Friday, November 30, 2012

My Last Lizard

While talking on the phone to an internal customer last Tuesday, the boxed contents of my home methodically being loaded into a moving truck by 2 conscientious movers, I noticed this little whip tail lizard outside my kitchen window.  It was not even 4 inches long, tail included, a baby compared to the 6 and 8 inchers I watched the road runner stalk and catch along the wall earlier this year. 

I am going to miss my bevy of buff, butch, push-up-displaying, territorial, all female lizards (they reproduce asexually, according to what DDF has read) as the Southern California suburb where we live doesn't have this Sonoran desert species.  We do have snails (moisture in abundance!), ants, and hummingbirds.  And when I asked a neighbor what kind of 'critters' they have here, she told me "just bunnies" - as she's a master-gardener and the bunnies are her nemesis.  From rattle snakes, gila monsters, lizards and tarantula, to snails, bunnies, and Labrador retrievers.  Quite a change. 

At least we still have hummingbirds.   It made me kind of sad to see the Big old Anna's Hummingbird male come flit about where the nectar feeders USED TO be, in the back yard, last Tuesday, as if he was saying to himself "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!! They were here yesterday... ???"  But it warmed my heart to hear 3 different (and see 2 of them) males singing at the top of their tiny lungs on Wednesday morning here in California while waiting for the moving truck to arrive at 730am.  Soon, there'll be 5 or 6 nectar feeders in he back yard.  Enough for everyone.

"C" is NOT for Caliente!

The "3rd party installers" were here yesterday, to hook up the washer and drier, unpack the flat screen TV (but not re-connect all the cables) and reassemble my particle board / cherry veneer office desk that were all taken apart and packaged for shipping from Phoenix.  The craft labor did a good job assembling, unpacking, and photo-documenting their work, but apparently, there was a language issue that I did not notice, until today. 

I did a load of dark laundry this morning, and strangely, it was steamy hot when I took it out.  Luckily, there were no bright colors to run.   I thought "maybe the cold water is HOT in California, like it was in Phoenix, for some reason?"  So I did a load of whites, and sure enough, it came out cold at the end.

"C" does NOT stand for Caliente.  "C" stands for "Cold". 

Every contractor who has come to my home in the last 2 days has been Hispanic.  About 1/2 of them speak English fluently.  The other half, struggle with English but speak muy rapid Spanish that I have difficulty keeping up with.  I can understand the general gist of what they're saying, but not the nuance.  They're each taken aback when I respond to them "entiendo". "peligro" or "si, un poquito".  The individual who hooked up the hoses to the washer was far from fluent in English.  

He also used a pair of pliers much too harshly on my new (new as of last July) metal hoses and scored up the knurls pretty severely, but that's ok.  They're not ruined, and I was able to reverse them fairly easily with my Craftsman channel locks, treating them much more delicately. 

In California, apparently, as much as this state shakes with Earthquakes, they install a manual cut-off valve for the washer hoses.   It's a handy little device that kept me from spraying pressurized water all over the back of the washer.  This is the first residence where I've ever seen one of these installed.  It appears to be robust and practical.

Now that the hoses are corrected, the whites come out warm, and the colors come out cold.  Good.  And if you didn't replace your washer hoses every 5 years (for the rubber ones, 10 years or so on the braided metallic ones) you're asking for trouble, breakage, a massive soaking.  JustJoeP strongly recommends applying preventative maintenance techniques to avoid such wet events. 

My Last Arizona Sunset

Arizona has some absolutely fabulous sunsets.  The desert dust in the air makes a beautiful prismatic display during the August and September monsoons, and the wide open spaces between the mountains that dot the Sonoran desert make for some beautiful back drops.  On Tuesday night, after helping the 2 man crew who packed my home Monday, load the 17,000 lbs of household belongings into their 53 foot semi trailer, I climbed into my Mazda 6 (loaded with weapons, packed up and ready to go) to drive to California.  While I heard no gun shots, out on the highway, I was also not dressed like a student or a housewife... I did get waved through the California Agricultural road block, and today, the cable guy is on a ladder outside my CA rental literally "tappin phone lines" as I type this up.  We Are still at war in Afghanistan, so I guess it is somewhat relevant.

