Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.  Much more fun than just Rock Paper Scissors.

Paul Allen, VP

"It even has a watermark."
Great movie.  Too bad Patrick Bateman couldn't EXCLUSIVELY take out all the Paul Allens of the world, like Dexter justifiably takes out his own moral flotsam. 
I have no patience or tolerance of such esoteric, ostentatious, vain, non-value-added, not capable of changing their own oil, mechanically disinclined, no-practical-skills, good-ole-boys-club, completely useless, alpha-male-wanna-bes.  I would have liked American Psycho even more if Patrick Bateman would have had a more targeted hit list, focused on those with the most awesome business cards.

Polish Censorship Resistance

This photo was taken January 26th in the Polish Parliament, when PMs opposed to ACTA donned Guy Fawkes masks in solidarity as they voted down internet censorship.

"The NET interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it" - John Gilmore.

The Poles are resisting having to make detours.

Disaster Planning

Propane, Obey

Obey Hank, not Andre.

Always Wear A Helmet

...especially when trying to clear an area of leopards.  Big cats like to go for their prey's eyes, throat, head and neck.

Words Of The Union

Monday, January 30, 2012

Eat More Food!

I made a fully organic stew last night that I will be enjoying this evening.  All organic vegetables & fungi (onions, peppers, celery, carrots, portabellos.  Yard harvested organic basil & rosemary.  All grass fed, free range, organic animal ingredients (Trader Joe's Chicken broth, Double Check Ranch soup bones, Horizons butter).  It's fragrance has been wafting through the house all day.  MMMMM Time for dinner!

Frozen Stop Sign

It's been in the mid 70s here all weekend and again today.  Dr Desert Flower and I went to the Desert Botanical Garden on Saturday night, and drove around with Celeste's top down.  So when I saw this image earlier today, I smiled broadly.  We don't have frozen stop signs in Arizona.  We've got hummingbirds, lavender, aloe, whip tail lizards, cacti, sage, palms, low humidity, desert, awesome sunsets, plentiful sunshine, cheap water, bobcats, javelina, road runners (saw one of those Sunday as well, in front of the neighbor's garage, and another one on Saturday near the 1010 while we were out on a walk), lots of guns, libertarians, cotton, cattle, copper, etc...

...but no frozen stop signs.

Sylvania Failure

A few years ago, when the former state of my residence South Carolina began to push legislation to "fight Obama" and federal regulations that promoted compact fluorescent light bulb sales were in the news, I purchased a pack of CFLs at my local hardware store.  I had several light bulbs failing around the Arizona home we'd recently moved into, and the CFLs were touted as being so awesome, I bought an 8 pack of them from my local hardware store, and went around installing them in the lights of ceiling fans, outdoors for the garage and entry way, and various lamps around the house as the incandescent bulbs burnt out.

Selling points like "Tremendous Energy Savings!" and "10X the life!" made paying the more expensive CFLs price less odious.  Sadly, Sylvania chose to manufacture their 13W CFLs in China, probably to 'save manufacturing costs', but what they really did was aggravate this vocal consumer who has also been to China, has experience with getting Chinese mass manufacturing to produce repeatable, reliable, consistent quality, and who has a blog that gets 1000s of hits on selected topics.  So what they might have saved in manufacturing costs, they've lost in reputation and in bad publicity in selling sub-standard products that have demonstrated poor quality by failing to perform to even significantly lowered expectations. 

10X the life? No, the bed room ceiling fan's light runs less than 500 hours a year.  The light above shows that the CFL burnt out.  The 'sister' CFL lamp on the other side ceiling fan is still burning brightly, but it no longer shares the fixture with another Sylvania CFL.  No, there's a 65W GE Soft White incandescent bulb lighting my bed room.

When you examine the failed bulb closely, you can see the darkened tube where it enters the base just above the word "caution" which indicates that the ballast failed, and produced a pulse of voltage that through the bulb that the cheaply assemble Chinese circuit could not handle.  This arced, and failed - gratefully without leading to an electrical fire - at a -4 or -5 sigma below the predicted B1 life.  Dissatisfied?  No, I sort of expected it.  I am disappointed though that the "promising technology" or CFLs have performed SO POORLY in my experiences.  One of the bulbs I've installed outside has a pathetic pink glow as it struggles to put out less than a 1/10th the lumens it is supposed it - from the same "value pack".  It should have been called "value less".

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Screaming of the Spinach

Ever since my astute & helpful friend Ron clued me into the easy & delicious method of sauteing baby spinach leaves that had gone "soggy" instead of throwing them out, I've been adding large handfuls of micro-nutrient rich organic baby spinach to breakfast skillets, breakfast omelets, and all sorts of sauteed vegetables, wasting none of what we'd previously been throwing out.  Much more than a 'tip of the hat' to Ron, a tip of the whole fridge to him!
Trader Joe's organic yellow onions, organic red peppers, Horizon organic butter, and Costco organic baby spinach. Yum!

