around the periphery of the cut.  Double Check's butchers do a superb job.  Each piece of meat is like a little work of art!

Upon upper shelf indirect grilling, the roast broke into two pieces, and delicious cut dripped it's juices down into the waiting mushrooms, peppers, and scallions below.  The final result was wonderful - and to my pallet, 'as good as or better' than the Holbrook Rib steak mentioned above.  It was a lil bit tough to slice with a sharp knife, but as a roast, it was never intended to be grilled.  It was very juicy, tasty,  and a delicous meal.
Encouraged by this renewed, healthy, protein rich decadence experiment, I defrosted a pack of sirloin steak from Double Check, moving the pack from the freezer to the fridge, and leaving it there for 2 days to thaw (and to conserve energy as the steak endothermically cools the surrounding fridge during peak energy periods) as I always do.
 Same preparation - preheat the grill to 400F, indirect grilling on the upper rack (to prevent flared up flame impingement and carburization). 2 minutes over flame, each side, then 3 minutes over the grilled veggies, each side, and viola, a perfectly rare-to-medium-rare grilled steak!

No additional butter or BBQ sauce needed.  No salt or pepper required.  Just delicious, local, low carb, humanely raised, organically fed, happy cows providing protein to a happy health conscious consumer.

This was too much for me to eat in one dinner, so I cut the succulent sirloin in half, and stored the 2nd half for the next night.  The double feature was fantastic.  I have 1/2 a dozen cuts left; Flat Iron, New York, Rib Eyes, and a pack of Hot Dogs - yes, organic, grass fed, local hot dogs!  Stay tuned for more to come.

High Carb Depression

See what a high carb diet gets you?
If you like this work, check out other images from the very talented Rob Sheridan (link here).

Indexed Hubble Images

The CS Monitor has a handy gallery for seeing some really beautiful images taken by NASA's Hubble space telescope.  Link here. Really nice work.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Worth Watching, or Not

Dr Desert Flower is in Paris this week, and London next week, speaking as an expert in her field of research at various conferences and meetings of other very smart people.  While she's out, I've been catching up on some old DVR'ed programs that I'd almost forgotten we had.  Here's my opinion on what is worth watching, and what you shouldn't waste your time on, in my humble opinion:

Invictus - I recorded it many months ago from HBO.  Superb.  Damn, Eastwood is good.  "Forgiveness is a powerful weapon, it removes fear".  Wow.   Good stuff.  I'm not a huge rugby fan, but this movie is not about rugby.  Congress (both houses) should be forced to watch this.  Morgan Freeman, fantastic.

Nick Swardson's Pretend Time - hilarious, disturbing, sick, not at all for children, weird, very strange, very funny.

Denis Leary's Douche Bags and Donuts - acerbic, caustic, irreverant, sarcastic, very enjoyable.  Do not watch if you are a devout Roman Catholic who thinks that the Church is still infallible.

Lewis Black - always funny, always angry, always insightful and amazing.  We saw Lewis at the Dodge theater on New Years 2 years ago, he is still point on.

Louis C.K. - harder to grasp than Leary or Lewis, more complex, but still very funny.

Big Bang Theory - having a wife who is a PhD makes this mandatory watching in our home.  It's written very well, and anyone who has worked with scientists or engineers or both, have known people who are JUST LIKE or very similar to the characters in this series.  Always a humorous half hour.

30 Rock - Dr Desert flower fell in love with this comedic series soon after it came out.  The "GE" humor in it to date has been spot on.  Baldwin's acting, combined with Tina Fey's writing make this extremely clever show difficult to miss

Futurama - so glad the Comedy Central has revived this series!   Very funny, relevant social commentary.  Kudos to Comedy central and Matt Groening. 

Dr Who re-runs - where's the new episodes?  I've re-watched the Tennant and Eckelson and Smith seasons..  looking forward to seeing how Rick Karr's look-a-like does next season.

Friar's Clubs Roasts - just a round of comics insulting other comics.  Not worth the time, unless you're in a really mean mood.  I don't care if I never watch another one.

Bob's Burgers - Fox's weak attempt to break the MacFarlane / Groening animation vice grip on comedy.   I tried to watch it with an open mind as I put on another 10 Km on the stationary bike.  I enjoyed the bike ride more than the low quality animation of the niche New York City genre writing.  No thanks.  I won't be recording this again.

And of course, Daily Show and Colbert, are the staples that I enjoy, Monday through Thursday, with an occasional Bill Maher chaser on Fridays.

Not reviewed or commented upon here, are Lost, Americans at Idle (AKA American Idol), So You Think You Can Dance, Hawaii Five O remakes, Any of a host of "Reality Shows" that are mostly all train wrecks, all of MTV's programming, Biggest Loser, The Apprentice, Extreme Make Over, Most Dangerous Catch, and Whale Wars, none of which I have watched more than 1 or 2 minutes of before turning it off to do something better with my life.

China is Not a Superpower

Just like the unjustified statements of "the book publishing business is dead" and "no one wants CDs anymore, only MP3s", the new phrase "China is the new world super power" is not true.  And I am finally heartened to hear other commentators are backing me up on this (links here, here, and here). 