But I digressed on a Byrne-esque diversion there.  The final sunset, as I drove West towards LA, was phenomenally pretty, and made a moving impression on me (no pun intended).  I was hyped up on a 5-Hour energy drink with enough B vitamins to feed a whole class of kindergarteners, and my hand might have been a little shaky as I took the pics through the windshield as I drove.
It will be an indefinitely long time before I am driving down I-10 again, westward, from Phoenix at sunset.  Dr Desert Flower is working with a property manager who is handling the renting out of our house there, and I detest being an engaged, active, out-of-state land lord as that's what we did for 7 years from South Carolina while our Bloomington IN FHA starter home wouldn't sell.  I used to have to cross the Appalachians and drive 7 hours along I-40 & I-75 to get to that house to fix things and check on it.  I don't want to have to drive through 6 and a 1/2 hours of Mohave & Sonoran deserts and through a check-point  on I-10 to maintenance the Phoenix residence.

The 5 and a 1/3 year Arizona experiment was not a complete loss.  I hiked the Grand Canyon twice.  Got to take friends and relatives who visited to Sedona & Torilla Flats.  Ate some really delicious Mexican food.  Saw some nice concerts.  Hiked every mountain taller than a 1000 feet in Phoenix city limits & within a 10 mile (or so) radius.  Got to swim in my own back yard pool, grew lavender & aloe, communed & bonded with hummingbirds, saw a massive number of lizards and a road runner or two (or three), got bitten by one and killed dozens of other black widow spiders, relocated  more than a dozen feral cats, farmed cactus, sculpted ocotillo, harvested vast numbers of ripe juicy lemons, drank many great wines, and paid ridiculously low taxes while watching my home value plummet by 2/3rds.  I fought & won a court magistrate case against a wrongful traffic ticket, frequently visited the nicest desert botanical garden in the world, volunteered at some good organizations, donated nearly another gallon of blood, started a blog at my old friend Rufus's prodding, and made some nice new friends as well along the way.

It's also ironic that my one friend who lives in California already texted me to ask me "do I feel flakier now?" that I'm a Californian, while back in Arizona I voted Against a flake (Jeff Flake) for US Senator.   While my candidate (Rich Carmona) lost, I am glad to leave Flake and his ilk behind, and for the first time in my life, live in a blue state.  Of course, I am in the reddest of the red counties inside that blue state - my next door neighbor has a sign on the back of his Hyundai Sonata parked in his driveway that actually says "I do not believe the liberal media" and there's no shortages of Hummer SUVs on my block (and John Campbell is my Congressman now, instead of Rahul Grijalva), but at least the governor and both Federal senators are moderate democrats, and the minority speaker of the US House of Representatives are not tea partying, racist, birther, 'build the damn' fencers.  So I think we'll get along okay here in the Golden State.  Now if it would just stop raining (as it has everyday since we got here) I can go soak in the hot tub I've warmed up in the back yard  =)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hey Bud, You're Not Invisible

Earlier this month, I was on a flight from Phoenix to Atlanta, enroute to Dubai the next day, when I noticed something disturbing and inappropriate.   I'm sitting in seat 2A, on a 757, a nice business class seat, next to the widow.  No problem.  I'm dressed in business attire - a nice pair of trousers and a tapered fit shirt, wing tip shoes, when a kid in his late 20s, early 30s, sits down next to me in 2B, wearing baggy checkered "shorts" - i put "shorts" in quotes, because anything that is longer than one's knee, in my perspective, are not shorts, they're capri pants, and should be called 'capri pants' appropriately.   Shorts end at or above the knee.

But it wasn't the kid's attire that disturbed me.  No, it was the fact that he played with himself, fondling his genitals with one hand as he surfed with his iphone before take off with the other, repeatedly.  And then after take off, again, he started up his phone, and resumed his public self-massage.  This was not just a slight 'adjustment of the boys' as nearly every adult male (and all grade school and high school boys) has done from time to time, in public, when you think no one is looking.  No, this was an all out testicle adjustment and genital stroking, massaging, for the entire time the plane was loading.  Maybe he had a bad case of crabs?   I don't know what was on his phone, but he was certainly enjoying himself.  I tried to read my book (a Nietzsche compendium) but it was disquieting to see out of the corner of my eye, his hand and arm repeatedly moving, tugging away at his shorts, almost rhythmically.  Why Mr. Michael D. Me**ger (when you go to the rest room, don't leave your boarding pass where other passengers can see it, or you will be called out for your behaviour) thought that he was invisible, or that it was perfectly fine to repeatedly fondle himself in public, I do not know.   I hope I never sit next to such a person again, anywhere.

