Sunday, July 31, 2011

Professor Button's Lecture, First Day

Remember how hard it used to be stay awake in Chemistry class?
I wish I would have had Chemistry Professors who were more like Professor Buttons.


As my buddy Ron is posting pictures to FB of riding in the back of pickup trucks, I figure he's enjoying the rural Southern US tremendously.  This parody version of "Sweet Home Alabama" from the Spanish "punk" group Sinestro Total - (My Galatician Home - where the skies are always gray) came to mind.  Have a listen...

Of Course You Know, This Means War

Last weekend I was refilling the hummingbird feeders, when a yellow paper wasp strafed me, and wanted to investigate my ear as a potential nesting site.  I batted her away, and this aggravated her more, as she circled me, looking for other avenues of attack, before flying away.  this strafing, combined with Dr Desert Flower's getting stung, and the possibility that my cousin and his young daughters might come over to swim the next weekend, made me declare war on the once placid Polistes Versicolor that were now dominating my back yard.  I issued a fatwa upon them, declaring jihad against the yellow avian invaders. "Of course you know, this means war" as Mel Blanc once said, for Bugs Bunny. 
So over the course of the week, I used the pool skimmer, the debris net, and occasionally a sandal-ed foot or rock, to take 15 wasps out of the food chain, and to their watery graves  - or their nearly drowned and stunned, followed by severely crushed exoskeletons (it's good to have a spinal chord and opposed thumbs).  I know it is not good karma to have killed so many living creatures, but when the health of my ear canals, wife's back, and cousin's children are at stake, sometimes severe measures need to be taken.

Last night, after DDF got home from working yet another Saturday, Dr Desert Flower joined me floating in the pool to watch what was looking like a possible lovely sunset - until the clouds formed a uniform blanket to the horizon making it just sort of a gray and foreboding sunset. Not a single Polistes Versicolor molested, strafed, or bothered us, as they had on earlier occasions this summer.  When I began my campaign of wasp eradication, there were as many as 4 drinking wasps, at any one time, walking on the surface of the pool.  After taking out 12 after the DDF stinging in June, and 15 after the strafing last Sunday, there's now less than one wasp visitation every few hours, and the few hardy survivors who venture cautiously to the pool are much less aggressive than the martyrs who have fallen before them.  We did have what appeared to be an insane honey bee who was intensely interested in my swim wear and in DDF's run and diet coke, but we shooed her away without any stinging incursions.

The pool water is now nearly body temperature - which makes it feel like bathwater - but the evaporative cooling that a light breeze provides has an effect powerful enough to bring on a shiver, even when the ambient air temperature is 105F or higher.  Had you told me years ago that I'd be shivering when the air temperature was in the 100s, this Hoosier would have laughed skeptically at you, but I've personally experienced it, on more than one occasion, so I know it is true. =)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heard Often After 1987

Mountains of Salt Beneath Us

I'm in the middle of reading Gandhi's autobiography "The Story Of My Experiments With Truth", and how significant of a role salt used to play in British colonial ruled India.  I've worked with industrial customers who make salt, and on the West side of Phoenix, not far from the Glendale stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play, there's a LARGE Morton salt facility.  And while you might think "it's Arizona, there's not much water, so where are they getting the salt?"  You can think a few hundred miles north, to Utah, where all around the Great Salt lake, there's massive salt reserves, left over, from the evaporation of the inland sea that used to exist millions of years ago between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Rockies.  That inland sea stretched all the way to where Mexico is today. In fact, Dr Desert Flower and I learned at the Desert Botanical Garden geology class we took 3 years ago, that the ocean has covered Arizona 4 or 5 times, since North America was first formed.

So while images of elaborate salt carvings and deep mine shafts are what most people think of when they picture a salt mine, that's only one of many methods to extract salt from the earth (rock salt, or halite) and doesn't account for Solar salt (sea salt) or Evaporated salt (refined salt).  The evaporated salt, can be just about anywhere, and if you don't see large piles of white salt, you'd never know it. 

Take for instance, the Morton salt facility in Glendale
Those white pipes that are going into the ground, are not part of some natural gas pipe line.  No, they're pumping fresh water (yeah, in the Arizona Desert) down into the ground, and pulling brine laden solution back up to the surface.  Then they do some conditioning (might be membrane separation or something, I don't know) and pump the remaining briny solution into LARGE open pits where the unrelenting Sonoran sun quickly evaporates the water away, leaving salt behind, that they scoop up.