Yes, China has alot of people, but a huge percentage of them are uneducated and extremely poor - less than $3 a day poor.  Yes, China is a huge market, but only a very small percentage of those billion people have any disposable cash to buy anything beyond a daily ration. Yes, China has a massive army, but they are ill equipped and untrained compared to their NATO counter parts.  Yes, China has a space program, but they don't allow their population to move between cities or provinces without the right government authorization.  Yes, China holds huge amounts of American debt, but they peg their own currency to the dollar so that they can never call-in that debt without bankrupting their own economy.  Yes, China is developing lots of software (including cyber-warfare programs) but only 1 in 10 operating systems in China are not pirated.  Yes, China is adding lots of infrastructure (high speed rail, new air ports, new port facilities, power generation equipment) but their air is so polluted you can't see the sun, the air planes are made by Boeing and Airbus, the high speed rail runs less than a 100 miles, and the new airport facilities in Beijing had sinks and lights and toilets and escalators that did not function properly just 6 months after the airport opened - I'm talking 1/2 the sinks in the men's rooms, by my personal observation, not giving out any water. Yes, half.

When China can cleanly and efficiently produce high quality good that the world wants - and not just Walmart cr*p the most gullible Americans think they need - they'll begin to be a formidable world market force.  When the poorest parts of China look no worse than the poorest parts of the South Carolina Pee Dee or rural Eastern Tennessee, instead of the apocalyptic garbage scape that I saw wherever I traveled in rural China for 3 years, they can be considered a "developed nation" who takes care of their citizens, and begin to head towards "Superpower", but today, here and now, no.  China is Not a Superpower.

And to those China patriots and Sino defenders who have tried to post hateful, negative, snarky, erroneous retorts here previously on other Chinese topics, I welcome your posts, and any evidence, any facts - not just opinions - that you can provide to refute any of the personal observations I have stated here.  What I've stated is fact based, not just "China bashing".  I know what I saw and lived through for 3 years when I was there.  Prove that things are MUCH Better, MUCH improved now, please.

Go Fly A Spanish Black Kite

NPR aired an interesting piece this afternoon on Spanish scientist who have an abundance of patience and time (link here).  For 5 years, these evolutionary biologists have been studying and video taping 127 black kites and their nesting behaviour.  The scientists added white plastic to the nests, and the biggest, strongest kites with the most vitality not only kept the white plastic in their nests, but they gathered up more.  The younger and most elderly, weaker Spanish kites had no interest in the white plastic, and actually removed it from their nests.

The Spanish scientists observed that the kites are a war-like bunch of birds, with the white plastic drawing attention to nests and causing birds to try and attack the nests.  The strongest black kites powerfully defended their nests, and backed up the advertising that the plastic implied "Hey baby, I'm here and I'm available!"  The smaller and less physically strong black kites who could not back up bravado jettisoned the plastic the scientists added.  This is very interesting from an evolutionary sense, but 5 years on kites?   I do enjoy my afternoons in the back yard in the company of various species of hummingbird, lizard, tarantula hawk, wasp, and honey bee, but I do not have the patience (or the grant funding) to videotape 127 nests for 5 years.

In a nod to evolution and observation of the natural world, I did catch this image of His Noodly Majesty yesterday afternoon as he appeared to me, after I finished a few hundred sit ups.  Ramen.

Puck the Fackers

A fellow Bears fan sent this link to me this morning.  I got a kick out of it.

Catchy tune.  Very silly.  It is PG rated, so if listening at work, head phones are recommended.  And if you're from the 'great state of Wisconsin' or a Packer's fan, I do not recommend watching it - you probably won't enjoy it very much.

I hope the NFC play off Sunday is a good game, and not a "blow out"...  il faut voir.  Whoever wins, I hope they'll be up against the Steelers, and not filthy Sanchez and the Jets the first weekend in February.

"Brought to you by unicorns" - LOL

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TDS and Colbert, Emmy Material

I was kinda tired Tuesday night, and considered just DVRing The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but I decided to try and watch and see if I conk out on the couch.  Both shows were HILARIOUS!
- Calling out Palin on her hypocrisy and stupidity
- Demonstrating Awesome writing, once again
- Having intelligent, informed, dynamic guests with awesome interviews (Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cornel West)
This is the kind of stuff that Emmies for "Best Writing" and "Best Comedic Series" are made out of.  Truly fantastic shows January 18th 2011.
Daily Show link here.
Colbert Report link here.
Even if you are part of the 20% of America who loves the former part term governor of the great state of Alaska, you have to admire the way the Daily Show writers dissect her talking points - NOT out of context, FULL WITHIN context - and how Colbert voices precisely what Mika Brzezinski is thinking / feeling by her comments and disgusted expression on her pretty face (mmmm Mika.... 6 months younger than I am, and looking as lovely as my 32 year old wife!).  Definitely worth the time to download and watch.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thanks Iran!

Iran's been stopping fuel trucks from entering Afghanistan, at all the road crossings along the hundreds of miles of shared borders (link here).  The Shia Fundamentalist lead regime misguidedly believes that the fuel is destined for NATO forces fighting Taliban in Afghanistan - even though zero percent of the land shipped fuel is headed for NATO.  NATO gets its fuel via Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, since Iran is considered a "state sponsor of terror" and all US contractors cannot do business with Iran.

So how effective has this fuel blockade been at achieving Iran's goals?  Well, if their goal was to inspire PRO-AMERICAN rallies in Kabul, then Iran is doing a great job!  If their goal was to really p*ss off the civilian population of Afghanistan with exorbitant fuel prices and turn any sympathy they had for Iran into rage against the Islamic Republic to the west, kudos to you Iran!  Mission accomplished! 

