Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Like In The Long Long Trailer

Everything That's Right Is Wrong Again - TMBG

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Intimate Saguaros

Together fro more than a 100 years

I found these saguaro cacti images to evoke a sense of intimacy this morning.   It's interesting how something so prickly, long-lived (some up to 200 years) and hardy, can portray human characteristics.
Together for at least 50 years
Carnegiea gigantea labia majorus

Steak with a Side of Steak

I did a 10+ mile hike in the Estrella Mountains this morning from 6am to 1030am. The map shows it to be 9.4 miles, but, I happened to stray a bit off the main path. Not staying on the path used to worry me, but then I say This Hunting Map of the park on the official website, so the entire area is fair game now. I was hunting photos, not game, so there's no telling where I might have hiked.
Nice, since the ambient was in the 60s and 70s, and I needed some "me time".  When I got home, I grilled myself one of THE BEST lunches I've ever eaten on my patio here in Arizona...  or anywhere..  actually.  Two grilled Double Check Ranch grass fed, hormone free, happy cow, rib eyes, wonderfully rare, and a bottle of Joseph JANOUEIX Pomerol.  A steak, with a side of steak.  It was fantastic.

76 degrees Fahrenheit, 20% relative humidity, a light intermittent breeze, clear sunny day, at the end of May - when the desert is typically in the 100s.  A little too cool to swim, but excellent weather for sitting and listening to the birds, enjoying the breeze, digesting amazing steak, and savouring one of the best wines I've ever purchased and enjoyed drinking.
Grilled to perfectly Rare pinkness - when you KNOW who raised & butchered your beef, Rare is entirely appropriate.
As a finisher, Dr Desert Flower brought out some manchego cheese that had a cinnamon & port wine skin to it, with her meal, and we polished that off as well.

I want to enjoy every beautiful day I can here in Arizona.  Life is too short to not seize the opportunities one is given.

Monday, May 21, 2012

TED Shuns Truth, Facts, and Controvesy

The TED "Ideas worth spreading" speaker series can be insightful, but is often some really rich person pontificating about who it was their skills, their acumen, their vision that enabled them to succeed, and not the coincidences of When they were born, into What family they were born, or how lucky they got to be in the right place at the right time and make the right decision - 2/3rds luck, 1/3 ability at best, as opposed to the 99% ability vs 1% luck as the Lannisters who speak on TED often tend to state.  There's a wide variety of TED talks on many different subjects, but often, the richest speakers are quite full of themselves. 

But every now and then, a Ned Stark comes along, and proposes an idea truly worth spreading that the plutocrats REALLY Do Not want spread.  Does TED post the speech on their website?  Oh, poppycock! Of course not! (link here)   But there's ideas like Nick Hanauer's - that it is the MIDDLE CLASS who create jobs, not the rich, which threaten to turn the commonly believed but completely wrong paradigm of "job creation" on it's head.  After all, the Sun might actually NOT be orbiting around the Earth - or the Earth might be older than 6000 years too... ideas can be very dangerous things.
But regardless of TED's invertebrate timidity, the internet is a wonderful thing, and good ideas, the truth, tends to get out regardless of what "the powers that be" try to contain it (yeah, look out China, your filters are increasingly less effective).  In fact, the tighter the clamp-down, the more leakage appears.  You can join the other 1/2 million people who've already watched the Nick Hanauer speech here (link), on youtube.   Or you can read the transcript here (link) or below...  (for those who may have slow computers that don't like links or that don't like to play video). 

Kudos to Jim Tankersley at The Nation for reporting on this (link here).

At the time of this blog posting, there's been almost 1/2 a million hits to the video below. That's 1/2 a million in 4 days.  The top 20 videos on TED (link here) range from 2 million to 8 million.  I hope Hanauer's 5 minute talk, in the next 6 months,  moves those 'top 20' stats a little, proving that TED made the wrong move by not publishing it.

Complete Transcript here:

It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies. Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down. This idea is an article of faith for Republicans and seldom challenged by Democrats, and has indeed shaped much of the economic landscape. But sometimes the ideas that we are certain are true, are dead wrong.

Consider that, for thousands of years humans believed that the earth was the center of the universe. It's not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some pretty terrible astronomy.

Likewise, a policy maker who believes that the rich are "job creators", and therefore should not be taxed, would do equally terrible policy.

I have started, or helped start, dozens of companies and initially hired lots of people. But if there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.

