Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Little Ass

That is one sweet little ass! =)

LOL!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dropped Your Phone In Water?

Have you dropped your cell phone in water?   The toilet? (a multitude of people) A rain puddle? (my son) A beer vendor's ice chest with more water than ice? (my friend Tim) or a fish bucket as you are skinning fish in Louisiana? (my Godfather). No problem, all is not lost.  Here is what you do - if you don't want to go to the cell phone store and eat crow and pay for a new one:  [disclaimer, I am NOT responsible if you blow up your home, melt your phone, your phone begins getting calls from Satan, or any other mishaps.  You CAN thank me, when this remediation method works for you]

1) Remove phone from any case it has
2) Take out battery, and set battery aside
3) Remove SIM chip, if it has one
4) pre-heat oven to 150F
5) get an oven-safe casserole dish
6) get some uncooked white or brown rice
7) coat bottom of dish with about 1/4 inch of rice
8) place water-encountered phone flatly in dish on rice, and cover with rice. Do not cover the casserole dish.
9) once over has reached 150F, bake for 2 to 4  hours, on a middle rack, center of oven.
10) after baking for 2 to 4 hours in the pre-heated oven, turn oven off.
11) leave oven closed, and let it cool, until you can take the casserole dish out without burning your hand.  Most human hands burn above 120F, and your oven (depending on how old or new it is, and what the ambient conditions are outside the oven) may take from 1 hour to 8 hours to cool off.
12) remove phone from rice, and reassemble phone.  Discard rice.  Wash casserole dish.
13) enjoy your revived phone.  The display should be "like new" or "almost like new" depending on how long the phone as submerged, and how much water leaked its way onto the charged circuit boards. 

How do I know this works?  Because I've revived my son's phone, my Uncle Joe's android phone, and I watched my electrical engineering friend and fellow alumnus Tim fix his iPhone the same way.  Will it work for every phone under every circumstance?  Probably not, I cannot guarantee your results, I just know it worked for me.

The rice acts as desiccant, to help draw out the moisture.  It's probably over-kill, but it doesn't hurt.  If you are traveling, and without an oven or uncooked rice, use the sunny dash board of rental car as your "solar oven".  Remember, your phone was designed to work in Saudi Arabia, where it can get to 45 degrees C (113F) in the summer time.  Most electronics are baked in the assembly plant to drive off any residual volatile organics compounds (toluene, benzene, tri-chloro-ethane, tri-methyl-amine) [VOCs] that are in the glues, potting materials, solders, and cleaning solvents (CFCs like Freon) off the electronics and into the oven before they are final assembled.  I spent many a night in Martinsville Indiana in a Facilities Engineering previous job crawling through baking ovens where JBL and Infinti speakers were being baked when we had an oven conveyor crash - and got huge head aches afterward from the fumes bouncing around my brain. 

Again, no liability is implied or given here. Attempt this at your own risk, or don't attempt it, and take your phone to the Verizon store and explain to them how you dropped it in a toilet / fish bucket / swimming pool... good luck with that.

Hangover 1/2

The new Hangover 2 movie is NOT "the funniest movie ever!" or "outrageously hilarious" or "even funnier than the first one!"  Reviewers who have said that need to be shot (in the knee caps or gonads perhaps), or draw and partially quartered, or just lose their jobs as reviewers and instead become stockers at Walmart.  Yes, Hangover 2 is funny, but it is not funnier than the original The Hangover.  Nor is it funnier than Bridesmaids.  It should have been called "Hangover 1/2" instead of "Hangover 2".  It's yet another case of over-hyping a movie in an attempt to win HUGE box office opening weekend sales.  If the movie were that AWESOME, it would speak for itself.  Marketing assholes, ugh!

I think some of my disdain stems from the unbelievability of the premise.  Fly to Thailand for a wedding... do narcotics, sell narcotics, deal narcotics in a country with some of he toughest anti-narcotics laws on the planet and not a single law enforcement person shows up or cares?  Kidnap an invalid from far outside of town where taxis do not travel? (hijacking a drugged tiger in a police car was more believable) Having US cell phones work seamlessly in Thailand without even the slightest difficulties?  Plan the demise of the non-wolf-pack interloper impromptu when there was no warning whatsoever that said interloper was going to be attending the wedding before arriving at the airport?  It doesn't make sense, and without that "believability" factor, it doesn't get my vote for "hilarious".  Yes, there were some funny and embarrassing and awkward moments in the movie, but as a vehicle, it fell far short of hyped up expectations.

Back & Forth - Wasting Light

My buddy Ryan gave me the Foo Fighters album "Wasting Light" when I had dinner with him last Thursday the Brick Store Pub in Decatur Georgia.  Good food, good service, good dark stout beer (Jailhouse... they were out of Guinness last week), good seats (RIGHT next to the front door), good conversation with my best friend...  it was a long-looked-forward-to and much appreciated respite from a busy traveling work week.  I've fallen in love with "Wasting Light" (Thank you Ryan) .. so many good songs on it...  this is one of them: Back & Forth

Two bottles of Minervois for 20 CDs... that's a good trade =)

In All Fairness

The Fairness Cream I mentioned earlier...   here's the ad:


And to reinforce that this  is NOT just some side-line, rarely used product, this was a 1/2 page ad, on the front page of the newspaper.  And, at work, we had a "fun at work" activity, in which we were divided into teams of 4 or 5, and had to use ads from the paper to sell a product, with a celebrity endorsement, and act out an ad for the activity, that a panel of judges would determine the winner.  One of the 5 teams chose "Fairness Cream".

I STILL don't get it.

Luggage Smiley Faces To Put TSA At Ease

Inspired by my buddy Ron's "tin foil" suggestion, I created luggage insert cards out of coins, some scotch tape, and an old envelope today.  I'll be inserting themi into my luggage in both the outside pockets downward facing) and sides (side cscan visible) so that TSA knows that
i) I understand how radiography works
ii) I am not a threat
iii) I understand how boring it can be to look at x-rays of luggage ALL Day
Dr Desert Flower and I will be going to Chicago this weekend for a cancer conference with her worrk, and I'll have these inserted into our luggage.  We'll see what kind of effect they have, if any.

And if ou want to hang out with DDF and I (and you don't already work with her) just email me at justjoepblog at gmail dot com, and we can try and set up some kind of get-together for blog followers who are in the Chiago areea if there's time and interest in doing so.

Your call is very important....

"Your call is very important to us"  ... is it? really?  If I am on hold with an airine, online purchase, warranty claim, or other phone related service call, and I hear "Your call is very important to us" more than twic, it is OBVIOUS that my call is NOT VERY important to the company I am calling, or they would
a) add more customer service agents to take my call more quickly
b) train the customer service agents they have more thoroughly, so that they ould help customers more quickly and with fewer errors, shortening ait times
c) keep their customer service call centers in a country where English the native spoken mother tongue (like Canada or the US)
d) provide a better product with a more intuitive and simple web site where customer service is not needed

My call is NOT very important to the company who makes me wait more than 2 cycle recordings.  And DON'T thank me for my patience.  You can only thank me for something I have given to you or provided to you.  Listening, ad nauseum to the same canned recording again and again I lose my patience, aand they cannot thank me for that which I have not given.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Kissinger, On China

A long time work colleague of mine asked me what I thought about thedailybeast.com's / Newsweek's review of Kissinger's "On China".  This is what I told him:

I am not a huge fan of Kissinger, nor am I a harsh & vocal critic of Hillary (as the dailybeast author Ferguson appears to be, who wrote that piece).  It's has been 8 years since I was last in China, 12 years since I first went there, and while I spent a total of 6 months of my life in western rural and eastern urban China, I have been told that the country has changed dramatically in the time since I was last there.  There are a few constants however:

1) China is a very very filthy country.  If you've ever been to Mexico or Romania and seen dirty dusty roads, store fronts, gray palls of sunless & cloudless skies, and the very busy shoe shine people at western hotels trying to scrub off the ubiquitous dirt from business travelers' shoes, multiply that by at least 10X or perhaps a 100X and you've got China.  Many homes use open wood or charcoal cooking fires. Everyone smokes. There's no precipitaters on the coal fired power plants. The gas is leaded. Etc.  Any photo you see of Shanghai with a shiny purple dome on top of the sky-needle radio tower has been computer enhanced.  There are no birds in the cities (eaten, or killed, or polluted, or all of the above?)