One strange phenomenon that I've noticed in all of this sauteing... is the Screaming of the Spinach.  I melt some organic butter, and get the pan nice and hot, and then add un-chopped baby spinach to the pan, and it literally SCREAMS.  As the heat from the stove transmits through the pan & butter into the cell walls of the baby spinach, the proteins within the plant material rapidly denature & carbohydrates begin to break down into sugars and release gases, all of which start to build up substantial pressures within the quickly collapsing plant structure, and those escaping gases funneled through the un-chopped stems SCREAM in 2 to 4 second long "death throes".  There's the sizzling of the hot liquefied butter, accompanied by very high pitched screams - similar to what you can hear at a camp fire when burning sap-rich pine, and the recently heated gases try to force their way through truncated xylem & phylum with increasing entropy (and exothermic energy and pressure and temperature all building as well).

I'd heard of people saying they could hear "lobsters scream", but it's really just the inner moisture of the lobster whistling & screaming out of small fissures in the exoskeleton.  Similar concept here, except for the fact that the plant wall is breaking down faster than a hardened exoskeleton breaks down.  Both lobsters and baby spinach are delicious after heating, but baby spinach is much cheaper, by a factor of about 500X.  And being in the desert SW, getting local organic spinach is much easier and more practical than fishing for lobster.

Come over and visit some time, and I'll make you saute up some screaming baby spinach for you.  We'll turn down the stereo that Dr Desert Flower often has cranked up so you can hear the spinach scream.  =)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It Goes Both Ways

I love the reciprocal logic used here.  Sadly, most Americans never consider the 2nd half.

Homeland Security, Keeping Everyone Safe

"in suspicion we trust"

Friday, January 27, 2012

What An Awesome Way To End A Hike

My friend Jason had this link on his google talk status today:  http://vimeo.com/35368665

I would love to end a long hike this way... but not having practiced human flight, I'd probably meet a tall pine tree at 100 mph in a horizontal vector. 

Need4Speed: Insight from Phoenix Fly on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finger Pointing Arizona Blonds

I thought Jan Brewer, my esteemed governor was a Scottsdale Blond, but actually she lives in Deer Valley, a northern affluent suburb of Phoenix, after growing up an Army brat - whose father died of lung disease from inhaling toxic chemicals at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada (you'd think she'd have a better respect for the environment, and not want to rape & pillage Arizona's natural resources with expanded uranium mining near the Grand Canyon... but that would be 'thinking', and besides, uranium mining would only hurt very poor red people, not rich white people).  I was going to title this posting "Finger Pointing Scottsdale Blonds Who Don't Respect Authority", and by "Authority" I mean "the Office of the President of the United States".  But since she's not from Scottsdale, just well funded by rich contributors from Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills, and other mostly white, very wealthy suburbs of Phoenix, I just abbreviated the title to "Finger Pointing Arizona Blonds".

I am ashamed - not proud - that my governor doesn't show respect for the office of the President of the United States.  I didn't like George W Bush, and I frequently referred to him as "W", but it wasn't until after he launched an unjustified war, demonstrated he did not have a grasp of the English language, embraced Carl Rove's despicable re-election tactics, and dismantled the CIA department that was hunting Bin Laden that I began to refer to him as Commander in Chimp.  Barack Obama was not even President for 2 years when Brewer stomped into the Oval Office to 'demand to be heard', and then she tries to get in his face on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, ranting at him and pointing a finger at him?  So sad. The Obama administration's Homeland Security, TSA & ICE have deported more illegals and there's been fewer illegal border crossings than during the Bush administration, but Jan Brewer doesn't let facts get in her way.

At least she can't run for another term in 2014 when her current tenure expires. Whew!  I'm sure the citizens of Arizona will find some other extremist to replace her in our very flawed primary process that rewards the most vocal, vociferous, base-rallying candidates (like Russel Peirce, Jeff Flake, Jon Kyle, etc, etc, etc!).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pipelines Are Inherently Safe!

Pipelines are inherently safe! Just look at how well Enbridge has done in their short corporate history!  What does Western Canada have to worry about, with such a stellar track record?  A few 100 thousand gallons here and there... isn't that a small price to pay to be able to drive a Hummer, Suburban, or Excursion?  Drill baby drill.  Mine those tar sands.  Pump that oil South and West! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why I Despise Renting

This sums up, very well, why I not only despise renting, but why I cannot happily live in high density housing, with neighbors packed in all around me, surrounded, pinned in, by others who do not share my affinity for peace & quiet, solitude, mutual respect, decorum, consideration, and the greater good of society.  I need to live in a dwelling that does not share common walls with my neighbors (or laundry rooms, or garbage cans, or elevators, or ceilings or floors).  I know many of my friends and followers love their densely packed city life styles, and they "deal with" or tolerate their neighbors... but I am not as tolerant.