Global Warming On The Decline - Indian Ocean

Pirates seized a record 1,181 hostages in 2010 (link here to BBC story), thereby disproving that global warming is on the rise.  As His Noodly Greatness has taught us, the decline in pirates over the years has directly correlated to the rise in ocean temperatures.  Therefore, since pirate activity is on the rise, ocean temperatures will inevitably decline as well!   It doesn't matter how many nations send their navies into the Indian Ocean and Arabian sea, the pirates are a wily bunch.  Ramen!

So much for that dream vacation to the Seychelles I've always dreamed of.  If rising ocean levels don't wipe out the islands, the pirates will make it less than enjoyable.

Les Arôme de Bacon et Citron

I fried up a package of applewood smoked bacon this morning, and the delicious aroma of the bacon greeted me as I walked back into the house after an hour of poolside bacon in the 74 degree Fahrenheit ambient day.  It's to bad that the interwebs haven't figured out how to convey scents yet... but mmmmm, such a delicious fragrance.  After finishing up yoga, and drinking in the aroma of bacon, I decided to pick some more lemons.  Our tree is in FULL ripeness, with boxes of lemons sent to my boss and boss's boss at the corporate HQ, bags given to neighbors... more lemons than we know what to do with.  And the tree is simultaneously in bloom and in laden with ripe fruit, so it has the enticing fragrance of jasmine-like aroma as well.

Most of my life, I underestimated the pleasant power of scent, having grown up in a chronically flatulent and lactose intolerant family, living in the NW Indiana industrial region, and eating rather bland food.  After I met my inlaws and wife, they introduced me to bay leaf, cumin, oregano, tarragon, chilies, and a host of other wonderful tastes and scents besides just paprika and nutmeg.  (yes, the spice shelf in the home I grew up in, had nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper, c'est toutes)  Now, I take every opportunity possible to enjoy the wonderful scents here in the desert and in / around my home.  Life's too short to let this stuff go by.

And now I have a container of solidified fat to freeze for future cooking, and 2 large bags of ripe organic lemons to juice and freeze tonight, so that we can enjoy lemonade year round here. Mmmmmmmm

Monday, January 17, 2011

Daniel Hernandez, A Role Model Intern

Listening to NPR this evening, I heard a story of how Billy Sipple, a gay veteran who prevented Gerald Ford's attempted assassin from taking a shot at the president, and they mentioned how Daniel Hernandez is also openly gay.  The NPR story contrasted how Sipple was shunned, being unexpectedly outed 30 years before don't ask, don't tell was repealed, and how he died at the age of 49, alone and estranged from his family.  In comparison, Daniel Hernandez has been lauded as a hero, even though he is reluctant to take on that mantle, and has selflessly and humbly redirected the "hero" label to the first responders and law enforcement and paid staffers who Daniel said are the "real heroes".  As I watched last Wednesday's speech on public television, I thought to myself "what a well spoken young man!" and was struck by how unassuming he came across. 

I highly doubt that many strongly conservative, fundamentalist Republicans would not be taken aback by Daniel Hernandez's sexual preference and would "hate the sin, but love the sinner", wanting to "cure" him, or help him to "choose" not to be the person that his creator has made him, but to someone like me who is not a fundamentalist, and who understands the differences between nature and nurture and basic programming that 10% of the population throughout all of history has experienced, and that it is not a "sin" or a "disease", someone's sexual preference "just is".  And Daniel Hernandez's preference had little to do with his heroic act of rushing towards the violence and chaos, and in deeply caring for his boss to stem the flow of blood from her head wounds and treat her for basic shock... but it DID have much to do about being in service to others, in affiliating himself with a political party as a volunteer intern that doesn't condemn him or try to change him.  It DID have a great deal to help him work for social change in this red state of Arizona, where he spent a Saturday morning, when most other 20 year old college students would be sleeping in, or hung over, to be ready to pitch a hand in at his boss's "Congress on Your Corner".

I hope Mr Hernandez has a long, happy, productive career in public service, and he does not go down the same route as Billy Sipple after his very public, very heroic act.  The world needs more - not less - people like Daniel Hernandez.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Birthday Bird Bath

We had our friend Dr Todd come over today to watch NFC Football (Bears surprisingly beat the Seahawks) and prior to his arrival, I turned on the little water fountain in the front courtyard.  It's one of those made-in-China plastic framed fountains with a cheesy $5 electric pump that cost around $20 to manufacture, but the big box hardware stores mark up to $100, not a fancy smanshy local artisan crafted fountain - which we've looked at that cost from $500 to thousands of dollars.  But I digress...  In low humidity Arizona, the water in the fountain tends to evaporate every 3 or 4 days, so we don't leave it on all the time.  In addition, some of the more devious neighborhood feral cats have developed a proclivity for leaping from the courtyard wall about 5 feet away, to get ON TOP of the fountain for a drink - and in the process toppling it, and leaving 3 or 4 large parallel claw marks across the spherical surface as they attempt to pounce; another reason to trap and relocate the critters.   So the fountain is more decorative than it is functional, and rarely filled and used.


With this in mind, I was VERY surprised when I looked out the window this morning, and saw a female black chinned hummingbird bathing in the running fountain.  She flew back and forth, from various foliage in the front yard to preen, and then back to the fountain, immersing herself, repeatedly.  At first I thought she was just drinking - as I have witnessed hummingbirds in the Desert Botanical garden do - but the more I watched, the more obvious it became she was bathing on top of a slippery wet sphere.