Spires of Dubai

Supposedly the tallest structure in the world today... but the Chinese are planning on building on even taller at 220 stories very soon..
As mentioned in the previous post, I did visit the United Arab Emirates for the first time earlier this month.  Many shiny new buildings, rising out of the edge of the desert along the Persian Gulf in Dubai.  I taught a training class on a Sunday morning, while jet lagged, before heading off to India on Monday. 

It was my first trip to a majority Muslim country, and a but of a culture shock to hear the call to prayer while in the airport, and seeing many people simultaneously kneel down and begin praying as I walked silently by.  It was my first time seeing women in head-to-toe black burqa, 3 or 4 to each white robed male, walking through the airport.  It seems the "most favored" (or perhaps oldest?) wife has gold patterns embroidered on her black burqa, while the 'other wives' don't get this distinguishing insignia. 

Waited an hour to get through an incredibly slow immigration line where they required biometric data to be given to them (either facial recognition for men and westerners, or retina scans for the burqa clad).  The whole time, the white robed immigration officials glared and leered at every western dressed woman who walked past them. Yeah, welcome.

The Western hotel in which I stayed was nice, clean, and inordinately expensive, but the company made the reservation and was paying the tab, so I shouldn't be too shocked at a $30 glass of Jameson or a $75 breakfast. (the picture below was taken from my room, looking East, towards the Atlantis resort in the distance - and Iran another 100 miles beyond that)

Bright Beginnings, Whitefield

In the Eastern Bangalore suburb of Whitefield, each day enroute from hotel to the corporate offices, we passed by a Montessori school "Bright Beginnings".  Like all private, expensive, early education facilities around the world, the parents' cars were lined up to drop off their precious little ones into the compound, all full of hopes and dreams.  While just a 100 meters down the road, there was obvious, abject, pervasive poverty in sharp contrast.

After arriving from the shiny spires of Dubai just a day before, this was somewhat of a cultural shock - though it was my 3rd trip to Whitefield.


In an effort to jettison unnecessary clutter, I've been throwing out and recycling an inordinate amount of "stuff" this last month that is not worth moving, and consuming food and beverage without replenishing stocks of supplies.  One of my fond memories that I gently placed in the recycling bin (seriously, I could not just toss them in, I laid each one into the bin, with a heavy heart), were the wine bottles I'd collected over the 5 years of living in Arizona.  They were kept on the top of the kitchen cabinets, and I dusted them every couple of months to keep them shiny. 
In earthquake prone California such precariously perched glass would be a certain disaster of dangerous shards - the rental agreement DDF signed even stated that we understand that all water heaters in California homes Must Be firmly braced to the home's structural members to avoid being tipped over during an earthquake.  Rows of bottles will not do, and who wants to move empty bottles anyways, right? 

Included in the collection were the delicious Bordeaux wines that we drank, most of which we painstakingly personally moved here in 2 wine cases, in the 1999 I30 we drove 3 days across the country alongside 2 sedated cats in July of 2007.  The wine fridge was our first Arizona purchase, which we could fit in the car and bring to our new home, before the heat of the Phoenix summer could ruin the delicious wine - and 2 days before Home Depot could deliver our new GE appliances too.

The Amano was an inexpensive Italian Zinfandel I picked up at Total Wine, identical to a vintage that DDF and I enjoyed with our son on our first trip to the Grand Canyon as a family.  The night after he and I hiked down to Indian Gardens and back (1/2 way to the river) we sat in a nice Flagstaff cafe and drank the bottle together.

The High West Whiskey would never have been discovered if not for our friend Dr Todd, who had frequented Park City Utah, and clued us in about the High West distillery and the awesome quality products they produce. 

The Pause Cafe Cognac was given to me as a gift by my buddy François in 2011, when I visited him and his family in France while on a business trip.  It was indeed a delicious little Cognac.