2) There's no fire arms allowed in China by the citizenry, so when someone wants to commit a murder, they do it with dynamite from a construction site, poisoning, stabbing, or strangulation.  Dynamite makes newspapers, for it's a spectacular means of disposing of a cheating spouse, oppressive boss, or long time enemy - in at least 1/2 of my 13 trips there, I saw articles in the papers of so-and-so being arrested after blowing up so-and-so.  The lack of fire arms makes it easier to control insurrection - and insurrection is fomenting, across the country side.

3) There's more English speakers in China than there are in the US.  This helps the internet grow with the use and emphasis on English language (India is also semi-English fluent), but it also means that the Chinese totalitarian hegemony government is finding it increasingly difficult to censor media content that its citizens can access.  When I used to stay at Chinese hotels, the only way I could get my work email, uncensored, was to CALL OUT on a  long distance international line to a non-Chinese server on dial up, to up and down load company mails. Today, that's supposedly easier (and cheaper) but 8 years ago, there was no good way to do it.

4) many US companies, large and small, are finding it increasingly difficult to do business in China, with technology transfer agreements mandatory, quality abysmally low, communications problems, insurmountable cultural issues, and escalating travel costs... and companies are "farming in" or "un-out-sourcing" final assembly, component production, engineering, and other essential business processes.  This is leading to Chinese under-employment and unemployment, which is then fomenting discontent (see # 2 above).

5) the US military is still by far, the most dominant militaristic force on the globe.  The Chinese are very smart - not as dumb as many Westerns want to believe -  and they know they cannot take on the US military head-to-head, but they (like Al Qaeda) can plan on strategic little strikes, here and there, to get what they want / emphasize what is important to their national interests, etc.  Unlike Al Qaeda, China is a nation state, with real assets and financial ties to their largest competitor, so the analogy breaks down quickly, but China is keenly studying the US military for weaknesses and areas of opportunity.  Instead of dumping 100s of billions into military spending, the Chinese are fighting to build infrastructure (and massively funding it 100X more than the US is) and build a middle class of citizens from the $2-dollars-a-day peasant population, to avoid the fomenting discontent that won't go away (see # 4 and 2 above).

Ironically, what will be most telling about China in the next 10 years, is to see what happens to Mexico, where it appears a failed state governed by (funded by, extorted by)  murderously wealthy narco terrorists, is being propped up by US funding, US military, US drone strikes, US DEA intervention.  There's 1000s of people being killed / bodies being discovered / mass graves being found / whole families being executed in Mexico, monthly, by the drug cartels and corrupt officials who have been bought off.  The money involved is staggering.  While Mexico USED TO BE a manufacturing base for many goods bound for America, that's decreasing rapidly.  Shops are closing in Mexico, and moving to China, Vietnam, and other states not governed by the drug trade.  IF Mexico implodes, on our southern border, then it will be more than interesting to see what China does as America grapples with the immediate neighboring threat.  I highly doubt China will stand by, and not seize the opportunity to make larger strategic gains that they've long coveted (South China Sea ruler-ship, greater Taiwan influence, slapping Japan for the 30 years of rape & occupation last century, greater access to African and South American natural resources).

China is not our "friend" like the UK or Canada or Australia are our friends.  China is an adversary, a rival, a force to be reckoned with. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Respect for Joe Scarborough

When I travel, I often watch / listen to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" as I do yoga, check email, get dressed in the morning. I've always liked Mika Brzezinski, as the smart, driven, lovely, organized foundation of a show that without her would be a bunch of sophomoric snorting and yelling fest.  She keeps the boys in line and the show on message.  This morning, "Morning Joe" focused on women in America, and how women are under-valued, the conversation being driven by Mika. 

What really impressed me, was when Scarborough said "why was I making 14 ttimes what Mika was?" and Mika then added "He convinced NBC's management to send his ratings bonuses to me".  Wow.  That was remarkable.  I do not agree with Scarborough's political ideology, but I have a new found respect for this man who is smart enough to realize how VERY VALUABLE his co-host is, and how he would be completely screwed without her. 

More male leaders, managers, persons in power, need to adopt such a positive perspective, and truly value the women they work with, who work for them, who put up with their merde, who make them look good, who drive things forward, who significantly contribute.  Nicely done Joe S.  I'll view your show less skeptically now, going forward, as I realize you're not as dumb as I thought you were.  I've always had faith in Mika =)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rubbing MSNBC Into Republican Faces

As I sip wine - A delicious screw top Southern French Carignan (2009 vin de pays des Cotes Catalanes, indication geographique protegee, from Total Wine, $9 a bottle) - I am still chuckling about my earlier work out in the hotel's small but useful exercise room.  The Hampton Inn here in Greenville has one tread mill, one step machine, one recumbent bike, and one poorly maintained weight machine (it squeaks loudly, pulleys stick, and has some knobs missing for adjustments).  It ALSO has a 30-some inch HD TV on the wall in front of the treadmill and step machine. 

Usually, the TV is tuned to FOX and just being in the weight room is either unbearable, or outrageously hilarious, depending on what is on.  But tonight, when I entered, Chris Matthews was talking about quitter 1/2 term governor and talk show guest Sarah Palin, he was followed by the snarky and snide Cenk Uygur.   Cenk is MSNBC's version of 'a smarter Hannity' or a 'more sarcastic O'Reilly' ... but I don't enjoy watching him.  HOWEVER, as I walked uphill at 1 degree inclines, at 5 mph, and then jogged a few miles at 6 mph, a series of stereotypical South Carolina Republicans walked in, worked out for a few minutes, decided they couldn't take the MSNBC feed, and left.  How did I ID them as "stereotypical South Carolina Republicans"?   There were the golf shirts that several wore, to work out in.  The paunch guts from drinking beer and eating lots of carbs while getting little or no exercise, on pasty white middle aged frames.  The indignant looks on their faces at the laughter I produced at negative (but truthful) comments CM made about Palin helped to give them away.  The storming out after 2 or 3 minutes of a non-work out, clinched it.

Now, this is the hotel that keeps Fox  on the lobby, 24/7 - providing hilarity when I refill hot water into my tea from time to time.  Greenville is the buckle of the Bible belt, with Bob Jones "University" located here, and 1/2 a dozen "christian" colleges in the area, solidly Red State, so I really enjoyed the disdain I drew from those who hate MSNBC, perhaps inordinately.  Glee comes in many forms.

Coins As Luggage Penetrameters

I used to do alot of commercial airline travel for work, from 1999 to 2004.  Then, for about 3 years, I flew very very little, and moved to Arizona, where I flew 3 or 4 times a year for business, and once or twice a year for personal trips.  I've had my suit case x-rayed hundreds of times, in dozens of countries.  For the last dozen years, I have worked with some very skilled radiographers - x-ray specialists, who look at industrial components, looking for x-ray detectable defects.  In the last year, I've begun to work more closely with digital x-rays and have come to understand that technology more thoroughly than my previous cursory perspective. 

One thing radiographers love when they are looking at a radiograph, digital or film, is a good, clear, contrasting penetrameter.  A penetrameter helps them to know that their x-ray equipment is functioning correctly, that the object they are targeting is showing up clearly (compared to the brightly defined penetrameter beside it), and - I have found - it tends to put them "at ease".  See, without a clear penetrameter in the image, the mind of the radiographer begins to worry, to wander, to LOOK for things that maybe aren't there, or to take another image 'just to make sure'.  But WITH a penetrameter in the image, their extensive training kicks in, the human mind can make clear contrasts. These things ARE visible, and they are supposed to be, so OK, I can be less nervous, and not wonder or worry so much.  If the penetrameter is NOT clearly visible..  hmmm....  why not? What else is hiding / lurking / not visible?