Or, link here

It's not just the main largest image posted on the linked page, but also all the smaller posted images, just below it.  I've had nearly all of these happen to me personally, and I enjoyed none of them.  They're humorous when happening to someone else, and viewed from the third person, yes indeed.  But maddening when you're the one being subjected to it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rejecting Constantinian Christianity

Over the last Christmas & New Years break, I finished reading Dr. Cornel West's Democracy Matters, Winning The Fight Against Imperialism.  I'd picked it up from Borders, before my local book store went bankrupt.  At first, I was reluctant to dive into West's book.  It was the 2nd in a series (preceded by Race Matters), and it had a whole chapter on 'engaging youth culture' and how much rap matters in the table of contents, but I know Dr West is a very intelligent man who speaks eloquently, and I've enjoyed hearing him on Real Time, Tavis Smiley, and when he refutes Bill O'falafel's rhetoric to his face with facts.  So I plodded through the book, determined to keep an open mind. 

I am very glad I did.  In Democracy Matters, West explains how he taught at Harvard when one of chief the architects of 2008 housing melt down, Lawrence Summers, became the president of Harvard, and how Summers tried to run West out of Harvard on a rail.  It helped to frame Obama's remarkably poor choice of Summers as White House financial adviser as particularly upside-down and insidious, as well as the wrongful arrest & "have a beer summit" with West's department head, Henry Louis Gates.  I had not known those aspects, and I am grateful to West for elucidating them. 

West speaks of American nihilism, socratic questioning, tragicomic hope, and prophetic witness, throughout the work, and explains the importance of each.  As a principal engineer, I try to employ socratic questioning and encourage all of the young engineers I mentor to embrace it, so it was timely to read West proclaiming its importance.  The blues, as well as ancient Greek comedies are excellent examples of tragicomic hope, which I can understand and appreciate quite well.  Prophetic witness, West delved into deeply.

I knew that West was a Christian, but within the book, West describes the differential between the  Constantinian Christian and the Prophetic Christian.  I could try to distill it down, but West does an awesome job himself here, in this clip (link here in case the embedded 90 second video below doesn't work on your computer for you below).

As a disenchanted former Roman Catholic myself, I COMPLETELY got this, and understood it, related to it, and "the light bulb came on over my head".  It's the Constantinian Christians I cannot stand., won't truck with, and spit out of my mouth, completely rejected (yeah, I had Catechism class for12 years, if you want to spar on Bible verses and Catholic Dogma).  I mistakenly used to think it was the Prophetic Christians with whom I had massive problems, but I actually can relate to Prophetic Christians very well.  They're the Jeffersonian "red letter" Christians.  They Do Not advocate mixing and weaving religion with government.  They're a dwindling, diminishing species in America, and around the world, while the nationalistic Constantinian Christians draw more and more blind sheep into their easily mis-lead flocks.  It was the Roman government after all, who tortured and crucified Jesus of Nazareth.  And when Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and then began to prosecute Jews and Muslims "in the name of The Cross", he began the long process of distorting, co-opting and mutating the teachings of Jesus to reinforce imperialism, oligarchy, inequality, inquisition, genocide, and cruelty in the name of The State.

I now understand Cornel West much better, and see his point of view with extreme clarity.  I agree with much of what he says, but not 100% of it.  His speaking/writing style is one where single sentences can often stretch into paragraphs richly seeded with vernacular and metaphor that requires a SAT verbal score greater than 700 to grasp and savour.  People who label Dr West as a "rabid liberal" misunderstand & misinterpret him.  West is liberal, much like Jesus was a liberal, looking out for the poorest, most oppressed, most persecuted in society.  West shines a bright light upon the New Gilded Age oligarchs and their bought & sold politicians in the 21st century - and I hope he continues to do so, for many years to come.

On pages 150-151, in 3 paragraphs, West sums it up for fundamentalist Christians quite nicely:
"Ironically, Jesus's message of love and justice promoted a separation of his prophetic witness from Caesar's authority - 'render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.' Christ said. Yet the nihilistic imperialism of the Romans was so power-hungry that it couldn't tolerate the growing popularity of the Christian sects. When the growth of religion couldn't be stopped, the Roman empire co-opted it. With Constantine's conversion, a terrible co-joining of church and state was institutionalized from with the religion and many of its victims, especially Jews, have suffered ever since. Constantinian Christianity has always been at odds with the prophetic legacy of Jesus Christ. Constantine himself seems to have converted to Christianity partly out of political strategy and imperial exigency, and then proceeded to use the cloak of Christianity for his own purposes of maintaining power.

Most American Constantinian Christians are unaware of their imperialistic identity because they do not see the parallel between the Roman empire that put Jesus to death and the American empire that they celebrate. As long as they can worship freely and pursue the American dream, they see the American government as a force for good and American imperialism as a desirable force for spreading that good. They proudly profess their allegiance to the flag and the cross not realizing that just as the cross was a bloody indictment of the Roman empire, it is a powerful critique of the American empire, and they fail to acknowledge that the cozy relation between their Christian leaders and imperial American rulers may mirror the intimate ties between the religious leaders and imperial Roman rulers who crucified their Savior.