I first noticed this technique when I was driving through the Western Dutch countryside, near Hengelo Netherlands.  I saw these extensive networks of pipes, where the pipes were not irrigating the farm fields, but instead, were pumping water into the ground and returning brine solution back to a large industrial salt plant, where the water is evaporated away and the salt turned into products that European salt lovers desire. 
Most of Phoenix, and all of Glendale, and Luke Air Force Base to the West of Glendale, sit on about 1500 feet of silt, deposited there with each of the 4 or 5 historic ocean floodings the valley has been through.  And down inside that silt, is alot of salt.  Some of it, concentrated, as you can see from the Salt Institute's handy map above.  

Turns out that such large salt concentrations are all over the place.  Nearly the entire lower peninsula of Michigan is sitting on a massive concentration of salt.  Pakistan, Poland, The Netherlands, Pennsylvania, parts of China, also have massive salt concentrations.  So while you thought that your city, town, or your own personal property is not being disturbed or drilled under, you're probably wrong.  Between evaporated salt extraction, and natural gas fracking, it's increasingly likely that there's some industrial fluids being circulated beneath you, right now.  And to make it more interesting, often times with salt domes, they're found adjacent to oil & gas deposits!   Hooray for more fossil fuel production!! And...  if your salt tastes a little oily or pungent, don't worry.  It's probably just residual fracking fluid.
Yummy!   From now on, I'll be using only sea salt in my food, and avoiding large scale industrial salt production who may, or may not, have their customers' health held in a higher priority than profits. The Salt of the Month Club my friend Zim mentions, is an awesome idea indeed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Capitalist Pyramid Scheme

What a truly free, unfettered, unregulated market can lead to.

Sense, Reason, and Intellect

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
- Galileo Galilei

Of course, Galileo spent a large portion of his adult life in prison or under house arrest for expressing his views.  At least we don't live in a Papal Oligarchy anymore.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting Average Americans To Vote Against Their Own Self Interests

The Republican Party, getting average Americans to vote against their own self interests since 1964.  Why 1964?  Well, that's when Strom Thurmond switched parties, from the Dixiecrats, to the Republicans.  It was fine for Strom to have sex with his negro maid and father a son with her, but he wasn't going to help any African American climb the social ladder.

I used to be one of those Americans who believed the talking points and cherry picked data that Republican pundits and politicians used to spout in the 80s and early 90s, about how there were so many 'welfare queens' and minorities gaming the system. I used to lap up BS like this from the Heritage Foundation, as if it was fact.  Lazy people, who just needed to pick themselves up by their own boot straps.  When I was a kid, and my dad was laid off, we didn't qualify for food stamps in Indiana since my parents were paying their mortgage and owned a car, so we scrounged by and dad applied for job after job until he found one that paid our bills and used the skills that he'd apprenticed under.  I've been poor, and we raised ourselves up by our boot straps, so why couldn't everyone else?  I'd seen unions strip benefits from their rank and file in my extended family while stuffing their own union coffers and perpetuating inefficiency in the industries they touched to reinforce a negative opinion of collective bargaining as well.

Then, a few  years after we got married, Dr Desert Flower went to work for the Department of Social Services in South Carolina, part time, going after dead beat dads.  It was an eye opening experience.  Most of the dead beat dads and welfare pregnancy-baby-mill queens were white trash red necks.  This was in a state that was 50% African American. (note: a pregnancy-baby-mill queen is a woman who has 2, 3, 4, or more children, all with different baby daddies, who lives with none of them, because she gets both child support and state support for herself and her children; the more the kids, the mo' money she gets).  0% of the pregnancy-baby-mill queens were Asian.  Very few were black.  