The Arizona Stronghold wines that Maynard makes will be dearly missed.  It was really nice to be able to find them in Arizona retailers, and in local, sustainable restaurants.  I think finding them in California will be quite elusive. 

And yes, there's all sorts of California wines I can try. Napa, Sonoma, Russian River, etc.  I know.  And I will try to keep an open mind.  I just find it difficult to pay twice as much for a local Californian wine that is often overly-oaked and inferior quality, when I can be drinking a much better, higher quality, delicious AND inexpensive French, Italian or Spanish red that traveled much farther to make it to the same store shelves, was picked with higher paid labor, and was bottled with strict government regulation and over-sight that provides consistent, repeatable, reliable quality at a reasonable price.  But I will try to keep an open mind.

The Californians

As some (or most) of you may have heard, Dr Desert Flower and I will be moving out of Arizona and to California.  Actually, DDF is already there, and has established a residence in The Golden State several weeks ago.  We'll be renting a home there while we acclimate to the area, the housing prices, the higher taxes, and the real estate trends, to avoid making the same financial blunder that we did moving to west Phoenix 5 and a 1/2 years ago. 

I will miss the Sonoran desert and the ultra low humidity here.  I will also miss my pool  (though it is Not environmentally sustainable for a single family dwelling in the desert to maintain a pool, I know).  I'll miss being able to hike on trails where I see one or two other humans the entire day - California is so overcrowded - and the anthropomorphic saguaros that grow only in the Sonora.  And I will miss having an entire yard of crushed rock with no lawn to mow whatsoever.  I will not miss my anti-social & curmudgeon neighbors, nor the declining slide of the west side into a Romney-adise of formerly-short-sold renters with bad credit.  But DDF and I found (what we hope will be) a good property manager to handle our massively underwater Phoenix residence, who also takes care of our one friendly Canadian neighbor's Arizona properties when they are up in British Columbia.  Il faut voir, or, as they say in most of western Phoenix, ya veramos.

The packers come to pack in the next 4 hours. Then the truck gets loaded Tuesday.  Maybe it will be Tuesday night, or Wednesday night, when I will be in our new California home.  All depends on how fast the United Van Lines corporate movers will load the truck Tuesday.  Ya veramos.

Totally Arrogant Bastard

As I watched da Bears deconstruct the Minnesota Vikings today, and handily beat them (sorry Tim), I continued the process of emptying the mini-fridge of all consumable beverages.  Way in the back, was a Arrogant Bastard Ale that I'd purchased over a year ago.  I got it because 1) my little brother, who bartends in downtown Chicago, frequents an establishment where all the bar keeps and waitresses were wearing Arrogant Bastard shirts with this same logo ("You're Not Worthy") when I was last in Chicago 2 Junes ago, 2) I really like the logo, and 3) every now and then, I like to try something other than Guinness in an effort to keep an open mind and maybe discover other enjoyable options.

Arrogant Bastard did not disappoint.  Somewhat nutty flavor, it was a full-bodied ale to my un-refined ale tastes.  Right when I opened it, Fox Sports decided to switch to the Atlanta / Tampa game, missing the entire 3rd quarter of the Chicago game... grrrrrrrr.  But I did have a nice ale in a frosty mug to enjoy.

Felines Devour Turkey

Found a can of Science Diet Turkey flavored canned cat food in the pantry.  We almost never feed our cats canned food, and instead, give them the "age defying 11+ years" dry stuff, that is supposed to help with digestion, hair balls, coat smoothness, joint pain, gout and crows feet (joking on the last two).  When I put the canned food out on plates, my 18 and 19 year old cats darted for the dishes, and devoured every last morsel.  I put the spoon (used to scoop out the can) down on a cleaned plate, and it was licked clean in a matter of seconds.  I was happy to be able to provide such holiday succulence to my familiars.


I saw the latest 007 installment Skyfall the other day, taking my friend Zim's advice and going on a weekday, in the middle of the afternoon, hoping to be the only patron in the theater.  Sadly, the place was 1/2 full (it was 2 days before Thanksgiving), and all of the hungry grazers had crinkly wrappers to grasp & rattle throughout the film.  And one older couple seated in the wheel chair area couldn't stop talking through the first 5 minutes of the film, which was a strong distraction.