I have no doubt that most of these American Constantinian Christians are sincere in their faith and pious in their actions. But they are relatively ignorant of the crucial role they play in sponsoring American imperial ends. Their understanding of American history is thin and their grasp of Christian history is spotty, which leaves them vulnerable to manipulation by Christian leaders and misinformation by imperial rulers. The Constantinian Christian support of the pervasive disinvestment in urban centers and cutbacks in public education and health care, as well as their emphatic defense of the hard-line policies of the Israeli government, has much to do with the cozy alliance of Constantinian Christian leaders with the political elites beholden to corporate interest who provide shelter for cronyism. In short, they sell their precious souls for a mess of imperial pottage based on the false belief that they are simply being true to the flag and the cross. The very notion that the prophetic legacy of the grand victim of the Roman empire - Jesus Christ - requires critique of and resistance to American imperial power hardly occurs to them."

Other reviews you might find interesting are here, and here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Birthday Buckeye Beauty

Last week, I spent my birthday as I prefer to spend it, hiking.  I've taken the day off work on my birthday for most of the last 2 dozen years, whenever travel and work-load have allowed it.  This year I headed 25 miles to the south west of Phoenix, to Buckeye Hills Regional Park.  Though the peaks are just under 1800 feet there, what drew me to Buckeye was the concept of "primitive conditions, no designated trails".  I really am not one to travel the "beaten path" and enjoy it.  There's little adventure, no creativity, and almost nothing to discover on a well worn foot path that hundreds or thousands of other people have also walked that same day, week, or month.   The path less taken, is usually my preference.   (links here and here)

I got a late start to the hike, puttering around on email and my playing scrabble online until almost noon.  I then filled 3 nalgene bottles with water, grabbed a bag of salted almonds and my Kelty hiking shoulder pack, and headed down I-10.  It was a beautiful day at 65 degrees, mostly clear skies, and the air pollution index lower than it'd been all year so far.  I left a note for Dr Desert Flower so she'd know where to look for me if something unexpected happened. 

Wash covered in animal tracks near the western edge of the park.

Buckeye Hills Regional Park is about 8 miles south of I-10 on AZ85.  The last time DDF and I were on AZ85 was coming back from San Diego 3 years ago, when AZ85 was a one-lay-each-way highway. heavily traveled with truck traffic.   This year, it's a inter-state like divided four lane highway, with just one stop light between I-10 and the park entrance.  Buckeye Hills is also the home to the Buckeye Gun Club's shooting range and the Maricopa County Sheriff's shooting range, that use a 1800 foot mountain as a backdrop on the south end of the park.  Since it was a Federal Holiday (MLK Day), I figured that the range would be closed - I figured correctly.  My hike was not punctuated with the sound of intermittent gun fire - which was most reassuring. 

From 1pm to 5pm I hiked about 6 miles horizontally, and climbed 3 1800 foot peaks.  I did not see a single human being the entire hike, except for a wandering black SUV along one of the dirt roads leading to the edge of the park.  I DID see and hear an impressive pair of red tailed hawks when I got to the summit of the first peak.  A LOUD Colbert-Show-Opening-Like SCREECH was blasted at me from over-head.  Shielding my eyes, I looked up to see 2 hawks flying to the south from about a 100 feet above me.  It was a magnificent sight to witness these two beautiful raptors riding thermals, circling over the park, until they flew over the next range to the south and out of view.  I was so awe-struck, I did not even attempt to get out my camera.  Each of the summits' south faces were Very Wind Blown, so much so, that I nearly lost my hat several times.  But the north faces were shaded and calm.
On the far West side of the park I walked along a wash creek bed that was full of animal tracks.  Bobcat, coyote, desert hare, pack rat, javalina... I did not see any mountain lion tracks, but there were so many critter prints, it's possible that others could have occluded a big cat's prints. 

At the top of the 3rd and most Southerly peak, I called my mother to thank her for having me - it's something I try to do every birthday to show my appreciation, and knowing that we're all mortal, she won't be around forever.  After the call I began the northerly trek back to my car which was parked a few dozen yards away from a Breaking Bad mobile meth lab RV at the end of Robbins Road.  When I began my descent, I mistakenly placed my foot and the majority of my weight on a torso sized rock near the summit.  The rock was not solidly part of the mountain and I took a rather nasty fall down the slop for about 10 feet vertically and 5 or 6 feet horizontally.  My lats. right forearm, and right hip took the brunt of the impact and slide.  Very good I was hiking in jeans and not shorts.  As I watch the Giants / 49ers game this evening, only my forearm is still green-and-black bruised.  I'll know better next time, not to put any significant weight on a rock whose solid foundation is not verified.   

I left no physical trace of my hike, other than the occasional foot print - though I did try to walk on rocks that were without lichens as much as possible - and the small land slide I caused accidentally. At each of the summits I did make a small stone pyramid using existing loose stones.  At the beginning of the hike, I saw several randomly discarded plastic bottles, broken glass bottles, rusted metal cans, and shattered clay pigeons.  But as I scaled the more difficult summits, no sign of a previous human presence was notable.  No scratchings, no graffiti, no garbage, just piles and piles of bobcat droppings, bleaching in the sun, marking their territory. 