Then, the longer we lived in South Carolina, the more rich/poor disparity we saw first hand.  And you'd think that with so many poor people struggling to make ends meet, that they'd support increasing taxes on the super rich, right?  But South Carolina was (and still is) one of the reddest, most devoutly Republican states in the "Union".  Arizona has a similar rich/poor distribution, except you can replace the South Carolina "black" with Arizona "brown" in the demographics, and swap the semi-literate trailing living white red neck in South Carolina with a very racist, white, semi-informed retiree or libertarian gun owner in Arizona.  It's different, but it's not much better. (though it IS much less humid)

So I marvel at how incredibly successful the Republicans have been at obfuscating the obvious, and deflecting the public's attention to polarizing social issues, fear mongering, and getting white people who are making less than $50,000 a year to support tax cuts for the millionaires who they hope they'll someday join.  How will those declining middle classers get rich?  By winning the lottery, or being on a reality TV show, or "working really hard and attaining the American Dream" - yeah, and that inner city kid is gonna be in the NBA someday too.  It's truly stunning at how well this has worked for Republican strategists.  Of course, they have LOTS of money, and now that Corporations are super-citizens (immortal, can't get the death penalty or be imprisoned, but have unlimited free speech), they can buy the best ads, public relations firms, lawyers, and marketing firms.  The silly Democrats just keep trying to appeal to the average citizen's common sense, and failing miserably - especially in the 2010 elections.

I understand how the richest 5% of Americans (of all races and ethnicities) vote for Republicans.  They are voting with their wallets, looking out for the viability of their own gene pools, and often very greedy.  That makes perfect sense.  But the rest of the 95% of Americans who have the other 49% of the remaining wealth, many of them declining middle class, most of them lower middle class or very poor, and a large percentage of them white trash...  I just don't get why any of them would vote for Republicans who claim they are looking out for the Average American while actually protecting the richest plutocrats who fund them.  It's truly a failure of Democrats to get a coherent message out, and an over-whelming success of Republican smoke-and-mirrors.

David Horsey captures the true essence of the Republican message, quite succinctly.  Horsey really is a genius.  Check out his work here (link).
Joel Pett at the Lexington Herald does some amazing work as well, beautifully capturing the moment in an insightful, poignant picture that says much more than a simple single or 4 frame cartoon is supposed to be able to logically do.  Check out his work here (link).

The Grohe Scald-o-matic

Trying to take a shower in Europe for an American is often a challenge initially.  In France you can't find a shower curtain or door or wash cloth.  In Germany there's often a wide range of temperatures within just a few seconds while trying to rinse shampoo out of one's hair.  In The Netherlands, there's the Grohe Scald-o-matic.

The Amsterdam Eden Hotel American, which is over a 110 years old, they've updated the bath room plumbing and fixtures.  Pictured above is the Grohe faucet model that our room had earlier this month.  Checking the Grohe web-site, it appears they no longer sell the Scald-o-matic, but you can see it here.
What I learned from trial and error, is that the knob on the left sends water UP the tube to the shower, or DOWN to the spout into the tub, and the knob on the right controls temperature.  OK, that's fair enough.  And figuring it out is not too hard, but notice the two feed pipes that come out of the wall.  The one on the left is HOT (not warm, not a little hot, but blister causing hot).  The one on the left is cold.  When you first approach the shower's faucet, and it's not been in use within the last 20 or 30 minutes, all of the metal surfaces are ambient room temperature, leaving one to guess what is what.  As you attempt to figure out flow and temperature and water direction, the left hand feed pipe heats up rapidly, and is obviously not guarded at all.

Now, I am a silly conservative when it comes to water.  Conservative that is, in actually conserving water - turning it off when I am lathering up my hair with shampoo, or washing my skin with soap, and then turning it back on to rinse - not "conservative" in trying to use up all the Earth's resources as fast as Hush Dimbulb, Glenn Feckless, and Bill O'Falafel  tell their devotees that American Christians [TM]  have the Gawd given right to use as much as possible.  So after getting my hair wet, I turned off the water using the left knob, and lathered my hair with shampoo.  Easy, no worries.  Hair rinsed, I go to turn off the water again to soap up my skin.  But this time, the water had been running long enough to heat up the hot water feed pipe.  Yikes!  Having your fingers just a few millimeters over the edge of the plastic knob brings them in contact with the scalding hot feed pipe.  If I had little kids, or grand children, I'd not let them get within arm's length of such a faucet.  Next time, I shall be more wary.

Grass Fed Short Ribs! Yum!