So in the last 6 months, I've been INTENTIONALLY leaving coins in my luggage, in the outside thin zipper pocket, KNOWING that the luggage will be x-rayed by a TSA employee who Might or Might Not be trained very well, but who is still human, and whose eye will be Drawn To the coins, as they act as a penetrameter.  It's human nature.  And it's worked.  Since I've begun leaving the coins in, I've not been "bag checked!!!" by TSA on my roll-on bag, and if I check a bag, there's no longer the "checked by TSA" pieces of paper being left inside the suit case as there used to be post-9-11. 

In my perspective - and I've looked at 1000s of x-ray films and dozens of different metallic parts, both on film and digitally - one cannot help but look at the large shiny coin, to reflexively count the circumferential ridges, to notice the differentiation between the solid metal coin and the other objects nearby.  I am going to keep leaving a few coins in the zippered pockets, and continue to not get stopped going through security. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Destined To Be Killed Over Texas

One day, I will be killed in the skies over Texas.  It will not be surprising to me.  Three trans-Texas flights this year, with 3 near misses.  It's not a coincidence anymore.

Enroute from Phoenix to Atlanta on Sunday, We were swinging a wide arc to the south to avoid a thunderstorm over Abilene (the same system that headed to SW Missouri and wiped out Joplin) when the pilot put on the "fasten your seat belt" sign.  Flight attendants all sat down, and it got a little bumpy.  I turned off my laptop to preserve the hard drive. No biggie, the turbulence went away mercifully and quickly for a pleasant change.  Then, as we passed the storm, the seat belt sign went off, and I resumed working on emails with my work computer.  In a Twilight Zone moment, I saw something flash out of the corner of my eye outside.  I looked to see a Gulfstream (G4 I think) jet, and it's contrail, Not Even TWO HUNDRED FEET BELOW us, on a course that was just 10 degrees off of a head-on-collision with DL1746!! The sun was setting behind us and to the port side slightly, and the G4 was heading directly into the setting sun, so it's raised tail section reflected spectacularly into my 2A window seat.  It passed by so fast (at a relative 1150 mph, our easterly 600 mph and the G4's westerly 550 at cruising altitude) that I did not get the plane's tail ID number (N_ _ _ _), but it was at least a 6 window-panes per side plane, slightly swept back wings, no wing-tip vertical turbulence reducers .. so maybe it was an older model for an aging millionaire.  As I looked back at the receding plane off the port side, we entered the smaller jet's wake turbulence for a moment of bumping. 

This is a disturbing trend over Texas, where it appears air traffic controllers don't want to "in fringe" on any pilot's right to fly as close to any other pilot's plane, or to scare the crap out of observant passengers.  We were at 35,000 feet cruising altitude, so any collision would have likely resulted in a massive dive - controlled or uncontrolled - and the likely death or injury of many passengers in the aging Delta 757-200 in which I was traveling.  A least he smaller private plane would have been obliterated, so the world would have had one fewer Texas millionaires / billionaires.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Morning Feline

How can I help you?  Hmmmmm? Can't you see I am reading the paper?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where's The Vs?

While in India, I watched India Television News after the Osama Pakistan operation.  ("Was PAK in Cahoots?" - they actually said "cahoots" on the news).  I noticed that the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indians, don't like their W's.  The following is a list of just a few words I heard on the morning news from the large screen HD TV, as I did yoga in my room each morning, bed-side:
Inwestigation
Wexed
Inwented
Wery Wery (as in "Wery Wery Cautious")
Weer off course
Awailable
Waulted arches
Human Rights Wiolations
Inwaluable
Inwested

From time to time, I had to do a double take to make sure Elmer Fudd was not speaking.  Maybe it is some sort of passive-aggressive pro-German / anti-English sentiment from the former East India Company colony? 

Chakana Torrontes

Last week on my return flight, I discovered an unexpected Argentinian white wine, Chakana Torrontes Mendoza. 

I'd asked for a white Bordeaux to go with my salad, salmon, and chicken, but the nice flight attendant apologized and said the menus were calling out wines they no longer carried, and offered the Torrontes instead.  I tried it, and was very pleasantly surprised.  Notes of Apricot, Vanilla, and a Carmel smoothness made this a very enjoyable wine. There was only the tiniest hint of citrus, that did not overwhelm, but did linger on the tongue after each sip.  I really have no affinity for grapefruit juice sauvignon blancs - as are typical of every New Zealand sauvignon blanc I've ever tasted - but this Argentinian discovery delivered nicely.  I attempted to take a photo of the bottle in-flight in the galley, but the lighting was not optimal.  You can see a much better image of it here (link).  Under $15, this is a wonderful bottle of white.

Harder To Sign Out

I find it very unhelpful that Gmail and Facebook have made it harder to "Sign Out". There used to be a handy "sign out" button at the top of the screen.  No longer.  Now it is buried in a pull down, under your name or account.  Yes, I know that each voracious site wants you to stay logged in so as to harvest all your data, watch your patterns of surfing, see who you talk to, where you go, what you're interested in so that they can better MARKET to you, and I find that incredibly annoying.  I also find it bogs down my computer, even with Trackmenot, Ghostery, Adblocker Plus, and other Mozilla add-ons.  I've never once in my life found some push ad useful to me, other than to mock it, or use as an object of ridicule.

Why have Google and FB hidden the "sign out" button? Because they know most people are lazy, and if they don't see it immediately on the page, they probably won't go hunting for it, or at least they will be less likely to immediately sign out.  It's an evil application of behavioral science. 

On my Delta sky miles account, the "log out" button is prominent - but Delta doesn't want me to forget to log out when I am on a public computer printing up a boarding pass, only to have some deviant marauder then transfer all of my miles out of my account or tamper with it in some way.  Delta's protecting themselves AND serving their customer.  I respect sites that give me a prominent choice to SIGN OUT, and dislike the ones who don't.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hey Silence, Why The Long Face?

Hey "The Silence", why the long face?  (Bah-dum-pishhh!)

I have to admit, I was more than a little leery of the the new season of Dr Who (in America) a month ago when I saw the first "The Silence" episode.   I thought to myself "I've seen this, it was called 'X-files' the first time." But I was happy to see the writers didn't stay stuck in a recycled X-files rut, and expanded their themes beyond the "we can't remember the mouth-less aliens we just saw, as they wipe our memories". If only the human brain were THAT easily wiped - a rather stretched premise.  "The Silence" - give me a break, please.

And I am very happy to see that Rick Karr's 2010 and 2011 BBC television incarnation, Matt Smith, is doing a nice job as the 11th doctor.  Better than I expected he would.  I almost began to not miss David Tennant.  I even bought myself a Stetson hat in Sedona last weekend, partially inspired by Smith's love of the same style, and mostly because it is quite practical to keeping the sun off one's head, face, and neck, when driving a convertible around Arizona.

Fall Back Position - Gun Instructor

In the same vein of "Preparedness" and "Fun", I participated in a "Fun After Work Activity" with Dr Desert Flower's laboratory yesterday at Shooter's World in west central Phoenix.  1/2 a dozen of her lab co-workers came to shoot hand guns at the range. Some of the participants had never shot a gun before in their life.  It was Dr Desert Flower's second time shooting.  Glock 9mm, 40 cal, and Sig 9mms were fired, and various mugger and zombie targets were sighted. 

I found that I really enjoyed instructing new shooters about weapon safety, and basic operations.  The transformation I witnessed first hand, of seeing a person go from being FRIGHTENED of a fire arm (loaded, or unloaded), to being able to load and fire the weapon, to being able to show other newbies how to handle the weapon, provided me with tremendous satisfaction.  One of DDF's coworkers was so frightened of the Glock initially, that she treated it like a scorpion at first, afraid it would sting her.  This was very similar to DDF's first time at the range, and I as able to show her how the gun functioned, how to load it, how to unload it, how to verify that it was loaded or if it was unloaded, how the semi-auto reloading mechanism worked, how to use the sights, etc.  After discharging a clip of rounds into a zombie target, the newbie's tension and fear began to dissolve as a healthy respect for the weapon and its capabilities was formed.  DDF was even able to provide a degree of instruction to others, with her own familiarization.