That's why when business people take credit for creating jobs, it's a little bit like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. It's actually the other way around.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a course of last resort for capitalists. It's what we do if, and only if, rising customer demand requires it. And in this sense, calling yourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

That's why our existing policies are so upside down. When the biggest tax exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

Since 1980, the share of income for the top 1% of Americans has more than tripled, while our effective tax rates have gone down by 50%. If it was true that lower taxes for the rich and more wealth for the wealthy led to job creation, today we would be drowning in jobs. [applause] Thank you. And yet, unemployment and under-employment is at record highs.

Another reason that this idea is so wrong-headed is that, there can never be enough super-rich people to power a great economy. Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands as times much as the median American, but I don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and shirts a year like most American men. Occasionally we go out to eat with friends.

I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans can’t buy any new cars, any clothes, or enjoy any meals out. Nor can I make up for the falling consumption of the vast majority of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

Here’s an incredible fact… that if the typical American family still retained the same share of income that they did in 1970, they’d earn like $45,000 more a year. Imagine what our economy would be like if that were the case.

Significant privileges have come to people like me, capitalists, for being perceived as “job creators” at the center of the economic universe; and the language and metaphors we use to defend the current economic and social arrangements is telling. It’s a small jump from “job creator” to “The Creator”. This language obviously wasn’t chosen by accident. And it’s only honest to admit that when somebody like me calls themselves a “job creator”, we’re not just describing how the economy works, but more particularly, we’re making a claim on status and privileges that we deserve.

Speaking of special privileges, the extraordinary differential between the 15% tax rate that capitalists pay on carried interest, dividends and capital gains — and the 35% top marginal rate on work that ordinary Americans pay — it’s kind of hard to justify without a touch of deification

We’ve had it backwards for the last 30 years. Rich people like me don’t create jobs, jobs are a consequence of an eco-systemic feedback loop between customers and businesses. And when the middle-class thrives, businesses grow and hire — and owners profit.

That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all, is such a fantastic deal for the middle-class and the rich.

So ladies and gentleman, here’s an idea worth spreading…

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are middle-class consumers. And taxing the rich to make investments will make the middle-class grow and thrive. It’s the single shrewdest thing we can do for the middle-class, for the poor, and for the rich.

Thanks you. [applause]

Unspectacular Solar Eclipse, 2012

Dr Desert Flower wanted to go see a movie Sunday afternoon, after I got the pool filters blasted clean & reinstalled.  I told her that I wanted to stay home to see the solar eclipse that was supposed to happen between 5:45 and 6:45... so she reluctantly agreed.  Solar eclipses happen like clock work, every 18 years (and X hours and Y minutes and Z seconds..  but I am not an astronomer, so you'll have to look it up or leave it as a comment below.)  We tried to see if there was ANY visible eclipsing of the sun, using reflections from the windows, using digital cameras with various sensitive and in-sensitive settings...  and nothing worked.

When the sun got close to our neighbors' roofs we walked out to the park across the street, and still, there was nothing indicative of a true eclipse.   It was supposed to look like this (link).  But instead, all it looked like was this:
In another 18 years, when I am nearing retirement and maybe a grand father, I'll go out proactively and get those $5 polarized glasses made out of welding glass materials so I can look directly into the sun instead of looking for reflections.and just getting frustrated... except I'll have to be in South Africa or Southern Australia, according to the NASA map (link here) in November of 2030 (link).

Josh's Foraging Fowls, Fantastic!

Last Saturday morning I drove down to the Central Phoenix Farmer's Market, and was pleased to find Double Check Ranch's booth selling grass fed chicken eggs from Josh's Foraging Fowls.  The Double Check rancher assured me that Josh is his neighbor, and he uses sustainable, local, central hub farming techniques.  I bought two dozen, along with 6 lbs of grass fed, antibiotic & hormone free ribeyes... mmmm.

When I got home, I cracked two eggs open for scrambling, and WOW!  DARK DARK Orange yolks, as dark as or perhaps darker than any of the duck eggs I've had from Crooked Sky Farms.  Incredibly rich in micro-nutrients, and so delicious!  I sauteed up some organic portabellos, organic baby spinach, and organic yellow onions in a lil bit of butter, and then added these wonderful eggs.  Josh's foreign fowls' eggs are fantastic!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not At All Sheepish

This was so surprising and uncharacteristic...  it made me laugh

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Maybe it's because we watched a DVR'ed episode of Big Bang Theory tonight...  I dunno.  This came to me in the shower.. and has been running hilariously through my head ever since.