I braised some Double Check Ranch grass fed, free range, hormone and antibiotic free short ribs yesterday, after marinading them Monday and Tuesday in 1/2 a bottle of Grady's Hot BBQ sauce.  Cut up a Fresh & Easy sweet onion (hard to find organic onions around here), a Trader Joe's organic red bell pepper, and a handful of Fresh & Easy organic portabello mushrooms.  After preparing the veggies for grilling, I dumped all of the left over BBQ sauce from the marinating ziplock bag onto the veggies, along with 4 pads of organic butter (that I picked up at Fresh & Easy Monday afternoon). 

Dr Desert Flower normally doesn't like beef, and said Tuesday morning that she'd "try one" for dinner.  But by 730pm when she got home and I took these off the grill's upper rack, they looked, smelled, and tasted so good, she couldn't resist eating more than one! =)  I had the last 3 pieces for lunch this afternoon, and I think they were MORE tasty and tender today than they were last night.  Being organic free range beef, where the cows actually have to walk around and build some muscle mass - as opposed to just being force fed chemicals and hormones in an industrial food factory - the short ribs were a little tough.  Sharpened steak knives, strong grips, and honed incisors were needed to render the tasty flesh from the bones - and don't forget the floss for afterward too! 

The cooking experiment turned out much better than expected, since this was the first time in my life I had marinated and braised short ribs, but I figured I have watched enough cooking shows that I couldn't get it too wrong.  I'd not even intended to buy short ribs, but they were included in a "1- pound pack" from Double Check that I picked up at the Farmer's Market last month, and they were taking up alot of room in the freezer since then.  Next time, I will marinade longer, and include some alcohol in the marinade to help soften the meat.  DDF has a 3 year old bottle of Southern Comfort that I can't stand the idea of drinking... but might consider using the ethanol within to soften the meat.

Thank you Gradys, Double Check, Fresh & Easy and Trader Joes for making this nearly 100% organic delicious meal possible!

Foxey Foxy Lady

I'm listening to a marathon conference call this morning.  In the conference room thousands of miles away where there's several synchronized microphones and about 20 people, there's a terrible feedback phenomenon that begins when they take the remote mics off of "mute".  It sounds like the intro to the Jimi Hendrix classic "Foxy Lady" - aka "Foxey Lady" on the American release.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dutch Water Fowl Predators & Their Cousins

 The beautiful, well maintained, lushly vegetated parks of Amsterdam are full of heron, ibis, guinea fowl, pheasant, and other avian species.  I tried to visit all of the parks in the city while I was there - I got to Vondelpark, Sarphatipark, and Beatrixpark, but did not make it out to Oosterpark or the Zoo while there earlier this month (I'm not a huge fan of Zoos anyways).

Best Lunch We Had In Amsterdam

Too bad it's an American chain, founded by a Belgian chef... but man, was it tasty!  Le Pain Quotidien

Our waiter spoke perfect, colloquial, California accented English.  "Where did you study English?" I inquired.  He looked at us very surprised.  taken aback almost, then replied: "Starting in 3rd grade, and on TV my whole life.  Everything on TV in The Netherlands is in English".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Château Moulin de Beauséjour

The Bordeaux Supérieur blend from Château Moulin de Beauséjour from Trader Joe's at $6 a bottle is wonderful.  I enjoyed this wine with grass fed sirloin one day, and chili the next day.  Good stuff.  Strong tannins.  I agree with Cornichon (link here), Gene Steve at Seattle Wine Blogger (link here), as well as Pete Kozlowski at Epicstyle (link here). 

Too bad Wayne47 (link here) got a bad bottle and blasted it at Cellar Tracker.  The three bottles I've  had were not brackish, or astringent in nature whatsoever. Quite the opposite.  Wayne's loss, everyone else's gain. 

Anakena Sauvignon Blanc

Anakena Sauvignon Blanc, 2010, from the Chilean Valle Central, was a pleasant surprise.  Total Wine was having it on sale for $7 a bottle.  It was a nice dry white that had some citrus notes, but was not a glass of grapefruit juice (thankfully!) nor was it grassy.

Dr Desert Flower enjoys white wines more than red usually, so we've been trying different affordable whites with lighter dishes.  Definitely can recommend the Anakena Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Wineguider had reviews of other Anakena varietals, but not this one.  I do concur with Toastwines, Cellartracker, and Getwines.

Marqués de Montañana Garnacha

I picked up a delicious Marqués de Montañana Garnacha at Trader Joe's for $5.  Wonderful stuff!  tasted like a $9 or $12 bottle.  I agree with Domaine Dave at Cheap Wine Finder that this is a very good wine.  Excellent berry notes, not sweet, excellent finish. 