 Buckeye Hills park has gravel roads that are well graded and maintained.  Their map shows rest rooms at the end of Robbins Road, but that is inaccurate.  There ARE rest rooms at the "Country Club Circle" but they looked Very primitive and more than a little questionable, especially since I was completely alone.  I didn't want to find a napping rattlesnake, or stumble into a "gimp trap" in the door-propped-open primitive rest room. 

The next time I go back to Buckeye Hills, I will take a large trash bag with me to collect the careless discards of others, and help clean up the park.
As the sun began to set nearing 5pm, I took a picture of my shadow, that was nearly 75 feet tall.  I was back home and showering before the sun fully set.   Naproxin Sodium for the aches and pains, Red Bordeaux wine to help me forget that I'm in the 2nd half of my finite mortal life span, even by optimistic actuarial tables.
The only flowering cactus I saw all day

Paolo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, to the West of Buckeye Hills

Phoenix Symphony: Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

Last night, Dr Desert Flower and I went to the Phoenix Symphony to hear Mussorgsky's, Pictures at an Exhibition performed (link here).  Over-all, it was a good performance. The Mussorgsky piece was played after 1/2 time, preceded by a discordant work by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov called "Last Round" which was played in 3 movements.  Why Christie picked this work to go along with Mussorgsky, I have no clue, but it was played by a standing violin & viola sections with randomly distributed cellos in the middle.  Supposedly it was to evoke a Argentinian accordion (or 'bandoneon'), but it  mixed the 1st chairs, 2nd chairs, violins and violas sharing stands haphazardly in a completely chaotic fashion, and the players stood VERY Stiffly, out of their element, trying to play the work.  To me, it sounded likes several cats being strangled in the first movement, followed by a somewhat sad and somber second movement, and a disconnected 3rd movement.  I was happy when it finally ended.  In contrast, Dr Desert Flower liked it, and did not understand my distaste for having to endure it.

The 2nd piece played was by a composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the Concerto in D major for Violin & Orchestra, with guest violinist Chloe Hanslip.   Korngold was a famous composer of Hollywood movie sound tracks back in the 30s and 40s, escaping the Third Reich prior to Nazi Germany's clamp down on artist emigration.  Like John Williams today, Korngold wrote nice works for movies... but I don't go to the symphony to hear movie sound tracks played.  That's just not my preference.  Ms Hanslip played beautifully and passionately.  Seated around her now (no longer stiffly standing from the Golijov work) about 80% of the Phoenix symphony gave it a good shot and stepped up their performance to match her masterful playing.  It was an enjoyable piece, but I can't say it was truly memorable. 

After intermission, the Modest Mossorgsky work, orchestrated by fellow Russian Gorchakov, began impressively.  The brass section blasted the FFF sections beautifully.  The woodwinds and percussion supported nicely, though the oboe at one point struggled in some of the rapid fire staccato sections in the middle.  The cellos and violas sang wonderfully in support of the violin voices.  Well played, and passionately delivered by about 95% of the players - there are still a few hold outs in the last chairs of the first and second violins who play as stiffly and meekly as corpses, displaying as much passion as a gathering of cloistered nuns for prayer.  For the most part precisely executed (A- if report cards were being given out for precision, but A+ for over-all impression).  A well deserved standing ovation was given.

It would be awesome if Christie could select enjoyable music for an entire concert instead of trying to inject his own personal preferences of miscellaneous & awkward tripe that I'd prefer not to pay for or waste ym time hearing, but the discordant Golijov work was a small price to pay for the beautiful Mossorgsky tour de force.

Guayaki Yerba Mate Trials

Since I don't want to get 'stuck in a rut' with the exact same organic tea all the time, I try to keep my eyes open for other organic teas that might be appealing.  At Trader Joe's they sell a guayaki yerba mate bag of tea for $5, so I picked up a package of it a few weeks ago and started drinking it last week during my work day.  I had no prior knowledge of the guayaki yerba mate organic tea previously, and purchased it because 1) it was organic and 2) it had caffeine and (or at least did not say "caffeine free" on it) and 3) was only the 3rd organic caffeine containing tea that Trader Joe's sells - so I went into it completely blind.

First off, the taste of guayaki yerba mate is very.. um... earthy.  to me, it has a strong "root like" flavor that at first I did not find so pleasant.  I doubled the organic stevia I added to it, and it tasted much better.  This morning, I had a spoon with some residual local organic honey on it that I dipped into the steamingly warm tea cup, and that made it delicious as well, but also added probably a 100 or more calories.  The guayaki yerba mate package comes in a easy-to-reseal outer metallic-like pouch, with a zip-lock inner plastic pouch to conserve freshness - in most environments it's probably meant to keep moisture out and freshness in, but in Phoenix it is to keep the tea from drying out completely in the 6% relative humidity ambient air, so they get a "A" in functional packaging.