Keep your eyes open, and you see something new every day.  =)

Thank you Mr & Mrs Green

This story (link here) about how Christina Taylor Green's parents donated their daughter's organs to save the lives of others really warmed my heart this morning.  Since I got my first driver's license, I've always been a consenting organ donor.  The conspiracy theorists who say that an organ donor card is just carte blanche for paramedics and ER physicians to begin the process of disseminating your organs to others are about as accurate as the malarkey of 'the Jews caused 9-11'.  Christina Taylor green's death was tragic, violent, and senseless, but I am heartened to see that some good could come out of it. 

"That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine, imagine here for a moment, a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just beginning to glimpse that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism, vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations." (transcript link here)

And now those eyes are helping another person see. Her young, healthy heart beating in someone elses chest.  Her lungs breathing in air to help sustain another young person.  Thank you, Mr & Mrs Green.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taggers Are Pathetic Little Boys

There is an electrical box next to a gas station on the North West corner of McDowell Rd and 99th Avenue, that was a Mecca for these pathetic little taggers.   The taggers have figured out if they use a sharp glass cutter or carbide cutter, they can deface the pump screens at the Chevron gas stations that Dr Desert Flower and I most commonly use to replenish our vehicles' fossil fuel reservoirs.  These same taggers, also seem to find it necessary to tag electrical boxes, in futile attempts to broadcast "Look At Me! I Am Important!".  No little boys, really,  you're not.  Unfortunately, the tagged electrical box is in a "no man's land".  Phoenix says it is outside their borders  (page 89 of http://phoenix.gov/BNDMAPS/keymap.pdf ), and that I should contact Avondale.  Avondale flatly said their border did not extend east of 99th avenue (http://www.avondale.org/documents/City%20Departments/Water%20Resources/annexation%20areas%202006.pdf ) . That left the electrical box in the sad little town of Tolleson  (page 16 http://www.tollesonaz.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=138 ).  Phoenix, Avondale, and Tolleson, all come together, like Munster, Hammond, and Highland do in North West Indiana.  I wrote to the assistant manager of the city of  Tolleson at their little web site (link here) and got no response, so after 2 days, I took the matter into my own hands this morning.  

Having no shortage of left-over house paint from the previous owners, I took the cheapest Chinese brush I have, a 5/6ths empty can of paint, a paint can opener, a few rags to wipe up any mess I made, and my digital camera out to McDowell and 99th.  20 minutes later, problem solved.  Yes, the sad little boys will probably take another 3 or 4 months to cover the box again with their spray painted urine to "reclaim it", but I've got alot of paint, and a paying day job, and a strong disdain for pathetic little boys who feel it's their obligation or right, to deface public property.  Yes, "OKIE", "FREMS", "KOZ", "Vaper", "JDG", get a real job, move out of your parents' houses, put your "art" up in a gallery somewhere, and stop defacing public property, and then maybe you'll get noticed and make something out of your life.

And as a post script, on my way home, I noticed a few utility poles on 91st Avenue, adjacent to the Maryvale DMZ covered with white tagger paint.  I pulled over, and covered those as well, and a lady in an SUV drove past, rolled her window down, and yelled "Thank You!" to me as I was painting over the tags.  That was a nice feeling.

We can sit back and be "victims" waiting for a nearly financially bankrupt city to come by and clean them up, or we can take action and reclaim the city, peacefully, fastidiously, determinedly, one block at a time.  I choose the latter.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anna Adores Aloe

I did poolside yoga about an hour later today than most days, and as I was in a twisted lotus pose, with my shoulders about 110 degrees rotated from my hips, I first heard, and then saw Anna buzz over my head, and drink from the aloe just 3 feet away.  I think this is the most beautiful video I've made all year, and wanted to share it here.  It was taken at 30 frames per second, on a VGA setting, with the "macro" setting "on".  The unsteadiness of the camera is due to the fact I've not achieved the refined control over my breathing when in difficult poses that yoga strives to teach - but I'm working on it.  Maybe in another 6 years, I'll get it down better.

You might notice that towards the end of the video, Anna simply perches and drinks.  Yes, she's an excellent flier, with amazing maneuverability, dexterity, speed, and stamina.  But when she can drink casually, and expend less energy to drink from a blossom while sitting, she will take that break.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

City of Lindas

Some 20 years ago, I heard a band at Dawg Gone on the East Side of Spartanburg SC called "City of Lindas".  Their drumming was tight.  Their vocalist was enthusiastic and crowd inspiring (as lead singers are supposed to be). Guitars were talented.  I enjoyed the music and the show they put on, and I 'bought the t-shirt'.  They were selling tapes (yes, cassette tapes) and CDs (this was 20 years ago) but since all they had was an EP, and I wanted to get a whole album, I waited, and said to myself "I'll get the album when it comes out".  If it ever did, I never saw it.  I was going to banish the t-shirt to the rag bin, but the color hasn't faded yet... so I am kinda glad I've still kept it around.

Using the interwebs and the google, I tried for 20 minutes today to dig up anything I could on "City of Lindas".  There's slim pickens out there from the early 90s when most people didn't even have dial up, and if they did, a 9600 baud modem was considered FAST!  When I got a Micron PC 100Mz Pentium in 1996 with Win95 on it, and a 14.4K modem, I thought it was lightening fast - LOL! 