All in all, it was not a bad movie.  It is not, as the over-hyped advertisements say "The best Bond yet".  No, not "the best", but not "the worst" either.  Daniel Craig is good in the role.  Still a little too dark and brooding, and DDF doesn't find him even a fraction as attractive as her beau Pierce Bronsnan, but the film provided ample gratuitous shirtless shots of Craig.  Javier Bardem continues to be remarkable in any film in which he appears.  Naomie Harris was refreshing.  Several plot holes, logic errors, and issues with physics (Bernoulli, Newton, Shockley) left me shaking my head, but it was an enjoyable ride.

(Sleep eludes me this morning, so there'll be several more blog posts)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sad Guru Travels?

I am not sure why anyone would want to travel with the Sad Guru, or buy tickets from the Sad Guru.  A happy guru, perhaps... or an ambivalent or neutral one.. why not?   But a sad one?  The cultural nuance is lost on me.  But everyday, for 4 days during the 5 nights I was in Bangalore India, we drove past this little sign on this little office at a Very Busy intersection in Whitefield.
I don't wish the Sad Guru any ill will.  Sad guru's business success baffles me, like the South Carolina Furniture store called "Badcock", I guess sometimes it doesn't matter what your business is called.

Chateau Haut-Chaigneau 2000 Lalande de Pomerol

Chateau Haut-Chaigneau  2000  Lalande de Pomerol, made by Andre Chatonnet, mis en bouteille au chateau.  As this is a 2000, I am pretty sure this was one of the massive Cave buys I did from my Canadian buddy Sebastian back in 2002.  It's a A Jean Pierre Chambras Selection ($23.99 as the label on the picture shows).  I had it with a Double Check Ranch Sirloin grilled to a juicy rare, and it was delicious, high quality Bordeaux wine.  2000 was a very good year, all across Bordeaux.

I've always considered Lalande de Pomerol to be the 'oft ignored younger cousin' of Pomerol, to which it is immediately adjacent geographically, and since the wind blows and the bees pollinate...  not too far off genetically too.  Where Pomerol commands the higher pricing generally, Lalande de Pomerol makes good wine just a fraction of a kilometer to the North.

If you want to try a Pomerol, but can't afford the gold required to purchase one, try a less expensive Lalande de Pomerol, and it gets you "in the neighborhood".  Most wine stores will even try and label it as just "Pomerol" and make you think you're getting a Huge bargain, but a close reading of the label tells the purchaser otherwise.  It's not bad, mind you.  It is very good.  It's just often falls a little short of a true Pomerol.

La Rose Pauillac

In the continuing effort to not have to move any of the wines we brought to Arizona in 2007 onto California at the end of the month, I've been breaking out the good stuff for dinner.  Last week saw La Rose Pauillac, La Rose Pauillac, Recolle 1996, Vieilli en fût de chêne (aged in oak barrels, of course), Mis en bouteilles a la propriete.  I bought it for for $18 a dozen years ago, and it goes for about $36 now online.  This old Bordeaux  went great with a Double Check Ranch New York Strip cooked to a red rare.

If I get a chance, you'll see multiple postings this weekend on wine & liquor.  Most of it French, but some of it Arizonian or Utah-ian.  All depends on how the packing goes, and how many times this ZT Windows Desktop crashes throughout the day, from which I ma making the blog posts as I pack up my office around it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mac Store Curmudgeon

So DDF and I walked into the Arrow Point AZ Mac Store 2 days before I go to Dubai...  and one day after she resigned form her former employer who did not appreciate her, and I say to the "geniuses": "Ok, I am an old man who runs Windows Xp, where;s your most experienced, Mac Hating genius who has to deal with old grumpy men".  So after a 5 minute wait Tony Pizano (and a trainee in tow) approached DDF & I.  I told Tony "I am a XP Windows user, I don't like my iPad, I don't like Mac prodcuts, so tell me why I should by a Mac book.  DOn't worry. my wife has already decided on the Mac Book Retina Display 15 inch which she'll be getting.   So show me, how do I
- scroll
- print screen
- right mouse click
- show properties of all the WINDOWS items I want & need
Tony, and his observant trainee sidekick, patiently answered my questions.  OH! If only I knew to control option F2!!!!  The world, would have been my oyster!  (you know, in close up, oysters look like something much more humanly anatomical).