I've Been a Cub's Fan, but...

I've been a Cub's fan my whole life, and never really liked the Chicago White Sox.  The games at Comiskey park I went to were plagued with Harry Carey's voice, the neighborhood was crime ridden, the games were all night games... so I grew up going to Cub's games.  Day games at Wrigley Field.  Jack Brickhouse was the announcer - until he died and then they brought Carey over, ugh.  But I always enjoyed going to a Cub's game, parking in the Catholic church lot, not having my car broken into when we got back... it's a nice ball park, and it used to have good owners.  But now this Rickett's guy owns it, and he's trying to buy nasty attack ads against Obama, race baiting him (link here).  Ew.  That sours my perspective on the place, the owner, the whole genre. 

Ricketts owns TD Ameritrade too... I'm glad I don't have any money with them.  I like making money too Joe Ricketts - I just don't like spending my money to try and tear down others because of my political ideology.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Angry Joe to Retired Joe to JustJoeP

My retired godfather Uncle Joe shared this link with me today... that really has absolutely made my day.  Listening to the passionate, angry, insightful & inciting Vice President Joe Biden speaking in Youngstown Ohio, I almost began to tear up a little.  My parents (and my godfather who is my mother's brother) grew up poorer than Dr Desert Flower and I did, and worked hard to provide for their families.  My father and my Uncle Joe worked harder, in back breaking & strenuous labor intensive jobs, with multi-year skilled trade apprenticeships, retiring as card carrying union members, so I can relate to the content of Biden's speech. 
"Jobs are coming back, and they're the kind of jobs you can build a middle class family on [sic]"
"They're manufacturing jobs, decent paying jobs,  so you can live in a safe neighborhood."
"Own your home and not rent your home".(Mitt wants your foreclosure accelerated, so you can pay jacked up rent to rich investors like his country club buddies - link here)
 "My mother and father dreamed as much as any rich guy dreams"

I enjoyed his acceptance speech, back in 2008, and found it inspiring (link here).   This is the minute and a 1/2 version of that speech.
NPR keeps reporting this week about how housing starts are increasing in the us, and property values are going up by 20% in some of the hardest hit regions (NOT the West side of Phoenix though... no one wants to pay more than a $100K here)... and that illegal immigration has reversed to a net-zero balance.  I just hope the Euro tanking doesn't drag the US down with it, and the Federal Reserve doesn't crank up the printing presses to bail out the PIGS  (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece & Spain)...  we shall see.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weight of the Nation

I am watching Weight of the Nation that I DVR'ed from HBO, but you can watch it for free here (link) online.   It's both fascinating and depressing.  Childhood obesity at record levels in the US.  Fatty liver disease, in CHILDREN, found in autopsies... a disease that didn't exist 30 years ago is not found in 38% of obese children.  30 year longitudinal studies on entire towns.  It's incredibly factual, stark, and enlightening.  I'm only on episode 1 of a 4 part series..  but wow...  should be required watching for ever American school child and every parent of a school aged child.  I've never seen so many fat people on TV before... one after another after another..  in the school yard, on the bus, in the cafeterias, at the Dr's office, at buffets....  yikes.  It's worse than a German vacation spot in Italy or the Canary Islands!

I hope being "the fat kid" that I was (3rd fattest kid in my parochial grade school class, from 2nd to 8th grade) didn't damage my heart and liver substantially in the long term, and that the almonds, red wine, desert mountain climbing, swimming, and stationary bike riding I am doing are reversing all that artery clogging franken foods my parents fed me as a kid.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hold On, I'm Comin'

Sam & Dave Classic.  Donald Duck Dunn, the white guy playin da bass in the back ground  died this week, at the age of 70.  RIP Donald

Swedish Knife Wielding Eagle

It's well known that chimpanzees, gorillas, dolphins, and crows use tools - sometimes natural, sometimes human made - to get what they want or make their lives easier... but this is the first I've ever heard of a Golden Eagle stealing a knife.  I just hope the eagle doesn't come back, wielding it in it's claws. (link to story here).
This is not photoshopped.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sad Cellos - Game of Thrones

I purchased the box set of Game of Thrones at the Worst Buy big box store near my home late Friday night.  Dr Desert Flower was in London at a conference, and I did not want to go out drinking alone - staying home with a full liquor cabinet was a much better option.  Over Friday night, Saturday, and this morning, I've watched all 5 DVDs.  The sadness of the cellos at the opening credits is haunting.  It played in my head as I sculpted ocotillo Saturday, trimmed bougainvilleas, picked up carelessly discarded Marlborough cigarette butts in my driveway from my neighbors, trimmed lavender, wiped out spiders' webs, truncated aloe stalks, refilled hummingbird feeders, re-directed palm tree growth (I've just about got the technique perfected to steer the growth of pigmy palms), cleaned up the garage, did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and pulled weeds - who needs a "honey do" list when your honey is gone and all these things are bugging you?