The satisfaction I got from seeing this progress, was immeasurable.  This is true or both the immediate effect - decrease of fear & increase of respect at the range - as well as the lasting effects of understanding the weapon's capabilities, and reduction of stress that such an understanding and respect carries.  During the last business trip I took before showing DDF how to use the weapon, she expressed a great deal of concern about her personal safety here in our neighborhood as Maricopa County and Phoenix City police helicopters circled over the sub division late at night looking for suspects and miscreants.  After I showed her how to use the weapon at the range, her fear abated and stress level decreased.  I watched a similar progression with her newbie co-workers yesterday as they became more familiar with each firearm.  Someday when I retire in my 70s or 80s, I may take up being a shooting range instructor.

On a side note, the rented Sig Sauer 9mm was an amazing quality firearm.  Smooth magazine loading, very smooth trigger action, minimal recoil, excellent accuracy.  Very impressive.  Like butter.  It made my Glock 9mm feel very "clunky" and coarse.  Of course the Swiss Sig costs twice as much as a Glock.  Both are fine firearms, but the Sig made a great first impression.

CDC's Zombie Invasion Preparedness Plan

On Thursday, NPR played a story (link here) about how the CDC's disaster preparedness website had recommendations on it about what to do in case of a Zombie Invasion (link here). It's a great way to get through to the attention-span-of-a-gnat masses - you know, those people who are fans of Survivor, Americans at Idle, Jersey Shore (or anything MTV has on in the last 15 years), Cougar Town, Deadliest Catch, QVC, WWF, Fox, NASCAR, or any Dancing, Talent, or Reality Show.

Excerpts from the CDC site's recommendations are here:

  1. Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area. Besides a zombie apocalypse, this may include floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If you are unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.
  2. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home…or your town evacuates because of a hurricane. Pick one place right outside your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.
  3. Identify your emergency contacts. Make a list of local contacts like the police, fire department, and your local zombie response team. Also identify an out-of-state contact that you can call during an emergency to let the rest of your family know you are ok.
  4. Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don’t have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.
Beautifully written!  Hilarious that the site was so popular, that the CDC's website CRASHED and burned the first day the zombie plan was posted.  The list of items to have for disaster preparedness, I am pleased to say we have most of them in a large rubber-maid container stored in a closet.

Assemble the following items to create kits for use at home, the office, at school and/or in a vehicle: (We've got the BOLD items already prepared.... man, I feel like a Mormon sometimes)
  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Foodnon­perishable, easy­to­prepare items (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery­powered or hand­crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area
Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit. Suggested items to help meet additional needs are:
  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl, litter boxes, litter)
  • Two­way radios
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Manual can opener
Additional supplies to keep at home or in your kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:
  • Whistle
  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Towels
  • Work gloves
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Household liquid bleach
  • Entertainment items
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • AMMO (lots of ammo)
It's never a bad thing to be prepared.  Here in western Phoenix, we are Above the 100 year flood plain, 50 feet above the Aqua Fria (which typically is a dry river bed), on a relatively stable seismic zone, where tornadoes are incredibly rare.  We DO get alot of lightening and wind, but that is no reason for evacuation.  Worst thing that could happen, other than a zombie invasion, would be a nuclear melt down from the Palo Verdae 4GW reactor 40 miles SW of town.  Hopefully, none of those will come into being.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Flight Still Life Over Iceland

My flight last Thursday from Paris to Salt Lake City on Delta was quite pleasant. The flight attendant crew was experienced (40s and 50s, estimated age), professional, efficient, and customer centric. We took off from Charles De Gaul and turned due north, heading along the eastern shore of the UK.  While we were crossing over the Shetland Islands, and heading towards Iceland, nuts and aperitifs were served.  A yellow pepper soup was served that was so tasty, I asked for a 2nd bowl, which was happily and promptly served.
As we approached Iceland, the salads appeared... (notice the empty bread plate).  A drizzle of balsamic EVO dressing was probably superfluous, but tasty none the less.

Having been in Bangalore where my delicate western digestive system could not wipe out water borne micro-organisms, I'd not had a salad, fresh fruit or veggies (anything that could not be peeled) for weeks.  I devoured the succulent dark greens. The main course arrived, and it was delicious.  Couscous, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, the chicken (poulet) was a little over-done and dry, but there was no shortage of juice on the plate in which to soak and dip. (kudos to Delta for serving a meal with METAL utensils!!)

As we crossed just north of Iceland, dessert was served. 

Though they were pushing ice cream and chocolate cookies, I took the fresh fruit (washed with French water) and artisan cheeses, paired with a pear flavored digestive. It tasted as good as it looked.  My 2A seat was southern facing, and the still-rising sun did a wonderful job lighting my tray.  By this time, I was 3 glasses of Champagne and one glass of Argentinian white wine on my way towards blissfully happy, and I was taking pictures of pretty much everything.  Clouds... Icelandic shores... bottles of wine (more on that later)...

The strawberries (Fraise Fraise) were succulent.  The grapes semi-sweet and incredibly juicy.  The cheeses, fantastic. 
Over Greenland and Canada, the entire cabin was asleep.  I remained awake to work through accumulated hard drive emails that were clogging up my Outlook PST file over the last 2 weeks.  I made great progress in reducing 800 emails down to 150 over a period of 8 hours - kudos again to Delta to for having powered seats, so I was not limited to a 2 hour battery life!  I checked out the window twice by lifting the shade to see if there was ANYTHING to view over Greenland.  There was NOTHING except SOLID, Blinding, white light.  It reminded me of glimpses of  refactory lined blast furnaces I've audited in previous jobs in the mid-west.

While I had expected the Delta portions of my trip to be inferior to the Air France portions, the inverse was true.  The Delta crews were remarkable, while the Air France crews (this trip) were adequate at best, indignant and slow at worst.  Europe to SLC is not a bad route.  Customs and Immigration in SLC is small, quaint, and fine for a single plane.  I'd hate to see it have to handle multiple incoming flights.  I opted for the metal detector & frisking, instead of the full body scan x-ray, and had my inseam checked, buttocks patted down, nipples caressed, and felt even slightly tickled as the nitrile gloved TSA employee felt up and down my lats. If you have the time, and you want to reduce your over-all radiation exposure, I recommend opting out.

I also recommend Delta's Business Elite class of service.  Those ladies do a very nice job.

Bangalore Screened Motorcycles

 The traffic in Bangalore is... "an adventure". 

There ARE helmet laws for 2 wheeler drivers, but passengers are not required to wear any head protection.  I called 2 wheeler riders without helmets "organ donors" and this got a laugh from my co-workers. The term "squids" didn't have the same effect in land locked Bangalore. Sometimes there are as many as 6 people on one two wheeler - mom, dad, infant, and 3 children, all comfortably transiting on a motorcycle or scooter.  In the photo above, we are heading down what is ostensibly a 2 lane street in the 'cheap furniture' district, but lanes are not marked, and as you can see, as many vehicles as possible cram into the available space.


The motorcycle passenger holding the screen (and wearing flip flops) really got my attention, and traffic slowed enough enabling me to take several pictures.  As the motorcycle driver maneuvered his bike through traffic, the edges of the screen barely clearing stationary and moving obstacles, sometimes at a crawl, sometimes at speeds of 10 or 15 mph, it really was quite amazing to see.  I tried to take video of this, but the very limited field of view tremendously reduced the chaos and impact that the dynamic traffic flow introduced.

Since it was the 2nd trip to India, and I've been 13 times to China, "no rules" traffic was not as shocking this time as it was the first time.  The Indian drivers really do move "as if one", in a "hive mentality" or some type of "uber organism" wherein every driver is intrinsically aware of every other driver's, cow's. dog's, pedestrian's, entities' intentions, and almost perfectly harmoniously move together - with minor accidents noted.  It's quite an experience.  While Arizona I-10, Atlanta I-85, and Chicago I-80/94 traffic can be hectic and aggressive, it is nothing like the amorphous chaos I've witnessed on Bangalore streets.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Indian Wine?