Anyways, Tony was able to thaw my Deep Freeze against Apple Products in general... and this week, after return from Dubai & India and making these blog posts on DDF's Mac Book.  I am convinced it is a better product than ANY pathetic windows device I used to deal with, I will likely REPLACE the Windows Xp desktop with a Apple Mac Book when I move to KALIFORNIA later this month.

I thank Tony for his patience, and I look forwards to using more Job's devices in the future.

WHY CAN'T I SCROLL ON APPLE DEVICES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????

Perfect Pauillac & Porterhouse

Ok, so our wine fridge needs to be emptied.   We are not moving the bottles of wine that we moved here from South Carolina (with the cats) to Arizona, onto to California.  Therefore, we are drinking so really amazing wines with organic, grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free, DELICIOUS Double Check Ranch Steaks this month.   Dr Desert Flower and I enjoyed a 1998 Pauillac with a Delicious Porterhouse before I went to Dubai, that was one of the best dinners I've ever had in this Arizona house.   I took a picture of the bottle (it was a Rothschild Lafite, and it was really awesome Grand Cru Classe, Chateau Duhart-Milon) - but this Power Book doesn't like my Sony Camera USB port so much.

It turns out, that this bottle of Pauillac was rated from $107 to $400 dollars (over the last 15 years).  It was delicious, but I can't understand how it was a +$100 bottle.  My taste buds are not calibrated to such extravagant tastes.   I bought the bottle for $15 back in 2002, from co-worker who used to live in France.  Fantastic.

New Minority

Yes, I am a white male, who is not on welfare, who voted for Barak Obama.

That's two, count 'em, two National Elections in  row, where I voted FOR A WINNER.

And to all the Republicans who want to cry sour grapes, and that 'America is full of people who want 'stuff' '  and who are blaming others for their own short comings... get over it.    That's the new norm.   White males are a dwindling minority.  

No such thing as 'legitimate rape', as a "white majority" anymore.   Never was such a thing as 'legitimate American cheese' (it's hydrogenated, it's fake, get over it).  Never was such a thing as "the good old days" (as in the 50s, when the South was still segregated and women were discriminated against in the work place and everywhere else).

(I am sorta liking this Air Book)

How did I get so lucky?

I realized this afternoon (I am a slow learner) that I am a very lucky man, to be married to a lovely young woman, who looks 15 years younger than me, makes 20% more than me, and who gets along with just about nearly everyone - while I am an old curmudgeon who really only young, inexperienced engineers like, and who all others keep at a distance or fear.

I will miss the Sonoran desert (interesting that the Mac Air Book RECOGNIZES the word "Sonoran" while my old Windows XP desktop doesn't know that the whiskey tango foxtrot "Sonoran: is.   ANd I will miss the solitude of being able to hike on all sorts of desert mountain trails where no one else can be seen for an entire day (as opposed to the California parks that are over run by tourists and natives).

So to all of my Arizona friends...   I bid you a fond farewell.   I enjoyed my 5.4 years in the Sonoran desert, but now I'll be living in the most Republican part of the Golden State, Orange County...   ugh, but the crime is low, and there's a hot tub (instead of a pool), and my wife is working in a much happier place where they appreciate her, and getting paid more than me!

BTW - Call of Duty II, Black Ops, with all the personalities in the TV ad... is really hilarious!

Been a little busy

Well, it's the 12th day of November, and I have not posted anything.  Sorry followers.

I've been to Dubai UAE, and to Bangalore India.    I came home to find out that Dr Desert Flower and I are moving to Laguna Niguel by the end of this month.  I also have a MAJOR document that I have to complete before the 15th of November, for my boss's, boss's boss to give to the largest American Corporation CEO (other than Walmart & the government) for a massive document on the future viability of the corporation.. fun fun fun!!!

So it's been a little hectic.

I've decided that I will NOT be closing down JustJoeP after the California move.  

I WILL be drinking MOST (if not all) of the Bordeaux in our wine fridge before we move to Blue State California.

(this post brought to you by DFF's new Retina Display Power Book, while watching the tear producing, absolutely hilarious, Louie C.K. SNL from  week ago (while I was in Dubai).   TFF - Too F-ing Funny.  (Historically Insane)