The cellos provide a resonating sadness, that when combined with the driving deep percussion behind it, tend to latch onto one's mind like almond butter to the roof of your mouth.  Filmed in Malta and Northern Ireland, it's visually brilliant, well written, superbly acted, and deliciously presented.  Add to that a few glasses of Tullamore Dew, and it made for excellent television.

If you'd not watched it yet... the end of Episode 4, Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things...  Katherine Stark does a masterful, spectacular, powerful, beautiful rallying speech that had me cheering Saturday morning the first time I watched it - and the replayed it thrice, to see it again and again (something that the clumsy Netflix interface doesn't do well, in streaming video, but on DVD works as it is supposed it).

Friday, May 11, 2012

North Carolina Buch Learnin

I spelled "Book" as "Buch" because that's how some twenty boxes of "Books" were marked by the corporate movers when Dr Desert Flower and I moved out of South Carolina fro the first time in 1994.  "Ya(h) shore dew have allodda booooks" the movers they dollied out the boxes into the moving truck.  South Carolina and North Carolina have similar demographics, economies, income distributions, and education levels.  So when I saw this graphic today, I could relate on a personal level, having lived in South Carolina for 16 years of my adult life, and knowing, working with, and befriending many Tarheels from North Carolina.  The whole state is not full of fearful idiots, but the rational thinkers are far out-numbered.
Stay in school, kids.

Bond Girls Over Time

I wanted this to be a Mother's Day related post..  but it's more of a Father's Day subject matter I guess.  The following compilation are all the James Bond girls, updated over time.  Time has been kind to some, cruel to others.  In my personal perspective, Dr Desert Flower is even more lovely today than she was when I met her in the 80s, so time has been very kind to her..  =)

If the image doesn't show up in your screen large enough to be discernible, look here (link) for a larger version.


WTF is CISPA, and why is it much more insidious that SOPA threatened to be?  Why should you care?   (well, you're looking at this on the internet..   aren't you?)

Follow this handy link to "Let's Look 4 Treasure" to find out how evil CISPA is:  link here.

Cetacean Mother's Day

A mother humpback whale, helping her baby to surface & breathe.

Questions Are Better Asked With A British Accent

Last Sunday I had a nice long face to face chat with my Godfather, Uncle Joe, as he baby sat my cousin's kids up in the NW Phoenix suburbs.  We discussed books, politics, taxes, guns, travel, designing, engineering, tooling, and pattern making, to name a few subjects.  We both watch The Daily Show and Colbert, devotedly.  He asked why people continue to vote against their own self interests, and I posed Steinbeck's temporarily embarrassed millionaires theory to him.. which he pondered for a while, rolling it over in his head.

My Uncle and I agree on our progressive media personalities & journalists, though as a retired pattern maker he has more time to listen to progressive radio & watch MSNBC than I do.  We concurred on the following:

Rachel Maddow - very smart, excellent journalist, but sometimes takes Forever to get to the point, and from time to time, tries to turn molehills into mountains.

Ed Schultz - an angry bear.  The left's answer to Sean Hannity.  Too angry and indignant to listen to for any extended period of time.

Al Sharpton - much better as a Progressive TV show host than he was as a politician or activist.  His show can be humourous. 

Lawrence O'Donnell - snarky, snide, biased, great as a "fill in" host for Olbermann and others, but now that he has his own show, too snide & acerbic to stomach.

Keith Olbermann - stuck on Current TV, in a under-funded, hardly-watched, low production value environment that he has trouble not showing how annoyed he is by the dimming lights, lack of satellite feeds, and very unrehearsed / inexperienced support staff.  He was good when he was on MSNBC, but now on Current, he's an "also ran" second or third tier show.

Dylan Ratigan - sometimes spot on, other time rambling or ranting... Ratigan provides a mixed bag that can lack consistency.