But if you would like to listen to some City of Lindas also, check out the "myspace" link here.  There's very few clicks on the individual songs, for as long as these unknowns have been around.  Too bad more people did not get a chance to hear them.

Me thinks, that with this posting, I've just cornered the google market on "City of Lindas" references - LOL! 

NPR, Stop Covering That Alaskan Quitter!

I am seriously considering writing to NPR and asking for my annual pledge money back.  They've been really tremendously piss poor in covering the Tucson shooting.  I had to turn them off, AGAIN this evening, as I was responding to blog posts, and they ran a disgusting 4 minute piece on Sarah Palin's reaction, and her predictable re-accusal of others (as she is the Master of Personalized Victimization). Who Cares? Her 15 minutes of fame were up in November of 2008.  Stop Covering her, if you want to maintain any shred of dignity as a news organization... or did all of that leave with Ellen Wiess?  They got Mayhem Fest wrong, and didn't bother to look it up.  They're stumbling all over themselves.  They keep calling the disturbed Jared kid an "accused suspect" - there's witnesses, he's proud he did it, he was pinned at the scene, there's no "accused" about it.  Yes, yes, in America we have too many lawyers who sue everyone for "libel", whatever. 

I'm enjoying listening to my Playlist here instead.  =)

Downtown Chicago Flooded!

If the 3rd largest city in the US were flooded, it would be a horrible humanitarian and economic disaster.  At 2.8 million people, Chicago is the bustling center of commerce, politics, and transportation in the Midwest.  As I hear on the radio repeated (NPR and BBC) today about downtown Brisbane Australia being flooded, with water levels up the street lights, I grapple to put this in perspective in my head.  This is not the rural outback, this is a large metropolitan area.

Brisbane has 2 million people, and is Australia's 3rd largest city, as well as capital of Queensland.  I've got relatives on my father's side there, though exactly where geographically, I do not know, just "Brisbane".  The scope of how huge this flooding disaster is, I do not think it being comprehended.  This is akin to Pakistan's Indus river flooding last year, except the country is much more developed.  Hopefully that developed infrastructure (helicopters, military, medical, transportation, organized government response, fellow citizens uniting in support, lack of terrorists [in comparison to Pakistan]) will be able to ramp up and handle the disaster, minimizing the loss of life and reducing the misery of the people.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Everybody Supernova

Hearing this story on NPR today (link here) about a "Green Blob" identified in outer space, followed by Queen's "We Will Rock You"... I said to myself.. "no no no, play PUSA!"  Feather Pluckin has a better chorus, much more relevant to the radio story. Dr Desert Flower and I saw Presidents of the United States of America in Indianapolis at the "Egyptian Room", and it was a great show, back in the 90s.

What the Flax?

I'm sorry, but tiny bags of flax seed crackers are NOT worth $8 a bag.  At the Central Farmer's Market last Saturday, I picked up a bag of Rosemary Garlic and a bag of Banana Raisin Currant "Raging Raw" Organic flax seed crackers.  I thought these were going to be $4 a bag, but when I handed over a Andrew Jackson, I was handed back four George Washingtons. Hmmmm.  Checking "Raging Raw's" website here, one can easily see that these are indeed $8 a bag.
To give you an example of how "BIG" these 5 ounce "Large Bags" were, I've compared them to a normal apple, and to a $1.99 bag of delicious Trader Joe's Pita Chips (6 ounce size).  Yes, the banana chips are tasty, slightly sweet, and as a breakfast snack, are fine.  The rosemary garlic flavor Dr Desert Flower does not like.  They have an "interesting" flavor, and I laid out 4 large "chips" on a plate, covered them with Swiss Gruyere cheese, heated, and made delicious nachos.  Yes, the flax chips ARE gluten free, vegan, raw, wheat free, high protein, and high in fiber, But at $8 a bag?  I'm sorry, we won't be buying any more.  We could have gotten 8 bags of Trader Joe's pita chips for the same amount of cash - what we would have done with 8 bags, I cannot imagine. 

I do enjoy flax - ground flax, flax flour (thanks Ame!), makes an excellent "thickener" for thin soups, and the Omega 3s included in flax is wonderful.  I could buy organic, pasture raised beef for alot less than these flax chips, and get more protein from a gluten free, wheat free, organic, raw source.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Best Crying Boehner Inspiration Ever

The SNL episode last Saturday (8 January 2011) had a Weekend Update that was hilarious & accurate. 32 year old  Bill Hader does excellent impressions and is huge talent asset for Lauren Michael's troupe of comedians..  His John Boehner visually was not that awesome - with only a mild orange tone and a MASSIVE OVERSIZED forehead that was not Boehner-esque, but verbally, the dialogue & writing was perfect!

Jump to the 34:30 minute mark (link here), to see & hear each of Nancy Pelosi's statements that made Boehner cry like the little baby girl he truly is:
Nancy Pelosi:
"Little American Flags.
An Old Man, Saluting a Parade.
A son coming home and making Folgers[TM].
Reruns of Touched By An Angel.
Reruns of Magnum PI."
But then Pelosi pauses, and says: "Millions Without Health Care" - Boehner instantly stops crying (they need to get their own damn bootstraps!) ... and wipes his tears.
Determined to drive her point home, Pelosi continues:
"A puppy, in a red white and blue bandana sits near a door. A soldier walks in carrying his bags. the puppy greets him with barks...  and kisses" - Cry Baby Boehner's hysterical crying resumes.  If anyone needs to "Man Up", it is the orangeman.