While I was in Bangalore earlier this month, I tried to seek out drinkable wine.  The Taj had an extensive wine list, but $100 or $200 for a bottle of mass produced, negotiant French or Italian wines that I could buy in most US grocery stores for $10 or $15 dollars, was an unacceptably high price - business travel or personal travel, I have to draw a line.  So I turned to local Indian wines.  My first attempt, was not so successful (link here), but I did find a drinkable Grover Vineyards, Nandi Hills, La Reserve 2008 bottle for under $50 a bottle ($10 a glass, if purchased by the glass).  It was drinkable. Not bad.  I've had Much worse wine in my life.  The La Reserve went well with kababs, lamb boti, somewhat spicy vegetarian dishes, beef wellington, and other dishes. 



















 
I also tried a Four Seasons Shiraz, grown in collaboration with Bouvet-Ladubay, a young 2010 (December 2010).  I cannot say I liked this wine.  It gave me a head ache by the end of the first glass, and the 2nd glass intensified the pain above and behind my eyes. I tried to finish this bottle the 2nd night, but it was really not enjoyable.  I cannot recommend the Four Seasons, and I told the restaurant managers at the Taj the same thing.  The La Reserve I found at other hotels and downtown restaurants where my colleagues and I took several meals. It was equally drinkable and enjoyable at other venues as well, so that goes to quality of the producer. 

I also like to try to sample the local vintages, as I did in Germany in March - sometimes with better success than others.  I encourage anyone who is interested in wine and has a sense of adventure and exploration, to also try the local vintages, cautiously.  Try a glass, before committing to a whole bottle.  If it is unpalatable, don't finish it - you'll regret it.  If it IS enjoyable, then you can revel in the discovery of local flavor and avoid the higher prices of imported wines.  Cheers.

Falling In Love With Mogwai

Late last month, as I flew from Paris to Bangalore, I found Air France had Mogwai's album "Hardcore will never die, but you will".  "What is this?" I asked myself, and as I waited for dinner to be served in flight, I began listening... and listening... and listening.  I ate, and fell asleep on the 10 hour flight, listening repeatedly to the album.  I've now fallen in love with Mogwai.  It's my friend Ryan's fault.  He's a massive Mogwai fan, and he's going to see them in Atlanta tomorrow night. He's mentioned them to me before, but I did not take much note of this somewhat obscure instrumental band.  Now that I've listened to a one disc sample of the band, I am hooked.  Ryan just called me and recommended Batcat, as the best song on "The Hawk is Howling", Mogwai's previous album before "Hardcore".  Here's the video:

In my perspective, Mogwai evokes memory traces of Def Tones, Tangerine Dream, Moby, Reznor, and Tool, with dissonant keyboard chords, powerfully presented, played with excellent musicality, and produced in an addictive way that keeps the listener coming back for more.  Mogwai's song titles are bizarre.  The Air France selectionsfrom "Hard Core Will Never Die, But You Will" were
White Noise
Mexican Grand Prix
Rano Pano
Death Rays
San Pedro
Letters to the Metro
George Square Thatcher Death Party
How To Be a Werewolf
Too Raging to Cheers
You're Lionel Ritchie

I thank those I love for expanding my musical appreciation.  Without my buddy Ryan's persistence, I would have never heard about Mogwai, Queens of the Stone Age, Skinny Puppy, Primus, Tool, Perfect Circle, and many more.  We used to listen to Black Sabbath and ACDC late at night freshman year in High School... good times.  My buddy Jerry introduced me to Prefab Sprout. Had it not been for my buddy Thom, The Call and The Alarm would have been unknown to me.  My college buddy Rick R showed me an appreciation for The Pogues that took me years to realize, and my dorm neighbors Craig & Steve revealed Tom Waits, The Cure, Yaz, Everything But The Girl, and countless others.  My good friend Ron showed me the soul wrenching sadness of The Blue Nile and The Waterboys, for which I am forever grateful.  They Might Be Giants would be alien to me without my friend Todd's love of them.  My anarchist friend Joe M renewed my love of The Mothers of Invention, Zappa, The Dead Kennedys, and then revealed Anti Flag to me as well.  And my son exposed me to The Black Keys, Apex Theory, Paris Cafe, System of a Down, and Florence and the Machine, to name just a few. My musical tastes and preferences are a composite of what I've been exposed to, some of it sticking, and some of it repulsive - I tried to listen to Prodigy in flight last week, and couldn't make it through a single song without fast forwarding through the album... and I used to like those guys... so it's not static.  It's a fluid, dynamic, evolving entity, influenced by my friends.

AQAP?

NPR is running a story (link here) on "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" (AQAP)... and the misguided little tool Anwar al-Awlaki (he's not a "firebrand", he's a pathetically sad little sack).  Yemen's the only place where such a pimple on the face of the world could hide on the "Peninsula" since the Jordanians, Saudis, Omanis, and Qataris have a much more advanced and totalitarian grip on their countries, and the Abu Dabian Emirates have a much more modern and open society where such a fundamentalist anachronism would stick out and look as obviously foolish as a stupid engineer-turn-preacher calling for the end of the world.

Classic Onion - Jared Lee

My friend Mike S reminded me of this January vintage Onion article (link here) "Shooting Suspect Released After Not Breaking Any Arizona Laws".  As I keep hearing NPR talking about Gabrielle Giffords recovery and skull operation, the Onion's perspective makes me laugh. 

She Sheila

Back in the early 80s, my friends and I formed a band, and played some songs in garages and basements.  I never played with them publicly, but they all went off to Purdue after High School and played their own songs as Teeth and The Man and other iterations.  But before those West Lafayette incarnations came into being, we played originals and covers, by groups like The Producers, Bad Manners, Rush, Devo, and others as the progenitor known as Idiot Savant.  Unlike The Producers, we had TWO keyboardists, not just one, and neither of our keyboardists were bald. =P  We also didn't look half as cool or mass-marketable in white T-shirts as The Producers did, but Dr Desert Flower did seem to be drawn to the drummer in white shorts, much like The Producers drummer Bryan Holmes can be seen wearing in the first minute of the video - LOL!

Other classic originals that we pioneered were "Boosabah", "Daddy's a Mortician", and "Drum".  It's hard to go back 30 years in one's memory, to try and recall this stuff, unrehearsed... but it's good mental exercise. Sniffff... sniffff... inhale... what's that burning smell?  Are those synapses firing?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Engineers At Work?

For the 10 days I stayed at the Taj, this sign and scaffolding set up remained at the poolside.  Not once did I see an actual "engineer" near the sign or working adjacent (other than myself).  I DID see a small cadre of manual laborers, who were each diminutive in height, climb the ladder-less scaffolding and pass large boxes up to each other, without any fall harnesses, safety equipment, or OSHA-like regulations, working on the 5 story scaffold.  The rope shown, was not used, on the day I observed the 6 workers pass a 1 meter by 1/2 meter rectangular box up from one man to the next, precariously.

In a country of 1.1 billion people, apparently 'life is cheap'.  If someone demands some safety equipment, they can easily be replaced by someone who'll work without any. 

The "lowest story" of the green windows, is the 3rd floor, and the ground on which the scaffold is constructed is sloped towards the pool.  Yikes. It would have been much better to have the workers just use the guest elevators and get to the windows they were working on from the inside.

Hotel Door Security Assurance

The Taj Vivanta introduced me to a new type of door chain that I'd previously never seen before.  The little red and black toggle switch cannot be circumvented.  Once it is engaged, the door chain is locked. You have to close the door to disengage the mechanism.  The chain retracts and coils up inside the door. 
The Taj in Whitefield is not yet 2 years old.  This "latest technology" reassures the guest staying in the room, where TOO OFTEN in China, Korea, Romania, I've had well intended but idiotic hotel personnel try to enter my room or my co-workers' rooms to "wake up" the guest, or provide "bed turn down service" or whatever trumped up reason the hotel employee can think of to intrude on the sanctuary and privacy of the guest's room.  I used to often move a piece of furniture or brace my suit case (handle extended) against the door to slow or prevent entry of unwanted hotel personnel into my room when I was sleeping, showering, working on my computer, doing yoga / exercising, etc.  I once watched a maintenance man at a Connecticut Radisson Inn use a multi-bar linkage to snake under the door, with a narrow telescope, and unhook the door chain, so that the hotel could assist a guest who had fallen ill... so I know there's a "higher tech" means of gaining entry without kicking the door down as well.