Meet The Press's David Gregory - a weak willed, easily bypassed, mostly soft-ball lobbing Sunday interviewer who lets his guests wiggle away and talk fluffy talking point circles around him without trying too hard to get a meaningful answer from them.  (We both miss Tim Russert, tremendously).

and then... Uncle Joe mentioned:

Martin Bashir - I'd not heard of Martin (he's on at noon here in Phoenix) but Uncle Joe said that Bashir doggedly pursues the answer to his questions, in the mode of Tim Russert, drilling down, and latching on, until the guest answers or refuses to answer, but without a dodge or deflection.  So I started DVR-ing Bashir's show.   He's very good, and very determined.  He had a fundamentalism tool, the smug "Rev" Jeffers on his show this week.  Jeffers who wanted to cherry pick and reinterpret New Testament Bible quotes, and Martin corrected the narrow minded Baptist with quotes from the Apostle Paul that shredded Jeffer's arguments.  I thoroughly enjoyed Bashir's interview with a pious religious leader who I normally can't stand. 

I think I have concluded that questions sound best, when asked with an educated, intelligent, British accent. 

I told my uncle how I sometimes record O'Faladel, Hannity, and used to get a kick out of crazy Glen Beck, but I only set the DVT to tape them when Faux News gets all whipped up over nothing.  He shuddered at the thought. 

I'm glad I've got a very cool Godfather, with whom I can discuss a wide range of topics.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama Lets Go Of His Fear

I was on my way home from the hardware store yesterday afternoon when I heard NPR interviewing Andrew Sullivan, reacting to President Obama's statement yesterday that he supports the rights of gays and lesbians to get married, and that civil unions won't bridge the inequality gap.  It was a moving interview, and Sullivan said he was 'at a loss for words' which by his own admission, almost never happens =)

As a straight man in a long term monogamous relationship with my wife Dr Desert Flower, I do not understand the ideologues who insist that marriage must be between a man and a woman because their 'sacred' text says that.  Yes, their sacred text also says that polygamy is fine (in the Old Testament), slavery is fine, daughters can be sold for cattle and dowries, and that pork is forbidden (it does not chew cud) for human consumption (Leviticus Chapter 11, vs 3-27).  The sacred text also says to shun menstruating women as unclean, and to stone homosexuals... maybe the so called christians[TM] wish they still legally could?

Marriage is about love between the people entering the marriage.  No, it's not about marrying a dog or ice cream as Republican Congressman has stated, on the House floor, nor is it about marrying fruit salad, as Pee Wee Herman once did.  If your religious beliefs want to add more to that, for your own church and your own family, that's fine, add all you want, but don't hate or fear others in society who do not share your same beliefs.

Dr Desert Flower said it nicely this morning to me when we spoke on the phone:  "It's like racism.  If you don't speak out against it when you see it, then you are condoning it.  What if President Obama had said he supported the right of couples of different races to get married?  Many in the right[TM] would have reacted just as hatefully."

Over at JoeMyGod, Joe lists the various hate groups who masquerade as as religious and family christians[TM] organizations (link here).  The American Family Association, the Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, Tradition Values Coalition, and the increasingly fanatical Catholic League are all calling their members to arms, to arms! To Arms! .. to fight this terrible assault on their paradigm. 

Yeah, the committed, monogamous gay couple who Dr Desert Flower works with, who adopted two small children when they were babies from their abusive and destitute single mother who gave them up, and are now raising them in a loving, nurturing, stable, middle class household are just terrible, terrible people.  Everyone knows that all 'the gays' want to do is all those things good christians[TM] have tried to bury the urge to do, deep deep deep inside, and if not for a good christian's[TM] devotion to limited excerpts of their sacred text, they'd be having 1000s of sexual partners, visiting bath houses and park rest rooms for anonymous sex with strangers, preying upon congressional interns, marrying dogs, marrying ice cream....  well... maybe not marrying the ice cream.

Clearing The Air In China

Diane Rehm had Atlantic contributor James Fallows on today, promoting his new book about how China is spending 1/2 a TRILLION dollars on developing their domestic commercial airline industry (link here).  Interesting, Fallows and his wife lived in China for 3 years, and in his words "was sick all the time" due to the massive air pollution in Shanghai and Beijing, where he lived & worked.   I found many of Fallows comments and the remarks of callers-in to be in-line with my own first hand observations of visiting China.