Um, it's not Oswald

Democratic Diva has a nice posting here (link).  Extremist Republicans trying to label Jared the Assassin as the newest "Lee Harvey Oswald".  What sad contortionist acts they are performing.  Link to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's long tabulation of politically motivated cumulative gun violence since just 2008 (link here), causes one to pause - many of them I had forgotten or never heard originally.

Post Frost Thirsty Hummingbird

As I was doing yoga, poolside this weekend (65F, sunny, light wind, nice Arizona January afternoons), I noticed my girl friend Anna enjoying the lavender that survived the recent frost.  I've started to take my digital camera out with me in my yoga bag carrier, as Anna's gotten quite tame / bold  in drinking from plants within a few feet of me.  After she finishes feeding from the irresistible lavender, she'll strafe within a foot or so from my head, rapidly passing by, as she heads off to one of her perches where she can survey and guard the whole backyard.

Make no mistake, Anna's a very possessive alpha female, and she doesn't like to share. She's not intimidated by the large, slow, clumsy, shirtless, nearly hairless ape in red framed sunglasses on a blue yoga mat who keeps pointing the shiny silver Sony Cyber-shot 7.2 Megapixel camera at her.  She seems to delight in seeing how close she can fly past my head at close range "Why is he so close to my flowers? I'll buzz that ape and see if I can make him flinch."  When I was trying to cover the lantana last week in futility (now completely dead), Anna hovered over the neighbor's back yard, angrily chirping at me "How Dare You cover one of my food sources!" and then from about 50 feet away, she made a bee-line at my head, covering the distance in less than 1 second, stopping 2 feet away (yeah, about 35 MPH, with instant accel and sudden decel, she's an impressive flyer) as she tried to scare me away.  I didn't flinch, and instead, smile (scary - apes baring their teeth!), noting the physics of what she just performed, and it's hard to be afraid of such an apparently harmless and incredibly lovely little bird, when I am as large to her as a whale is to a human diver in relative size.

She doesn't want any Anna's or Costa's or Black Throated humming birds - male or female - sneaking into her delicious lavender, salvias, honey suckle (what little remains of the HS not killed by frost), aloe, nectar feeders, or lemon tree, and she pugnaciously and vociferously chases all avian intruders away.  I even saw her try to intimidate a male mocking bird, twenty times her size, who tried to perch in her ocotillo.
  Ocotillo, edge of lemon tree leaf, or bare mulberry branch in my neighbor's yard, Anna maintains fastidious, possessive vigilance over my back yard.

 In the Winter of 2009-2010, I do not recall having my back yard under surveillance by any one hummingbird - I also didn't spend as much time in the back yard then as I am this year.  But Anna is a welcomed new feature.  I was doing a Ardha Matsyendrasana pose when I saw a Costa's male hummingbird interloper drinking from these lavenders, and I said to myself "Anna's gonna be so p*ssed!" and a moment later, she swooped in, almost skewered the male with her beak, and ran him off, chasing him over the boundary wall, with the "get out! this is mine!" chirp series I hear many times each hour in the back yard.  Anna is no "fading flower", meek little soul - not by a long shot.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

AZ Has No Shortage of Guano

As far as crazy people go, my current state of residence has no shortage.  A young dejected loser, who would not even be accepted by the US Army when he applied in Phoenix, poses rambling questions to his elected Congresswoman back in 2007 - so rambling that even "friends" of 'Jared' thought the question was incomprehensible.  So disillusioned and isolated, this unstable Tucson-ite gets kicked out of community college, arrested on Pot charges, buys a Glock 9mm at an Arizona gun shop right after the November 2010 election, and plots his next move. If his personal agenda could not be solved "by the ballot" then he'd solve it "with bullets".

Jared then sees that his district's Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords is going to hold a 'town hall' meet & greet at a local Tucson Safeway on a Saturday morning.  He goes there, with 33 round extended magazines.  To get a good idea of what a 33 round extended clip Glock 9mm looks like, see the picture to the right.  A Glock has a standard 15 round clip.  To get the "extended" clip that holds 33 rounds, the magazine sticks out twice as long as the pistol's handle. Shown here is one magazine loaded into a Glock 9mm, and 2 additional standard 15 round magazines beside the weapon.

So this delusional Jared boy walks up to Congresswoman Gifford, and shoots her in the head (forehead, from the preliminary look of the ambulance bound photos).  Luckily for Gifford, Jared, not knowing much about firearms apparently, did not have the foresight to buy hollow tipped bullets, so the bullet passed through her skull and out the back.  Also luckily for Gifford, she had a staffer who was trained as a first responder, who applied pressure to the wounds, slowed the bleeding, shielded Gifford from intrusive cameramen, and "probably saved her life" (per the "this Week" ABC report this morning).  Another 6 people, including a 9 year old girl born on 9-11, and Federal Judge John Roll, were not as lucky, and died.  Another 13 people are wounded, some of them critically.  One of the wounded was a woman who after being shot, attempted to wrest the weapon and new magazine from Jared as he tried to reload, while kept yelling "why!?!?" at him (per ABC's "This Week").