This simple, untamperable door chain helped to reassure me that no one would be walking in on me unexpectedly while staying in the hotel for almost 2 weeks.  It was a nice touch. 

Watch, Don't Play Cricket

I think I prefer to watch cricket being played, as opposed to trying to play it myself.   Especially when playing with young co-workers, most of whom are young enough to be my sons (if I lived in Arkansas or Alabama, and never graduated from a high fertility high school) - several actually are as old as my son!
These Were iron-free 34 inch waist cotton pants that I really liked... Dr Desert Flower didn't like the 'cut' of them on me - she seems to have a "cheap clothes from Target" radar that is extremely accurate, and prefers Calvin, Perry Ellis,and other designer stuff on her husband that we find on massive sale (60% off, then an additional 20% off sorts of sales).  Now I have something I can wear as I work in the yard or in the garage - all of my other work-around-the-house pants were 38 and 40 waists, which were annoyingly baggy.

A week later, the palm of my hand is healed up, the knee is all scabbed up and healing nicely.  The liquid gelled alcohol Purell I applied to my knee in the Bangalore hotel brought a new level of topical pain that I'd been previously, blissfully, unaware.  I was glad that I took a tube of topical antibiotic ointment and latex free band-aids as well, to avoid a nasty staph infection. 

So the next chance I get to PLAY Cricket, I will refrain and instead, WATCH it and enjoy a cool refreshing drink instead.

Auto Rickshaw Differentiation

One  advantage of staying at a 4 star hotel in Bangalore that caters to business travelers, is that when you hire a car there to drive you to work each day, the driver is personable, highly trained (he drives safely), experienced, and has good English speaking ability.  The drivers politely ask the usual questions during the 1 kilometer, 10 minute ride: 
- Did you have breakfast sir?
- First time in Bangalore sir?
- Have any plans for this weekend sir?
- What do you like most about Bangalore sir?
- Where is your home sir?
- What time do you need to be picked up this evening sir?

I politely reply, using no contractions and simple sentence structure (noun, verb, direct object) with clean and clear annunciation so they can hear over the din of other vehicles' horns and engines.  Then I ask them questions to learn more about life in India.
- How long have you driven for Taj?
- How many years did you drive before Taj hired you?
- Is Mr Sultan (the head of the Travel Desk) a good man to work for?
- Do you enjoy driving for the Taj?
- How many times each week do you make the Airport Pick-up route? (an hour and a 1/2 drive through massive construction traffic and bumpy bumpy roads).
Then on Wednesday, on my last trip to the office, we witnessed an auto accident.  Right beside us, a brand new Chevy (a tiny car that resembles a Smart Car) SLAMMED on it's breaks, coming to an abrupt halt, and the small Toyota behind it didn't react fast enough and rear ended the Chevy, at the entrance to the technology park in which the Taj Vivanta is located.  Tires screeched,  contact, impact, plastic was shattered and metal to metal contact was made.  The entire world STOPPED, for about 5 seconds.  Every pedestrian, motorcyclist, driver, and security guard, paused to see if the drivers were all right, and if the cause of the accident were two cars of approx equal size and value (they were, so no mob action was needed, link here).  We were RIGHT NEXT TO the accident, and though I was a witness, the Taj driver drove forward as soon as the cacophony of horns began to honk, everyone realizing it was property damage only and not bodily damage.

I mentioned to the driver that this was the 2nd accident I saw this visit.  The previous one, was the prior Saturday when we were stuck in traffic, and a Auto Rickshaw edging forward, bumped a pedestrian who was crossing the street in front of the green tricycle.  The pedestrian GRABBED the Auto Rickshaw driver's arm and handle bar, and shook it, a verbal argument ensued, the surrounding mob (our car adjacent, included) observed the confrontation.  A few seconds later, the scene de-escalated, and the pedestrian unhurt, except for his pride, walked off, and the cacophony resume, traffic inching forward.

To my surprise, the Taj driver asked me "What color was the Rickshaw sir?" 
"Green" I replied.
"Those are 4 cycle engines sir. The black ones are 2 cycle engines" the driver replied. 
THAT made sense.  The black ones were generally more beat up, older looking, belching more black smoke, and slower, powered by a 10 or 15 Hp lawnmower engine.  The green rickshaws looked (generally) newer, usually belching less black smoke, able to do 30 or 40 mph, as compared to the two cycle approx 25 mph strained max. 

I learn something new everyday.  =)

Weekend Spiked Activity

Last weekend, May 14th specifically, JustJoeP went from about 100 hits a day to nearly 400.  Sunday it tapered down to 200 and Monday back to "normal".  I ran the google analytics and found that the "Argument Against Facebook" had nearly 300 hits alone! No Clue how or why, but it perhaps was picked up by a robot trawler somewhere and posted on some message board where it went mini-viral.  I googled JustJoeP to see if anything came up for the 14th, but all I could determine was that there's lots of Scandinavians named Joep =P  LOL!

Apex Apossibly

This Apex Theory song has been running through my head today...

...not sure why.  The drum track is nothing spectacular in the chorus and the majority of the song, but the tune does tend to stick in the back of my drum-oriented cerebellum.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wiig's Bridesmaids Very Funny

Dr Desert Flower wanted to follow Jon Stewart's advice and see Bridesmaids last night, so we took the convertible out to the local movie theater and caught the late show.  Theater was packed and we had to sit in the 3rd row, which was a unusual optical experience akin to IMAX - but the movie was surprisingly well written, and painfully funny in many places.  A bit over-the-top from time to time, but as funny, or funnier than The Hangover in many places.  Kristen Wiig is lovely and hilarious.  None of her annoying SNL characters appeared or were hinted at here, thankfully!  Several scenes had me holding my head and wanting to hide my eyes in a "they're not really going to do THAT, are they?"  I never knew that trying on bridesmaids' dresses could be so incredibly funny!  There's several shirtless shots of Jon Hamm, for the ladies (and for hopelessly unrealistic gay men too, I guess), who plays a completely irredeemable douche.  The credits played the Wanda Jackson version of Vince Taylor's "Shakin All Over", but I could not find a non-live version of Wanda's cover, so I'll attach the original here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sublime Zeppelin

I keep hearing (mostly in THICK Southern drawls on the radio) about the "Flood plANE", and "what da Dutch are lookin at", and "when the levee breaks" and I was so tempted to post "When the Levee Breaks" or "Fool In The Rain". but I already did that months ago (links here and here).  So instead, I opted for the sublime Led Zeppelin "The Rain Song" off of Houses of the Holy.

Yellowstome Lake Frozen in May?

I had a window seat in the Delta Airlines Boeing 767 enroute from Paris to Salt Lake City yesterday.  The pilot nicely informed us that Yellow Stone was off to the left side (port side) or the plane and having my digital camera handy, I snapped this pic.  It's mid May, and Yellowstone Lake is still solidly frozen?  I'd thought it would have thawed in March or April.  As Dr Desert Flower and I were planning on taking a road trip in her new convertible from Arizona to Montana sometime this Fall, I need to make damn sure we do it before the first snow falls hit in September (projected).

In Vein, Late Night

When I was a little boy, I was always amazed by my father's forearms and how strong his hands and forearms were.  He was not Popeye or anything, but a lifetime of manual labor. handling reams of paper in the printing shops where he cut paper made the veins of his forearms very prominent, and his grip tenacious.  As the smallest of his sons, I looked up to my father's physical strength in awe as a pre-teen, and as a goal to someday achieve as a teenager and college student. 

Since eliminating extraneous carbs and gluten from my diet 2 years ago, and adopting a daily routine of physical activity to accelerate heart rate and keep my veins clear of heart attack causing plaque, I've found that my forearms are now prominently vein-y, as much or more so than my father's arms ever showed.  As a "fat kid" most of my life, I resigned myself to the conclusion that I would never have actual veins showing no matter how much I worked out or didn't work out, due to the superfluous pudgy body fat cushioning all the skin contours - and lining the interior of my veins and arteries as well with flow restricting plaque.  That paradigm no longer is holding true.