After the 3rd day, when I was trying to decide "should I throw this stuff out as a failed experiment because of it's less-than-pleasant taste?" or should I keep it?  I started to read about guayaki yerba mate and all of it's theoretical health benefits (links here, here and here).  I had no idea it is full of micronutrients:
• Vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex
• Minerals: Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc
• Additional Compounds: Carotene, Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Inositol, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Tannins, Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.
• Theophylline, theobromine, and caffeine
It is supposed to
1. Give You Energy (theobromine, theophylline)
2. Enhance Digestive Function
3. Make You More Alert
4. Support Weight Loss (my making you feel more full)
5. Freshen Your Breath (I did not notice this)
6. Boost Your Immune System  (il faut voir)
7. Prevent Heart Disease (supposedly inhibiting arteriosclerosis)
...so it sounds like the best thing since sliced bead, but I am still on the fence.  I'll try to stomach another week of it and see how it goes. 

Reservoir Curmudgeons

This made me laugh the moment I saw it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Better Know A Country - Suriname

My 2nd installment in a "Better Know A Country" series, is the smallest sovereign nation in South America:  Suriname. ˈsɜrɨnɑːm/  (Dutch: Suriname, Dutch pronunciation: [ˌsyriˈnaːmə]; Sarnami: शर्नम् Sarnam, Sranan Tongo: Sranangron or Sranankondre), officially the "Republic of Suriname".  It's adjacent to French Guiana (where the Europeans launch their rockets into space), Guyana (famous for their mosquitoes, and for not yet visiting JustJoeP's blog), and Brazil (famous for nuts, rain forest destruction, sugar cane ethanol, and carnival).  But what is Suriname, a tropical, equatorial, coastal country of less than 1/2 a million people famous for?

Well, it's official language is Dutch, since it used to be a Dutch colony, but there's a plethora of other regional languages spoken, including (and surprising to me) Hindi, Urdu, Tongo, Malay, Javanese, and Cariban.  Dr Desert's Flower's previous boss's life partner was from Suriname, and we shared a drink with Carlos in Amsterdam last July as he was coincidentally staying in the same hotel as we were staying during a scientific conference on cancer.  Carlos is a nice guy, and the only Surinamese person I've ever met.  (sample size n=1).

While it was a Dutch colony, the Dutch loved the bauxite that Surinamese mines produced, and coveted the mineral even after independence.  The slaves of Suriname were freed in 1863 (2 years after South Carolina seceded from the Union) but the Dutch imposed a 10 year transition period where slaves were paid to continue working on farms for minimal wages, so they were not fully freed until 1873.  Prior to the Dutch, the French, Spanish, and English all had Suriname as a colony, but the treaty of Breda in 1667 ceded Suriname from the British to the Dutch. Plantation crops produced by slave labor in the colonial periods included coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton.  Today, Suriname mines gold, drills for oil, grows bananas & rice, and has some eco-tourism - but the gold & oil industries will eclipse that as they grow and consume the 80% of pristine rain forest that comprises the majority of Suriname's land mass. 
 Paramaribo is the capital city, and the only major airport internationally to which one can fly. 

To "gingrich"

Urban Dictionary already has 4 accurate definitions of "gingrich", but this week brings a 5th aspect into the public's view.  The Daily Show clip below sums it up nicely:
"Every night he'd call me from his hotel room, and end the call with 'I love you' and Calista was there with him, hearing him say that to me."
It's sort of a fundamentalist Mormon 'family value' I guess, as well as in concordance with Old Testament Hebrew, Koranic Muslim, and feudal reign
"But you want me all to yourself, and Calista doesn't care."

So I propose the following 5th & 6th definitions: 
5) Gin-grich  \'gin-(,)grich, -(,)rich\   verb, transitive
To try and persuade one's wife that the polygamous sexual exploits in which one is already deeply involved and practicing are justified and logical, based upon the hubris filled douche bag hypocrite's myopic view point of the universe, disregarding any previous marital infidelities, spousal chronic disease diagnosis, or Presidential Special Prosecutions on-going.

6) Gin-grich  \'gin-(,)grich, -(,)rich\   verb, transitive
To cause one to vomit in one's own mouth

Carnival Hotdog

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's a point of view

It's all in one's perspective.

Hole In My Life - Police

Hole In My Life, from the Police, been running through my head all morning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Awesome Science Is

I am saddened somewhat with the ending of the Huntsman campaign, as a THINKING and INFORMED American, who understands scientific theory and how science is not to be "believed" it is to be "understood", since it is Peer Reviewed, and Verifiable.  It is NOT a "belief system" or taken "on faith".  Huntsman was the only Republican candidate who came on the side of trusting science.  Gingrich used to be on the side of science, but as he's bent over backwards to lick the boots of the far far far right primary voters, he's dismissed climate science as inconclusive and not to be paid any attention to.  And besides, Gingrich is like the spoiled milk in the fridge - he was thrown out of the House Speakership on ethics charges and forced to apologize.  His Contract On America caused incalculable harm to the fabric of society and set the stage for Bush's squandering of the the treasury surplus that Clinton left behind.  Why would the spoiled milk be any better, in November 2012?