Originally, law enforcement was looking for a 2nd "person of interest" who was seen by witnesses running from the seen just prior to the assassination attempt.  This afternoon, Yahoo News was announcing that this misguided idiot Jared "acted alone" from what initial investigations of his home, his internet postings, and the suspect himself were revealing.
Where could a disillusioned, mentally unstable person like Jared get the idea to shoot at, and try to kill an elected official?  Well, sarahpac.com has a convenient list of targets.  I wonder how many other of the Democrats on this list have increased their security details.  Thanks sarah, and glen, Hush Dimbulb, and all the others.  Heck, even Olbermann apologized on air, for ANY acts of violence his rhetoric might have inspired in the past and strictly told all his viewers that nothing a pundit says should ever lead to violence (transcript here).  Calls from Fox News on a similar message have yet to be broadcast or heard.

There is no shortage of guano in Arizona.  Lots of publicly carried hand guns, no shortage of misguided "blame it all on Mexicans" xenophobes, and now one less rational politician.  Giffords may recover, but ask Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady how easy it is to return to your day job after being shot in the head.   First South Carolina, and now Arizona... no shortage of nut cases.

Wanting to get the US back on the gold standard, claiming the US Constitution has no authority to establish police forces, claiming no one in AZ district 8 is literate, posing rambling questions to Congresswomen and getting mad when they don't answer it to your satisfaction, and posting nonsensical youtube videos just prior to going on a shooting spree, I hope Jared finds his new role as "prison b*tch girl friend" enjoyable, until the day he's executed by the vengeful US judiciary system.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Hardest I've Ever Seen Her Laugh

Back in December, Dr Desert Flower and I watched "30 Rock" on DVR, and enjoyed the "Christmas Attack Zone" episode tremendously (online summaries by others of that episode here and here).  If you follow this Hulu link, and advance to the 5:45 mark, you can see the dialogue that sent my loving wife of almost 2 dozen years into tearful & contorted laughter at first, then jumping up and down laughing hysterically, before falling onto the floor and literally "rolling on the floor" in uncontrollable laughter, hilarity, and over-whelming joy.  I've never seen her so consumed with laughter before, in all the years I've known her.  "30 Rock" is very well written, acted, and delivered.  This last year, it helped to remind us and reinforce our decision to not spend thousands of dollars flying to visit our families in the frozen midwest, when DDF didn't have the vacation available to do it anyways.

Note: Yes, Hulu does SUCK in it's completely unavoidable and un-skip-able commercials (that's why DVRs were invented, and why I resist canceling my cable/digital satellite subscription), but when you turn the sound off, and do something else while the inane commercials run, it's not so bad =)

Friday, January 7, 2011

5 Dollar LaGranja Syrah Delivers

As I've stated previously, I don't normally go for catchy labels on my wine.  A chicken laying a golden egg seemed a little cheesy, but Trader Joes had this on sale for $4.99 a bottle, and at that price, I really could not pass up trying it.  I'd had Spanish Carinenas before, and this bottle DID have a serialized Carinena denominacion de origen back label, so I put my bias aside against catchy labels, and bought the "La Granja 360" - which translates to "The Farm 360".

I finished the bottle earlier this week, over the course of my Tuesday and Wednesday dinners - one a meat dish (grilled organic pasture fed ribeye, mmmm, with onions and mushrooms) and the other some left over cheese and celery from New Years and the last of the almond butter.  It was really delicious, but went better with the ribeye.  I'd call it a "full bodied syrah".  It did have some black cherry tones, but it was not overwhelming. Dr Desert Flower enjoyed it as well.

La Granja is bottled for Axial by a negotient, SL by R.E. 4099Z Almonacid de la Sierra 50108 Spain, and imported by Evaki, San Luis Obispo CA for Trader Joes.  This won't be the last bottle from "The Farm 360" that we enjoy, chez nous, especially at $5 a bottle!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

simplehuman Stainless Steel Put To The Test

I am a strong advocate of the adage "you get what you pay for".  Yes, occasionally one can find a sale, or an item on sale where it is miss-marked and tremendously under-priced, but in general, cheaper usually means lower quality, less durable, lower strength, weaker performance, less reliable, inferior materials or manufacturing techniques or "all of the above".  As an experienced rotating machinery engineer, quality engineer, mechanical engineer, machine designer, facilities engineering manager, plant engineer, and licensed PE who has worked with suppliers and engineering firms on all 6 inhabited continents on large rotating machinery, custom assembling machinery, medical devices, audio speakers, and radial tires, I've found that "cheaper" is rarely "better", and while "more expensive" is not "always better", it's rarely worse.

There are exceptions to this adage of course, some "premium" products are all fluff, show, and little substance, selling some inflated image.  But simplehuman is not one of those false inflated brands from what I have found.  One of my earlier postings "How to Repair A Flip Top Garbage Can" was mocked by some people I know as irrelevant or "silly", but it's had 129 hits in the last month alone... and it is a posting from Dec of 2009!  It's the third most popular posting on all of JustJoeP, and has some of the most comments of any posting to date. 

While the simplehuman garbage can failure was initially distressing to me - for the premium price I paid - the Torrence Californian company's customer service follow up, and proactive sending me an improved replacement lever arm, inspired me to purchase another product to solve a chronic problem in my home, and improve my shower's over-all appearance.  The simplehuman BT1060 Shower Caddy was on sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond (though I prefer the Beyond Section) and I originally bought it as part of a Christmas present to Dr Desert Flower, but after our not-inexpensive stay in Palm Springs, a $30 Shower Caddy seemed like a weak post-script, so I just installed it the day after we got home and DDF went to work.