Coincidentally, the large wall calendar my employer issues to each employee to hang in their offices has a night image taken from the tallest building in Pudong Shanghai, the Jinmao Tower, looking at the 2nd tallest building next door, and showing the Pudong Shangrila hotel where I often stayed on my trips to China.  The calendar photo is ridiculously clear and crisp, which means it was photoshopped, doctored, to remove the smog, haze, and chocking atmospheric particulate.  To get a geographic perspective of "where" the calendar image was taken, I google-earthed the hotel and area of Pudong where I had previously stayed.  At the time, the Jinmao was not yet built, so I thought that perhaps the night calendar image was taken by an aircraft with extremely fast film.  But no, in the 9 years since my last visit, the Jinmao Tower was built & dwarfs its neighbors.

Interestingly, the air has been "cleared" by Google over the highest rent district of Pudong (see the image below).  The top part of the image is not a "refresh" error.  It's the natural appearance, on a cloudless but smog ridden day in Shanghai, with air quality that would have made 1980s Los Angeles air quality look absolutely pristine in comparison.

With terribly polluted air, undrinkable water, widespread political corruption, glacially slow internet speeds (which are all run through government monitored proxies), a 30,000 character alphabet that resists digitization, nation-wide travel restrictions that require average citizens to have travel visas to go between provinces, and 20 main dialects spoken, it will be a long time before China catches up to the West or surpasses any modern country in livability indices, quality of life, or technological advances.  Sure, there's more Chinese billionaires than there are American billionaires... but there's also many more Chinese peasants with pitch forks too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ride A Shuttle SRB

This video was shared with me today by 2 friends who retired several years ago from the company for whom I still work.  Both of them are excellent engineers, good human beings, and I am a better man for knowing them both.  As engineer myself, I found this video (and it has sound too!) fascinating!   Velocities, altitudes, the entire journey... in 400 seconds, from zero to nearly Mach 4 at 41 nautical miles up, and then back down again, to "sea level". 

If you watched this video, and it had absolutely no effect on you, and you're not an engineer... then you made the correct career choice.  If you watched this and it had not effect, and you are an engineer.... I hope I don't use any of the products you've ever engineered.  It thrilled me. I've watched it 4 times now, (the 4th as I post this).  Wow. And I used to think Solid Rocket Boosters were boring stuff, made in Utah.

No other country in the world (so far) has had the technical ability, and political will power, to build, launch, maintain, and run a recoverable, re-usable, re-entry space vehicle.  Discovery spent 365 days in orbit, ran a 100 missions, and massively contributed to the ability to construct the international space station.  The Soviets designed a space shuttle, but never launched one.  The Russians can't afford it.  The Europeans could never reach a consensus in 'real time' to ever get a viable shuttle program off the ground.  The Chinese.... lol... I've flown on Chinese aircraft and visited several of their aerospace their factories... they won't have a viable shuttle program in my life time.  This video is truly impressive. 

It almost makes me want to sing along with Lee Greenwood  =P  ... but I would sing along with Beyonce.

Rush Freewill - Time Machine, 2011 Cleveland

Dr Desert Flower DVR'ed "Rush Time Machine 2011" for me the other day off of VH1.  Very nice concert, with a very strange video beginning.  One of my favorites (I've lost track of how many times I've played this with head phones on), below:

DTW Mediterranean Grill

I had the pleasure last week, of dining at the Mediterranean Grill in the Detroit Airport A Concourse, on the North West sidem not far from Gate 64A.   The food is always fast, delicious, and hot there.   The service, provided by Scott the bar tender, is friendly, efficient, and personable.   I told Scott he's the happiest bartender I've met, and in the last 4 years of occasionally going through the DTW airport, he's a pillar of consistent quality, always enthusiastically greeting customers, selling "doubles for $3 more", and providing excellent service.  

I had the lentil soup (of the day) and it was warm and tasty - but came in a LARGE bowl, when I as expecting a small cup.  Then, the dinner sized portion of lamb stuffed grape leaves - exquisite!  It could come with a side of starch, or grilled veggies, and (of course) I elected for the veggies.   Far too much food to consume, but I ate most of the okra, zucchini & sweet peppers (with a beano chaser).  In, and out, in less than 30 minutes... again, putting the Desmond to shame.  I slept well on the flight from Detroit to Phoenix.  =)