I'm just sorry I only bought one bottle.

How To Repair A Clogged Adora GE Washing Machine

I try to do laundry on weekends, since the electricity is cheaper, and I have more time to take almost-dry clothes out of the drier before they wrinkle.  Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the fabric softener "tray" was all backed up with milk water, rendering it functionally useless.  I Could Have called a service technician, and spent $100 or $200 to have someone attempt to fix it, or I could do what I did below.

Again, no warranty is implied or given here - do these repairs at your own risk, or don't do them.  I am not responsible for your actions.

The detergent / bleach / softener drawer comes out easily.  It's design is rather straight forward - which is nice to see.  There's a small tab on the left side that is easily depressed, which "unlatches" the drawer from its slide.  I carefully depressed the little latch, and pulled out the drawer which was near to over-flowing with milky white water/softener mixture, and carried it to the sink, where I dumped the contents.

Now, keep in mind, I've never had this apart before, so it took some learning.  And while the curve was not steep, and I had the right tools, taking the photos required some time, so altogether I had about 1/2 an hour into the rebuild. Even if you don't have all the tools, or an engineering degree, with a sink, some tooth pics and patience, you can do this too.

Upon removal of the softener tray cover, which lightly, gently "snapped in" to it's tray, the problem was readily identifiable.  Lots of white "goop" had clogged up the tray & its refill tube (as seen on the right).  I credit this to Arizona's low humidity, as well as Dr. Desert Flower's proclivity to wanting to use lots of liquid fabric softener.  (I personally use dryer sheets, 2 or 3 if doing towels or bed spreads).

Removing the bleach cover, I found no such goop under it.  Don't worry about confusing them, they're clearly marked BLEACH and FABRIC SOFTENER, so in case you forget when you re-assemble.  The middle one is bleach, the far right side is for fabric softener. 
I used a trickle of running water, and my finger, to get rid of most of the goop.  In late July, the "cold" water temperature here is above body temp (close to 100F) so you may need to run warmer water if you don't live on the surface of the sun.  The washing machine basically floods the tray from below, and the feed tube "bubbles" water up into the tray.  Solidified fabric softener had blocked that tube.  I used a small instrument screw driver and a dental pick to remove the residual goop there.

Cleaning out all of the goop allowed the back flow system to work properly.  The Adora's manual says that after 5 years, the owner needs to change out the tubing which will clog or embrittle.  I tried to see where these tubes were - hopefully serviceable? - but to no avail.  All I could find was a tray shaped cavity, with a little bit of residual goop, mold, and moisture in it.  A bleach sanitary wipe (generic Chlorox wipe) was able to remove the goop, black mold, and get the cavity nice and clean.
Reassembled, and re-installed, I've done 3 loads of laundry in the washer without problems.  One of those loads was a "cat wash" where I take the afghans, towels, and blankets we leave around the furniture for the cats to lounge on, and wash them to try and get much of the hair, dander, and residual kitty little out of them - after SHAKING them outside to get rid of the loose litter and hair - that's a nice sneeze-fest, and the wind needs to be blowing the right direction so that the shaken-off hair doesn't blow right into the pool (ew!).

So after completely reassembling, it is important to check the drain holes for the door seal to make sure they are not clogged either.  That is done simply by gently turning back the seal with your fingers, and looking at the drain holes. 

Any cat hair balls, or liberated bits of plastic or rubber from washing bath mats, or anything that is too large to fit through the three small rectangular drain holes can carefully be removed with your fingers to clear the holes.  I try to do this about once a month, at least.  If you're washing more nasty / dirty things, you should clean this out more often.

Oh, and the detergent tray is a rather simple plastic injection molding that was assembled rather rapidly, in a shop (probably China) that didn't have very tight quality control.  You can see here, in the photo below, the sprue that the assembler broke off hurriedly, and didn't trim.  Maybe it won't matter.. but maybe it'll catch on something some day, or cut someone who is making repairs. Sloppy work. (No, I did not cut myself, but I could have). 