A "5 year warranty" and "rust proof" materials, I wanted to see how this caddy holds up to the potassium chloride softened Arizona water that has severely pitted the WELDS on the shower caddy we moved here with in 2007, and it's "$12" replacement that was supposed to be an "improvement".  All the shower caddies we've had in the 2 dozen years we've been married have been made in China, including simplehuman's (sadly - really, was it necessary to outsource the manufacturing of such a nice product from such an environmentally depleted, polluted, economically corrupt, totalitarian-centralized-command-and-control-non-open-market, inefficient country?) The stainless steel rods tend to do fine if the chrome and moly content is high enough (316 SS, as opposed to say a 304 SS), but the welds where the tray is secured to the rods is invariably contaminated and rusts almost immediately, sending brown streaks down the shower wall behind it, and just looking gross.

simplehuman appears to have solved this failure mode by NOT using welds.  They've formed the stainless tubing (which I am assuming is 316) and inserted plastic trays into the bent-rod-trays.  To avoid the inevitable galvanic reaction that would occur if the aluminum contacted the stainless, simplehuman's California designers used the plastic trays to separate the dissimilar metals AND they anodized the aluminum extrusion to keep its finish "like new".  Smart. 

We'll see how well this caddy works.  I anticipate it will probably do well for the first 5 years, and then slowly but surely, chemistry will take it's corrosive course and the stainless will inexorably pit.  Since the $5 and $12 no-name BB&B brands performed so poorly, I thought the extra $18 was worth a try.  I can't imagine I'll still be blogging 5 years from now...  Il faut voir. 

Anna's Warm Place In The Sun

My girl friend Anna understands the concept of radiant heat transfer, conduction, passive solar heating, and that our cats are indoor felines who won't be attempting to "hunt" her outside.  This window's upper framing ledge, visible from our living room, is directly over the South facing Master Bedroom window.  6 feet below, and about 2 feet behind Anna, one of our cats is slumbering in the sun as well, getting a healthy dose of vitamin D. 

In the summer time, the radiant heat that pours off this stucco/concrete wall (common throughout the Phoenix valley in residential construction) can be felt about 3 feet away, akin to an oven.  In a 40F ambient (as was the case when this photo was taken) the radiant heating was detectable to about a foot away.  I am glad to be able to provide warm sanctuary to my tiny, avian, lovely little girl friend.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bang On The Drum

Third day back to work after a 3 and a 1/2 week vacation... motivation is hard to find.

Thank you Mr Rundgren.
At least my boss is not a jerk...  Outside of compensation, 90% of job satisfaction is WHO you work FOR and WHO you work WITH, and just 10% is WHAT you do.

Playlist Gadget Addition

I was sick and tired of hearing the Orange Man on NPR today, so I turned off the radio, and booted up my playlist.  After tinkering for a little while, I figured out how to add it to my blog as a gadget.  I've DISABLED the AUTOPLAY, for those of you who do not want to hear X'a "New World" everytime you log in.

Let me know if you like having it there, in the left hand side bar.

Futile Attempts to Thwart Mother Nature, AZ

I THOUGHT I was well prepared for the cold snap last week here in Arizona.  I had
December 30th Afternoon
- boxes to cover plants
- rocks to hold the boxes down (against the wind)
- old bed sheets
- 32 oz stryofoam cups
- rolls of blue "painters tape" to secure the cups on less stout plants
- light permeable "frost cloths" from Elgin Nursery
- a garage with room enough to store potted plants and utility lights to warm the area around the plants
...and I was on vacation, so I had ample time to apply all of these devices and techniques.  I foolishly thought I could overcome Mother Nature with my human ingenuity, energy, cognition, and persistence.  Silly me.

Dec 30th Afternoon
Now, after the cold spell, the following observations can be made:
- boxes to cover plants work, use big enough rocks to secure the boxes
The incorrect way to apply a "frost cloth", as it does not extend all the way to the ground around the palm.
- "frost cloths" need to cover not just the leaves of the plant, but go from the top of the plant down to the ground, to "lock in" the ground's latent heat, or the cold air will just swirl under the cloth and attack the plant.
- styrofoam cups on mexican fence post cacti arms are fine, but
- styrofoam cups over aloe, honeysuckle, or hibiscus blossoms are a FAILURE
- bed sheets, when weighted down sufficiently by rocks, can be a temporarily effective means of resisting frost
- the garage stayed in the 50s, adjacent to the house, and the plants in the garage did just fine.
The concept, is to
a) retain latent plant heat
b) retain latent ground heat around the plant
c) prevent cold & moist air from settling on the leaves and stems of the sensitive plants
The nice thing about the "frost cloth" is that you can leave it in place over multiple nights, as the sunlight can "filter through" it to help the plant.  The bad thing about it, is it is $15 a sheet (15 foot x 10 foot).

The concept is not as easy to apply as one would think.  Wrestling a 250 square foot cloth over a 6 foot tall palm single-handedly is very frustrating.  Trying to secure 32 oz cups to delicate flowering plants only damages.  Securing 32 oz cups to a structure - like a pool fence - is possible using painter's tape, but it is not entirely practical or effective.

So now I must practice Ksanti (kṣānti'  or  patience) and not prune my damaged garden until the weather is appreciably warmer.  Let Nature take her course, slowly but surely.  
32 oz styrofoam cups can effectively insulate the tips of the arms of cactus. For larger arms, I used cardboard boxes.  Unfortunately, the smallest box of cups I could buy at Costco was Qty 500.