This visibility is especially true during circadian evening rhythms where blood pressure and cortisone levels naturally increase.  As I was packing up my dirty laundry in Bangalore earlier this week after an intense 1/2 hour of upper body work out at the hotel's gym, I noticed this vein vanity, and snapped this image in the shaving mirror.  Such vein clarity has helped the blood donation centers find a vein more easily - it just sucks that since I've traveled to India, I cannot donate blood again for a solid year, due to the irrational fear of US blood banks who think I MIGHT have contracted malaria while I am there.   I was in an urban area, sustained no mosquito bites, and have no symptoms of malaria... but ok...  my progression from 6 gallons to 7 gallons (lifetime) of donated blood will be halted by another year.

Benign Fracking? Yeah, Right

Duke University recently published a peer reviewed study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (link here) that Proves, drinking water wells that are near hydrofracking sites are 17 times higher in natural gas than drinking water wells close to wells.  Yes, the study DID find the majority of the gas came from faulty and leaking wells, and could not be correlated Directly to hydrofracking (as covered on Science Friday today, link here), but the lead author Robert Jackson did explain that the higher pressures involved in hydrofracking are very likely the causes of the leaking, cracked wells.   

Jackson described it as similar to the studies on cancer and smoking.  Studies of patients BEFORE they began smoking typically did not exist, and "after" effects are the only observations that could be studied.  In the hydrofracking case however, a plethora of homeowners have come forward to the Duke researchers with PRE-well drilling data on their wells, and will be providing post-drilling data as well, for future studies.

If someone was drilling under my home, I'd me more than a little fighting mad.  I'm glad that most of the western Phoenix valley is 1000 to 1500 feet deep in sand & silt from the multiple Pacific Ocean flooding that occurred here over the last billion years.  And at a million gallons per well of stolen ground water... that's insane and unsustainable.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bring On The Dal!

Tonight, I tried Dal for the first time in my life.  It was superb, even, dal-icious!  The chef at the Taj Vivanta Terracotta Indian Restaurant has come to know me, and my avoidance of wheat and gluten.  As  my delicious meal of chicken and lamb was served tonight, the customer centric waiter brought over a basket of bread, and said "this is compliments of the chef. It is Dal, and contains no wheat, we hope you like it".   I had previously tried missi rotti, a grainy, herb filled bread that was at most, according to the chef, "5 to 10% wheat".  It was very good.  The Dal (Dal (also spelled Dahl or Daal, or Dhal) (Hindi: दाल Dāl, Kannada: ಬೇಳೆ Bēḷe, Tamil: பருப்பு ) was even better.  Buttery, soft, warm, chewy, made of chickpeas, no gluten, no wheat, mmmmmmmmmmm.  Sucks that it took me 2 weeks to figure out that Dal existed. Naan is delicious too, but full of wheat.  Dal, suits me just fine.

If you're looking for bread to soak up your sauce on Indian food, or any south Asian food, and you don't want the artery clogging properties of wheat gluten or the massive carbs, try Dal.  I know I'll be asking for it by name from now on.  (Note: some chefs call Dal "Gram" flour - DON'T confuse this with Graham flour, which is a homophone of Gram),

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fairness Cream? Seriously?

Looking through the Bangalore newspaper last Thursday, I came across a 1/2 page ad for "Fairness Cream".  On the ad was a picture of a very light skinned Indian man holding a jar of cream. "Whiter in 7 days".  Seriously?  I asked at work, and I was told by my colleagues that it is "very popular here".  Bleach your skin so you can be more "white"??? That's completely messed up.   I took a picture of the ad, but that is locked on my  my XD card (so links here and here).  "Fairness Cream" = "White Man cream".  Unbelievable.

Bangalore Driving - Highway to Hell

"no stop sign, speed limit" ... but there are a hell of a lot of speed bumps.  I've mentioned previously the insane symphony that is Bangalore traffic and the rules under which it operates (link here), but I spent about 3 hours yesterday as a passenger in a hotel driver hired minivan crawling, accelerating, standing still, nudging, squeezing, perilously dodging from Eastern Bangalore (Whitefield) to Central and West Central Bangalore from 10am to 6pm. 

Only once did I see a minor altercation, when in stopped traffic, a male pedestrian was bumped by a auto-rickshaw, and the pedestrian in turn GRABBED the auto-rickshaw driver's arm, and yelled at him in response.  The whole altercation lasted all of 10 seconds and quickly de-escalated as the traffic continued to nudge forward. 

The pathetically under powered and un-maintained autorickshaws spew  the worst smoke, on par with large TATA trucks (or lorries) that belch black smoke into the air.  All motorcycle drivers are supposed to wear helmets, but none of the passengers have to - I saw a family of 4 at one point, all crowded on a motor bike.  Young men, mostly in their 20s often flaunted the law, riding around without any head protection.  I called them "squids" and "organ donors" to my Indian colleagues, and one of them admitted "I do not use a helmet either" (he is not yet 30). Neither of them wanted to wear seat belts either, but I implored them - 'guys, don't make me waste my investment of time and energy on developing you, only to find yourself killed or brain dead in an auto accident'.  They both complied, with me sitting less than a meter away.

I took multiple pictures and mpeg video of various traffic photo worthy sites, but I forgot to bring the XD card adapter, and I've already figured out a XD card DOES NOT fit in a SD card slot - it goes in, but it doesn't come out without the help of tweezers (or 'pluckers' as they are called here) and lots of patience - so uploads will have to wait until my return later this week. 

I used to tense up and get stressed in such traffic in China, but I've learned to relax and just go with the flow.  The traffic DOES move like some kind of hive, or extended organism, where the only REAL rule of the road is "KNOW PRECISELY what each and every person is doing and what they intend to do next".  At one  point on the way back to the hotel yesterday evening a doggy was limping on 3 legs  across the road from right to left sides, holding up one paw, and our driver screeched to a halt to allow the canine to pass. I reflexively, casually, and with a feeling of inevitable dread, turned to look behind us and to the left where autorickshaws and motorbikes routinely try to pass, and a green and yellow rickshaw's metal-on-metal brakes SQUEALED as the driver Just missed the pooch.  That was the closest near-fatality all day that I saw, but the roads here would have given my mother a stroke to travel even one kilometer.

Still Hard To Find A Bad Saint - Saint-Véran

It's hard to find a bad saint. Even a white one.  On the flight form Paris to Bangalore lastokend, they served Saint-Véran Veilles Vignes 2008 Christophe Cordier, Bourgogne Blanc.  The Bourgogne region makes excellent burgundies as a rule, and the Saint-Véran was no exception.  Adjacent to Saint Amour, the Saint-Véran was crisp, light, dry, and delicious.   I had it with the fish (Colin Grille Vinaigrette A La Cive, mmmmm) and it complimented quite well.

As it is unlikely that Air France would have 2 entirely different wines for TO and FROM Bangalore flights, I am looking forward to enjoying this vintage Wednesday night on my return trip.  For a red selection, they offered a Bordeaux Rouge Medoc Chateau Haut Conndissas 2007 Jean Guyon.  A Merlot & Cabernet blend, with Petite Verdot mixed in as well, this was an enjoyable wine, even though the crew serving it was less than cordial. 

The digestifs ere Cognac Tesseron lot no. 90 "XO Selection"  which was a delicious Cognac, but was not really a XO.  I've found XOs to overwhelm my nasal passages and this one definitely didnt do that.  They also had a Armagnac available - Calvados hors d'age.  It was fine from what I can recall, but nothing remarkable.  (Note: Not Available in coach or economy plus)...but at 26 hours flying time, I'll be in Business Class.




Don't Wear Shorts In Bangalore

Yesterday, two of my young colleagues took me out on a tour around Bangalore.  We visited the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (a Science learning center targeted at school aged children, about 1/10th the size of Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry), the Venkatappa Art Gallery (which I called the 'broken shards of pottery exhibit), and the Bangalore Palace (a British colonial mansion built in 1887 prior to Independence, full of nude and semi nude art work).  In not a single location, did I see anyone else wearing shorts.  I did see a Gandhi style loin cloth at the museum on one older man, but not a bare calf anywhere.