And why should anyone who works in Science, or has a family member or friend works in Science, and who is capable of rational thought, support any of the fundamentalist Republican candidates?  Or Ron Paul who would de-fund and dismantle the NIH, CDC, NOAA, NASA, EPA, and FDA, just to name a few?  But sadly, most American citizens are so poorly educated in science that they have little to no understanding of it, and fear it.  46% of Americans think that the Earth is only 6000 years old (yet they still use microwave ovens, computers, ipods, fly on airlines,  get x-rays or CAT or PET or MRI scans, and sometimes even wear sun screen - all of which are intrinsically tied to the speed of light and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which quick creationists strongly contend). 

So the last "hope" for a rational Republican candidate who respects and trusts Science is gone.  I wish that guaranteed that Obama would win in November, but this is the same electorate who re-elected W.  The same electorate who inordinately believes that Iraq was involved in 9-11.  The same electorate who enjoys 98% of television programming that I cannot stomach... so my "hope reserves" are dwindling.  I want to believe that it "will all be OK", but the feeling of dread continues to build.  I think I'm going to have to take November 7th off, and spend time appreciating the Arizona wilderness with a long hike, or reading the Journals SCIENCE and NATURE (both of which we now receive in our home). 

JustJoeP Tartan

Since I am not Scottish, I do not have a family tartan.  But if I were to create on, I think I would want it to look something like this:
I would not want it to Taste like bacon, since it would attract canines, scavengers, and very hungry humans... and wearing it while hiking in the wilderness would be very counter indicated. 


"People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: VAPORIZED was the usual word."
George Orwell

Better Know A Country, Kyrgyzstan

First in my series of "better know a..."  is Kyrgyzstan.  The tiny little country of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia is just north of Afghanistan and wedged between China and the former Soviet Union countries of  Kazakhstan [awesome potassium!], Uzbekistan & Tajikistan.  It's capital is Bishkek, in the north central part of this country that is not even 700 miles long and 250 miles wide.  At just under 200,000 square kilometers, it's 25% smaller than the UK (243K sqr km), or about 2% bugger than Syria (185K sqr km). 

Kyrgyzstan has the world's largest natural-growth walnut forest - I did not know that!  94% of the country is 1,000 m above sea level with an average elevation of 2,750 m.  Languages spoken there include Kyrgyz (official) 64.7%, Uzbek 13.6%, Russian (official) 12.5%, and about 9% of the population speak "other" languages. 

Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with a dominant agricultural sector. Cotton, tobacco, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only tobacco and cotton are exported in any quantity. Industrial exports include gold, mercury, uranium (such clean minerals to mine!!!), natural gas, and electricity. The economy depends heavily on gold exports - mainly from output at the Kumtor gold mine. Following independence, Kyrgyzstan was progressive in carrying out market reforms, such as an improved regulatory system and land reform. Kyrgyzstan was the first Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be accepted into the World Trade Organization.

The literacy rate in  Kyrgyzstan is supposedly over 93%, but there's not a whole lot of internet connectivity, so I can understand how there's been no hits to JustJoeP from this tiny country of 5.5 million people.  

For more info, you can read here, all about Kyrgyzstan (link here).

SOPA v Internet

This about sums it up, accurately.

End Piracy Not Liberty

Have you signed the online petition (link here)?  Have you emailed and called your Congressman & Senators (link here)?

Do you really want your American or European internet access to be tracked, blocked, and regulated as if you live in China?  ...with legislation driven by well funded, thoroughly lobbied, Republican & Democrat legislators who are more interested in their campaign coffers than they are your daily life or your unfettered access to information and the internet?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Booted Heel Repair

Dr Desert Flower lost the tip off the heel of one of her boots.  One large Irwin clamp, one spring clamp, an old cocktail shaker, some gorilla glue, and 24 hours later, the tip is back on, firmly.  The rubberized tip did shift about 1/8th of an inch (approx 3mm) towards the boot's toe, but it is still firmly bonded to the heel.  I trimmed off the bubbled over gorilla glue with a box cutter and added some black shoe polish to turn the beige glue line to black.  It should last a long time, or at least a few dozen wearings.
Why do I still have an old cocktail shaker in my garage?  (it leaked, and had a terrible seal, so it was not in the kitchen).  Never know when you might need something sturdy, that can handle compression that is about the size of a human heel and ankle!   

Long In The Claw

Dr Desert Flower and I found out this last weekend, that elderly US house cats (over 15 years old or so) are prone to being "Long in the Claw" in that they stop taking much interest in sharpening their claws, and like all carotene mammalian nails, the claws continue to grow.  Think of not cutting your human nails for more than a year or so, and how long they'd get.  Well, eventually, if you're a human who does anything with your hands, and didn't sit around with "dragon lady" nails your whole day, not even able to wipe your own bottom, your nails would break off.