I hope that helps others out there who may be having similar problems.  The "how to" postings appear to be drawing hits by the hundreds, so good luck to you.  If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment here, or email me at the address on my profile. - JJP

Anders Behring Is Not An Anarchist, He's Extreme Right Wing

Anders Behring Is Not An Anarchist, He's Extreme Right Wing.  All the bloggers and pundits who keep trying to do semantic and logic somersaults to state differently need to read this Bastion of liberalism, The Economist, for the details have have lead me to this statement (link here). 

The hateful, impotent, fearful, useless little tard who wants to be a 'soldier in uniform', but whose cowardice and evil have brought unimaginable grief upon dozens of families whose children he murdered deserves no more mention here, or on the radio.  I'm officially changing the channel whenever I start to hear about this grogan on the anus of the world.

Whenever I see his Warlock Julian Sands web-splashed image (Sorry Mr Sands), I want to see what he looks like after being a hard core prison girl friend for the next 20 years, in reality, instead of his little boy uniform wearing, Europe cleansing, megalomaniacal fantasy avatar.

Eminence Front

25 years ago, back when I was in school in Terre Haute, I used to work out to this in my dorm room.  Excellent song to do push ups and sit ups to, with an excellent tempo and definitive drum track. 

I've always liked Who songs with Pete Townshend singing much more than Daltrey sung songs.

Governments, Fear, Women

It was the women of Ireland who finally ended the troubles, by stopping any nookie to the men who were setting off the bombs.

It was the women of Cairo who unified and cemented the opposition to the oppressive Mubark regime.

It was Josephine for whom Napoleon conquered most of Europe and North Africa.

The deranged, tiny phallused, insane and violent Norwegian f-tard Anders Behring Breivik was afraid of women and hated feminists in his 1500 page "manifesto" before he went on shooting massacre of the innocent and helpless.

There's a common theme here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

She's Just A Girl U Want

Been running through my head all day... and Ron's link to Fridays at the Clubbing post below, prompted me to dig this up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not Fond Of Clubbing

As it is Friday, I am hoping Dr Desert Flower doesn't want to go out and do any clubbing.
And all those fur wearers....   oh boy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mandalay Bay Malaise

The beach side casino is seen here, with blue windows
Dr Desert Flower and I joined our friends Tim and Jill in Vegas last weekend to help celebrate their wedding anniversary.  We'd gotten deals in the mail for the Wynn (where there are signs at the entrance that say "for your safety, strollers are not allowed") but Tim & Jill had already booked Mandalay Bay, partially based upon DDF's praise of what a nice place Mandalay Bay was when we stayed there for one night last year for one of her co-worker's weddings.  The pool looked nice, the rooms and service were nice, the restaurant selection was extensive... why not?  

So we show up on Friday afternoon, and Mandalay Bay is extremely busy.  Maybe not 100% with no vacancies, but very very busy, with large families, lots of little kids ("little kids" = couples with toddlers, often twins, in strollers, ages 5 and younger mostly).  We looked around, gambled some, lost mostly, and drank comp'ed alcohol (play MAX credits on the 25 cent machines, and the servers tend to come by to see if you need a drink more often).  Everyone retired early, and slept it off, Tim & Jill being jet lagged from their transcontinental trip.

Saturday was to be BEACH DAY!  But..  we got started after 11am, and by then, there were no free beach chairs available at the massive wave pool, the 2 auxiliary pools, the two hot tubs (it was over 100F, so "Hot Tub" was not a good idea anyways), the lazy river, or the closed and barricaded off "south pool".  Sure, you COULD pay $20 a female, and $50 a male, to get into the Moorae Beach Club, a top-optional or "toptional" adults only area, but there too, were no more free chairs.  They DID have $100 cushioned beach chair, and accompanying $100 umbrellas...  so a "trip to the pool" would have cost us $270 per couple.  I found that insulting, and we opted for starting early on Sunday morning instead, and walked around the Las Vegas strip visiting various casinos Saturday.

Saturday night, we had a nice dinner together at the Aureola restaurant inside Mandalay Bay, and it was fine.  Sure, I DID find the one Bordeaux on their wine list that was called a "Fronsac St-Emilion" on the fancy iPad driven wine list.  [For those of you not familiar with Bordeaux regions, calling something a Fronsac St-Emillion is like saying you're from Welsh Scotland.  Fronsac and St-Emilion are two distinct regions, separated by the town of Libourne, and the Pomerol region.  I know this, because I have the map mounted on my office wall, just a few feet to the side of my computer monitor, and I've memorized the map over the last 4 years, and I have drank bottles of Fronsac and St-Emilion, and they have distinctive, different tastes].  But dinner was delicious, service was fine, and not too expensive... and the Sommilier admitted the mistake, and said they'd update their wine list.