I'd asked my quieter and recently hired colleague if 'shorts were ok to wear?' before we left the hotel.   I knew it would be in the 30s (C, 90s F) with humidity in the 50 to 70% range, and sporting my recent cricket acquired knee abrasion, I didn't want to be sweating in long pants, long sleeves, and having my knee ooze down the inside of my pant leg where I could not check my bandage.  He said it would be 'fine', so shorts I wore.  I probably saw close to 2000 people at the crowded museum, another 100 at the art galley & palace each, and 100 at lunch downtown, as well as many many thousands on motorcycles, scooters, and as pedestrians.  Not a single person wore short sleeves or short pants.

At each venue that was not tourist heavy (only the palace was) I got gawked at middle aged mothers who had children with them, teenagers, and small children.  I am used to being gawked at in China where I stand nearly a foot taller and I am usually the only one without black hair in the room.  In India, most people are shorter, and again I am the only non brunette, but I am also the only one not wearing long sleeved pants and shirt in everyone I saw in the city. 

At dinner I saw a white male sitting at an adjacent table, also wearing shorts, and as I finished my meal, paid my bill and got up to leave, I asked him if he'd noticed.  In a thick Australian accent he responded "I didn't notice, I was on a scooter most of the day around town."  He's a much braver man than I, since traffic in India, is a remarkably chaotic and tumultuous experience than I would EVER attempt to drive.  At the hotel, most of the non Asian tourists wear shorts, but not in this city of almost 10 million people.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nuts! ...for lunch

There is no such thing as a "low carb" lunch at my company's sprawling technology complex here in Bangalore.  For a price of 15 or 20 rupees (less than $3) you are served a stainless steel deep drawn plate about 1 foot in diameter, onto which 3 or 4 smaller bowls of approx 2.5 inches across are placed.  The little bowls get various sauces, veggies, or  meats, and the main bowl gets a heaping serving of rice into which you are expected to mix the individual contents of the smaller bowls, with your fingers, and eat them, again, bringing them to your mouth with your fingers (no forks, but a soup spoon can be found, if you really don't want to eat with sauce covered fingers).  My fellow colleagues, engineers, managers, everyone in Bangalore at the massive complex, all of them eat the cafeteria food - or bring food from home in small tins and mix it in a large 1 foot stainless deep drawn plate - in this manner.  Everyone eats / takes / shares from everyone elses' plate, some more than others giving or taking more than their neighboring co-worker. No beverage is taken, until after the meal ("It's bad to drink anything when eating" - more than one person has told me here).  It is an open-air cafeteria, and the fragrance of blooming lilac and other flowers gently wafts across the venue with the breeze.  There's 4 or 5 food service providers (to keep prices low) and everyone washes their hands following lunch, and then takes a glass of hot water "to wash the oils down so that they do not congeal in the throat and stomach" (I've been told).  Taking a chilled glass of water is frowned upon as bad for the digestion.

As Bangalore is in the southern half of India, there's really no "non spicy" food offered, so my first lunch with my colleagues last Monday, having been more than 2 years since my last visit here, and the first since I began avoiding carbs, was a tremendous shock to my system.  My nasal passages, mouth, throat, stomach, core, and autonomic nervous system kicked into turbo-mode, and I concentrated on calming yoga techniques for breathing and concentration, to soothe and subdue the negative wave of defense my body was mounting to this spiced assault of chilli, cuurries, peppers, marsalas, and curds.  I made it through the afternoon Monday without further incident, and then hatched a plan for the rest of the visit.

As General McAuliffe said to the Nazis in Bastogne Belgium in 1944 who were about to assault his paratroopers, "Nuts!" (link here) As I brought a large container of salted Spanish Marcona Almonds in my luggage, and I have the perpetual Planters 'mini-bar sized' 6.5 oz cocktail peanut container that is resealable, and no shortage of Fresh & Easy Earl Grey organic tea bags (and my insulated plastic travel mug the company gave out 5 or 6 years ago for reaching a safety milestone) on Tuesday I walked to lunch with my colleagues, mug and nut container in hand.  At first, they were confused... why would Joe not take local food with them for lunch?  But I explained the mechanism to which I reduced 20 kilos and 15 cm of waist belt size, and they accepted my American eccentricity.  February 2009 was the last time I was here, and there was ALOT more of me visiting at that time, and of the "more senior" colleagues who are still here and remember me from that time, they've each commented how I look much smaller and more healthy.


1 or 2 ounces of nuts and 4 or 5 ounces of tea at 130pm, and I am set for the rest of the afternoon, until dinner at 8 or 9pm.  Of course, this follows the hotel buffet style breakfast where I feast upon protein to the tune of 4 or 5 large, mostly white-ish but very well cooked strips of bacon, 4 or 5 scrambled eggs, 4 or 5 slices of gouda, swiss, and other artisan cheeses, a cup if black tea, and a Large heaping spoonful of sauteed mushrooms when they have them. One slice of meaty flavored papaya - choked down to help digest the pork - followed by two or three slices of freshly cut pineapple that have Zero HFCS or other any other sweetener saturating them (I've watched the 'fresh fruit chef' chopping the pineapples himself, there in an expansive fruit island at the entrance to the dining area, very nice touch).  It sure aint the nearly all organic fare I eat each day at home, but the fruit and protein are locally sourced.


My good friend Sundar with whom I've worked with for almost 5 years, noticed that I was no longer driven by hunger, not carrying 'emergency back up food bars' (granola, Kashi, South Beach, as I used to), and not being the first one to call everyone to lunch.  He and I discussed over a vegetarian dinner last Tuesday night that my life is no longer governed by "did you eat yet?" and when the next episode of carb intake was going to be. It's a positive, healthy change.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Room Keys And Cell Phones Don't Mix

The first 2 days of my Bangalore hotel stay, my room key card frustratingly kept failing.  Elevator would not go up, room door would not open. Once a day I had to go to the reception desk and get them to reset it. Grrrrr.  Then, on the third day, the young man at reception asked me "are you keeping the card near your cell phone sir?"  Indeed I had been.  My Bangalore office colleague had given me his old Samsung slide-smart-phone with a local number, and then he added 100 rupies (about $2,50) of air time to it, at 1 rupee a minute - compared to my corporate "Global Connect Phone" rental which rapes customers at $4 a minute international rates.  So I actually had 2 cell phones in my pocket next to the room key.

Proximity of a magnetic strip room key to a cell phone is not as big a problem, if the phone is not in use.  The power consumption and electromagnetic field is teeny tiny if the phone is not transmitting or receiving anything.  But Indian tele marketeers are aggressive bastards.  In the first hour after minutes were added to the phone, 7 text message adds arrived.  In the week I've had the phone, I've been spammed called twice a day minimum, text  (Want to put a smile on your face? Call blah...blah...blah...) messaged for offers I can't pass up 1/2 a dozen times (FREE Matrimony!!!).  Each of these spammed calls and texts were irradiating the key card in my pocket with bursts of magnetic energy to wipe it's weakly imprinted digital code.

So remember... always keep your cell phone and your room key (and wallet) in different pockets.  Electromagnetic field intensity put out by cell phones (and other digital devices) drops as a square function of the distance from the source, Hmmmm.. wonder what they were doing to the boys, a few inches to the left? =P 

Enjoy The Silence

I've tried watching "Times Now" - India's version of CNN / BBC, and while their obsessive coverage of Pakistan's harbouring of Osama Bin Laden provides a unique insight (since no one hates Pakistan more as a nation, than India)  the majority of their BLARING VOLUME advertisements are a cacophony of Hinglish.  Hindi-Hindi-Hindi-great experiences... Hindi-Hindi-Hindi-amazing offer.  Hindi-Hindi-Hindi-are you okay? Hindi-Hindi-Hindi-false alarm.  The acCENTS emphaSIZED on all the wrong syllabelS causes the verbal interpretation centers in my brain to cramp up.  I've taken to working and getting ready in my room in silence.  Much more tranquil.