Il Bastardo Bistro

Il Bastardo Bistro, Jay Street, Little Italy, Schenectady NY

For lunch last Thursday, I foolishly tried to go to "Cornel's" on Jay street in Schenectady.  I'd heard it was good - but sadly they are not open for lunch.    Across the street, I saw "Il Bastardo's Bistro" - and I thought... 'wonder if they are open?'  ...  they were just opening at 12.  I surprised the bar tender, who was unlocking the front door.  It was a quaint little place.   They have live music on Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights.  I asked if they serve lunch, and the bartender assured me they did.  I ordered hot wings and a chicken salad - which EITHER would have been a full meal, so I left stuffed.  Sadly, they don't take Corporate American Express, so I had to cash it out with Andrew Jackson and Alexander Hamilton.  They had an Australian Lindeman Shiraz, so I started with that.  It was good, a little fruity, but typical Lindeman.   1/2 way through the enormous grilled chicken salad, I asked for a taste of the Il Bastardo.  The bottle has a caricature of a portly Italian man, who the bartender said "coincidentally looks like the owner" .  It was a Sangiovese, and it was not bad, so I ordered a glass.  2 glasses of wne with a BIG lunch is the max safe alcohol intake for me if I am driving.  It was a $26 dollar bill ($33 with generous tip) and kept me full all the way to Detroit. 

Friday, May 4, 2012


CODE 22 Male! or... The TSA's Inane & Arbitrary Bureaucracy

I arrived at the Albany airport nearly 3 hours ahead of my flight yesterday.  I'd gotten my work at the plant done early, lunch went faster than expected, and I thought I might get on an earlier flight.  Silly me, no earlier flights were available..  but Albany DOES have free wifi, so I thought I might get a little work done.  After getting my boarding pass for the glamorous coach embraer jet seat, I approached security to find only one screening line open, and they were sending nearly everyone though the PROVISION ATD full body scanner.  There was a functioning metal detector next to it, but apparently only women of child bearing age who the female TSA screener arbitrarily selected could go through the metal detector.  I always try to "pick the line" that has the metal detector, and not the full body high energy scan.  "It has no more energy than a cell phone" - yeah, right, I don't think you understand electromagnetic theory and energy density as well as I do, under-trained and low-paid TSA employee.   The amount of energy necessary to penetrate through clothes, and skin, and render a USEABLE image to a screener, is 10X to 100X that of what a "normal cell phone" puts out, and I don't typically expose my genitals and entire body to 2 second high energy bursts of my cell phone at FULL POWER.  

But physics aside, I decide that I will ask them to be metal detector scanned, or go through the manual pat down.  Carla-from-Cheers, the arbitrary TSA screener in Albany Thursday afternoon, tells me NO, I can't be metal detector scanned - after letting 2 women just go through it, in their socks, since their shoes were being x-rayed on the adjacent conveyor.  I tell her I don't want to be full body scanned.   She then launches into her pre-prepared speech, about how benign the full body scanner is, how it is such low low levels of radiation, "no more than a cell phone" (yeah, a cell phone on crack with a flux capacitor driving it'd power source, maybe) and that a physical pat down will involve close hand inspections of my buttocks and genitals.   Do I still want a manual screening?   Carla asks me.  "Yes, I do not want a high energy scan of my entire body, I'll take the humiliating and unnecessary manual pat down" I tell her, loud enough for the next 10 people in line to hear me. 

"CODE 22, MALE!" Carla barks into her walkie talkie, and tells me to "take a seat" at the pre-appointed 'naughty boy' chair they have, back of chair facing ID screening podium  I choose to stand.  5 or 6 passengers later, Louie CK ambles slowly up to the far side of the metal detector, and asks for my boarding pass.   I begin to walk through the metal detector - OMG NO!  NO!   I CANT go through the metal detector!!!  That would show I have no metal objects on me..  and reveal how futile and wasteful the manual pat down really is!  "Boarding pass please!" Louie barked at me, and forced me to use a glass & metal gate, to go AROUND the metal detector.  Yeah Louie, the guy at the podium obviously didn't do his job earlier...    I thought maybe I was in India again.

SO now, the Florist from The Town, his body guard Rusty, with blue rubber gloves on, is the poor 60 yr old TSA employee who has to pat me down - apparently Louie CK can only look at boarding passes and let trouble making passengers through the glass/metal bypass door.  that's all his puny little cerebral cortex could handle.