Sunday morning came, and Tim and I staked out the free beach chairs, wave pool adjacent, saving $270 a couple, and slathered up with SPF50 sun block.  After an hour or so, Tim heard the call of the video poker machine, and headed to the beach side casino.  I stayed beach side, and held the chairs for the eventual arrival of the wives after their morning at the spa.  The longer I stayed, the more uncomfortable it got.

I chose the word "Malaise" for the title, mainly for the wiki definition:
Malaise (pronounced /məˈleɪz/, mal-aze) is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness, of being "out of sorts", often the first indication of an infection or other disease. Malaise is often defined in medicinal research as a "general feeling of being unwell".  

The chairs were jammed tightly together - so tight you could not get through the rows of 30 to 40 chairs each.  The sand was heated by the unrelenting desert sun to greater than 125F, since my feet can handle 115 to 120F without too much discomfort, and I couldn't handle walking on the sand to get to the pool, 50 feet away - flip flops required.  While the cramped space and the hot sand were not welcoming, the piped in music - which started calmly in the morning with a subtle eclectic mix - turned into an oppressive & intrusive cacophony of pool-wide sound competing with all 8 of the "bungalows" that ringed the perimeter of the free pool chairs (and which cost between $500 and $3000 a day per bungalow), AND the music carrying over from the Moorae Beach Club, 15 feet above and 50 feet behind.  I've been in train stations at peak times that have been less crowded and not as sonically chaotic, and that includes Garde de Norde in Paris, Grand Central in NYC, and Central Station in Amsterdam.  The sound began to berate one's senses. The burning sad gave you a feeling of being stranded.  The crowded & cramped chair arrangements combined with the searching families looking for empty seats made me feel like a ship wreck survivor floating in the midst of circling sharks. What fun!

Then, to make a Matrix / Terminator "hunter killer" reference, there was the near constant circling of helicopters.  Mandalay Bay Las Vegas is located near to BOTH the commercial heliport at the McCarran airport, AND the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter wing, which fly nearly continual sorties.  The commercial operators are taking people to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, and we were lucky enough to stay at Mandalay during a National Guard training weekend when the OH-58A Kiowas were repeatedly taking off and landing, early in the morning, Saturday and Sunday. 

But there's a wave pool! - you might say?  Sure, there was a wave pool, and for anyone who's never been to ....  say...  the ocean, the 2 foot high swells that the wave pool generated were unspectacular.  the gulf of Mexico during calm winds gets bigger waves sometimes, and all of South Carolina and the South end of Lake Michigan gets larger waves.   Lots of the small children loved the Mandalay Bay pool, splashing merrily about, but for me, it was the antithesis of a fun beach.

And when I googled "Mandalay Burma" (as I KNEW there was a city called 'Mandalay' SOMEWHERE in SE Asia, unlike most Americans) I found that the land locked city of Mandalay is smack dab in the middle of tropical Myanmar.  It has no "Bay", and the only "Beach" is along a heavily commercial Ayeyarwady river that runs close to the Sagaing Fault where the tectonic plates of India and Sunda meet - so it gets earthquakes too!

I highly doubt the marketing geniuses at MGM (MGM group owns & operates Mandalay Bay) figured anyone would associate the beachless, land locked, oppressive totalitarian regime governed, tropical city of Mandalay that is the economic hub of Upper Burma to be the inspiration for their sizzling sand, tiny-waved, crowded chaired, helicopter buzzed, oppressively & blaringly loud Mandalay Bay hotel pool.  "Paradise" ?  Well... maybe if your idea of "Paradise" is hellish, perhaps.  If you've got little kids, you should not visit Vegas.  It's not a city for little children.  But if you do take your little children to Vegas, and their feet are immune to hot sand, and you get up early each morning, and you've never been to the ocean, and you don't enjoy cool alcoholic beverages on the beach (they'll sell you some for outrageous prices, but you can't bring your own into the pool area), then Mandalay Bay is the place for you and your youngins.  I won't be at Mandalay Bay again.