Far worse than what we encountered.
A feline's claws have evolved to be more robust. Capturing and holding prey, the ability to climb and escape danger as well as hunt, and defend ones self are required if the cat is going to live to maturity.  So feline nails grow & retract in a curved manner, that allows them to have the nail "out" when it is needed, and "withdrawn" when it is not needed.  Our older cat learned many years ago to not walk on bare human thighs when they are sitting on the couch, as her claws would dig into bare skin if you're wearing shorts.  She only walks on laps and DEMANDS to be petted when one is wearing pants, jeans, sweats, etc.  Jeans are her favorite, as she can get a sturdy grip on a human's thighs in denim without stabbing or raking their skin.

So last Thursday night, I was wearing jeans, for the first time in many months (typically in shorts, every day here in Arizona), and the older cat decided "time for you to pet me" when I sat on the couch to watch Big Bang Theory.  She hopped up on my lap, and wobbled a little bit.   Some of her claws dug in more than others, and she exhibited relatively little grace or stability compared to what she'd always been capable of balancing previously.  Dr Desert Flower and I investigated her paws.  To our surprise, 2 claws on each foot were CIRCULAR!  They were no long "claw shaped" and instead, were completely rounded and had begun to dig into her foot's "pad". where she normally walks.  We were surprised, shocked, and somewhat horrified that we'd neglected our pet for so long, since it was last November near Thanksgiving that we had last trimmed her claws.  Since that time, she'd pretty much lost all interest in scratching posts, and had neglected her nails. 

Our feline nail trimmer was the "guillotine" type, were you put the sharp hook inside and the trimmer CHOPS it off in a guillotine like manner.  This was completely useless for the circular nails, since they were growing INTO the pad and there was no "hook" to grasp or insert into the guillotine.  We considered using human nial clippers, but by this time, the cat's tolerance of having her paws examined by humans was up and she was getting feisty and bitey.  I called the vet and made an appointment for her on Monday (they were booked for Friday & Saturday), and fretted about these ingrown nails the rest of the day.   On Saturday, Dr Desert Flower dosed out pet with some kitty valium, and an hour later the cat lost all feline resistance, even the ability to hold her head up straight... and we began the process of trying to extract and trim her nails the best that two non-trained vets could - though an experienced engineer and a DR of biology, we could have been much worse off.
I wore gauntlet gloves that have been designated as "Dad's cat gloves" for the last 15 years or so, both to limit the allergen exposure, and the bite possibilities.   The cat put up very little resistance.  Using human open ended nail clippers, DDF was able to shear off the nails safely, and not injure the the cat's pad or the living growth area of the "meat" or the cat's claw.  The fourth extracted nail can be seen on my leg in the above photo. 
3 of the 4 extracted claws that had over-grown and were starting to stick into her foot pad.
A very small amount of blood from just one of the 4 ingrown claws came out of the pad.   We considered trying to disinfect it (with alcohol or antibiotic cream) but knowing how painful putting alcohol on an open wound is for humans, and how much it would have smelled to a cat, and how often a cat licks its paws and claws normally, we decided against putting any kind of sterilization or antibiotic creams on the paw.  DDF checked it several times throughout the day and the rest of the weekend, and it stopped bleeding in less than an hour, and has returned to "normal" by Monday.  Keep in mind also, that house cats have enzymes in their saliva that act like antibiotics, killing bacteria.  Our son, in 3rd grade, did an awesome science experiment that showed the agar plates swabbed in the cat's mouth were 100X cleaner than the human's or a dog's mouth - but he lost to a stupid volcano project, probably because his project was So Awesome, it was above the comprehension of the inadequate Indiana primary school judges and they figured DDF perhaps did it all for him (which she didn't!).

I've since marked my Outlook calendar to remind me to trim the cat's claws each week, and I spent an hour grooming the cat and generating a box of hair on Sunday afternoon  before settling down to watch an awesome football game on DVR. On Monday morning, I called and canceled the vet appointment, since DDF and I were able to carefully re-mediate the issue, and saved a $100 (or more) vet bill.

An Open Internet? Not For Long.

Tomorrow, when Wikipedia goes dark, and thousands of non-US based websites will begin to be tracked by your internet service provider (ISP) because they don't want to be held 'liable' or 'aiding & abetting' in the newest attempt by Hollywood and well connected US political elites who are Extremely well funded by the US Chamber of Commerce, large movie studios, and other so called "content providers" who want to isolate the US as some imaginary bastion of "non piracy", don't hesitate to call your congressman and senators to express your disdain about how congress (and the EU) want to limit internet access, and eventually, block your tweets, block blog postings, and "clamp down" on any internet access with which "content providers" do not agree.

Harry Reid said that the Senate will vote on this the 2nd day they are back in session, January 24th.  Great.  Watch the beholden-to-special-interests vote for it without hesitation.