The Florist's body guard explains to me the technique he is going to use, and that if I want a private room screening, that is available.  "No, I'm not overly modest. Do it here please."  Florist body guard hesitates..  saying "I will run the back of my hand over and between your buttocks, and next to your genitals...  are you sure?"  "I have nothing to hide, let's get it over with, here."  He then begins my pat down.   Pretty much every inch of my bare skin and clothing were touched, felt, gently massaged, except for the center of my testicles, anus (but not for lack of trying), top of my head, and bottoms of my feet  "Do you have any sensitive areas?" Florist bodyguard Rusty asks me.  "Not anymore more sensitive than any other human" I replied.  He delivered a firm, but no overly harsh 'karate chop" to what would have been my bikini line, if I was wearing briefs - jostling the boys inside my boxers.   Thanks TSA!   Not since being felt up in China 10 years ago by an enthusiastic airport screening lady have I been this close with a complete stranger.  Florist body guard Rusty made sure I did not have a prehensile or vestigial tail - though I wonder what happens to the small percentage of the public who DO have vestigial tails?   He politely asked me to spread my legs more, as he continued to feel me up.  And then, he did something interesting...   he swabbed his gloves for chemical residue!   I've had my carry on and shoes swabbed before, since 2002, more than once...   but I've never seen someone's gloves swabbed.   I wonder what would have happened if the gloves had been contaminated prior to Florist Bodyguard Rusty inspecting me?  Would they have dragged me off for a "private screening"?  Makes me wonder.

So, the next time you are traveling through a US airport, and you want to not get a massive dose of radio waves penetrating your clothes and body, basically "'cooking" you for 2 seconds.. and you want to "opt out", now you are aware of what the experience might have in store for you too.  =)

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Since Delta does not accept cash, and I tend to eat very frugally while on business travel, I've adopted the habit of getting a double Woodford Reserve on Delta flights, neat.  It's a very smooth Bourbon, and goes down nicely - facilitating blog post writing, as it did last night!   I'd open up my company Dell laptop, but the screen is So Large that the woman who has reclined her seat in front of me prevents me from doing any meaningful work - and besides, that's what work hours are for.   It's after 1030pm east coast time, and my flight was delayed "for weather" in Detroit - no, it's not weather Delta & Detroit, it's call very very very poor planning.  Really, only a 20 mile spacing over Fort Wayne is allowed?  Yeah, it sucks that there's only one way to fly from Detroit and Phoenix, and that is over Fort Wayne. No Other routes are possible, with all tose military bases and restricted fly zones all over northern Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.  Heavens to Murgatroy if we try to take off in some other direction! The pilot actually shut down the main engines and ran on APU for the air conditioning and lights, as we SAT on the ground for nearly an hour, in a line of 10, then 20, then 30 other planes, waiting to take off.  Note to self, never fly through Detroit in March-April-May if at all avoidable, in the future. 

 I did score the rare, lucky bonus of having No One sitting next to me in the middle seat.  Looking back at the whole 757, there appear to be 3 seas empty in the middle, and I've got one of them... probably one of the lucky bastardos who got bumped to first class was supposed to sit beside me.  I was 17th on the upgrade list, with 5 openings, according to the helpful Delta Customer service agents in Detroit.  So that empty seat beside me offered a tray table on which I can easily place my Woodford while typing on my tiny, incapable, low memory Asus Eee book.  I'm glad Delta offers a high quality bourbon n flight.   =)

Sour Chicken Marsala?

In most delicious chicken Marsala dishes, vinegar is not used.   The Marsala wine might be sweet, it might have a curry texture to it, but it should not be sour.  At the Desmond Hotel in Albany NY, Wednesday night, I had the unpleasant experience of eating luke warm, sour tasting, chicken Marsala, that took more than an hour to arrive.  Bleh.  Company was paying, sure, that helped, but a unpleasant meal is still an unpleasant meal, regardless of who is paying.  The wine was Rodney Strong - too expensive at $10 a glass, but ohhhhh, it was "The Desmond".   Desmond-shesmond... if I wanted a 1950s dated room that overlooked the Interstate and acoustically reflected all the passing truck tire and engine noise, Id have stayed a a Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn for 1/2 the price.  Sour chicken Marsala with all of 3 small mushrooms hidden in the sauce.... very paltry, and accompanying "vegetable du jour" which were shoe string green beans and wax beans,  the size and consistency of actual shoe strings, with very thinly cut carrot slices - all of which amounted to enough beans to tie a dozen shoes and a 1/4 of a large carrot.

I do not think I will be back at the Desmond again in my lifetime.  I was there 15 years ago when I was just a contractor for my current employer, visiting the NY head quarters.  I should have stayed at the Hampton Inn instead.  Lesson learned.

But if you are looking for sour chicken Marsala and prefer your food service to be abysmally slow, then the Desmond is for you!!