Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Not Just A Bright Dot In The Sky

This evening, the international space station will be orbiting over Southern California: (from SpotTheStation)

"Time: Wed Feb 27 6:22 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 72 degrees, Appears: NW, Disappears: SE"

Frankly, I look forward to each time the station will be passing over-head and the night sky is cloudless.  While some people may think "what's the big deal, it's just a bright spot in the sky?" I see it as much more fascinating, impressive, and noteworthy.  Why?

Well, wether it is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court predicting an eclipse, or Ash Williams in The Army Of Darkness's "boom stick", chain saw and Oldsmobile, or NASA predicting the near-Earth fly-by of an asteroid... these are applications of science and technology that show that some humans actually use their neurons and firing synapses for useful purposes - to gain favor with the king and the fair maiden (Bing), to preserve one's life (Ash), or to avert a possible planetary threat (NASA).  Each time scientists and engineers get it right, it is a victory for the thinking class, the anti-Kardashians, the geeks who otherwise go un-appreciated and often-mocked / ridiculed / pigeon-holed / devalued & who are frequently ostracized, and a rebuke to those who do not value (or "believe") science.

To say confidently "at this time, and this place, you're going to see this man made object that is 230 miles above you, hurtling at roughly 17,250 mph, along a trajectory path from HERE to THERE that will last 6 minutes" ... and that object has scientists in it, who are doing experiments that may change the way materials are manufactured on Earth, how diseases are fought, or alter what we know about the condition of this tiny blue sphere on which we all live... well, that is pretty damn amazing to me.

Yes, it LOOKS like just a little bright white dot in the sky, not much brighter than Venus or Jupiter, moving in a straight line, but it is something that humans - collaborating, working together - created, tested, launched, maintain, and inhabit.  It's not some natural occurring phenomenon over which humans have no control.  Looking up and seeing it is one of the purest manifestations of the evidence that "science matters".  If we all believed that the Earth was 6000 years old, and the Ptolemaic Earth was at the center of the universe, and that eating of a creature that was not of cloven hoof & chewing cud was an abomination, there Would Be No international space station.  We'd be bleeding patients to get their humours corrected and relying upon astrology and alchemists as we tried to kill off or subjugate the rival neighbor tribes for the differences in their beliefs and appearance.

Each time I see this manifestation of successful technology, doing something very impressive, and very useful for all of humanity, it gives me hope.  It helps to remind me that life is not a series of pathetic of reality TV shows, bad news, innocuous fluff producing teen bands, marketing of products we don't need to buy, and mystical beliefs of invisible beings in the sky who randomly wreak random havoc on their terrestrial follows.  No, there's an actual space station, made of steel, titanium, plastic, and aluminum, full of scientists, engineers, and pilots from many different countries, safely flying more than 24X faster than  I've ever flown (an Air France 777 flight I was on once clocked in at 705 mph at 40K feet) at an altitude 32X higher than I've ever been, AND there are humans so smart that they can predict where it's going to be, automatically email me the information to let me know where that will be, so that I can also gaze upon the beauty of that manifestation and appreciate it.

It's something I'll never be able to explain to a tea bagger who wants to cut ALL government spending - without government expenditures, the international space station never would have been built.  It's not something that a quick creationist will ever understand, as they cannot separate the miracles that they believe their deity created from the modern marvels that science and engineering can create.  It's not something that I could explain to an uneducated manual laborer who has worked their butt off since the age of 6 and never even graduated from 8th grade (as my departed grand parents were) because they were too busy trying to stay alive and keep their family fed...  but it IS a thing of beauty that I appreciate.

I'll get off my soap box now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cat Logic

This is illustrated in my home, often:

Periodic States

From the geeks over at Ilovecharts.  I always love language intricacies.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Office Feline Flatulence Hazard

While it Can Be relaxing and stress reducing to have a sleeping cat in one's home office while working throughout the day and joining one serial conference call after another, when the cat is experiencing digestional distress, it can be more than a disconcerting.

I was minding my own business this morning, at 4:45am, on a call with my boss's boss, when all of a sudden, a fetid stench fills the air.  Has someone opened a sewer grate?  Is a portal to the lower levels of hell been conjured nearby?  No, it was the younger cat (the septuagenarian, not octogenarian) who was sleeping soundly, but passing noxious fumes in her slumber.  It was so strong, I almost vomited, tethered to my desk by my corded telephone head set, I could not escape.  Luckily, after a good 5 or so minutes, the cloud dissipated and I was able to breathe freely once again.  So to those of you who commute to an office, leaving your domestic pets behind, be grateful that you don't have to smell them throughout the day as they get older, and smellier.  =)

Meursault 1993

The final bottle of white wine that we brought in a cooler from Phoenix to Orange County was a Meursault 1993, it's a French Cote de Beaune.  I could not find an exact match for it online, but the prices for a 1993 Meursault range from $60 a almost $500.  It was not only the last of the Phoenix wines, but the last of the Sebastien purchase I made 12 years ago, before my buddy Sebastien had to go back to Europe and could not take his cave with him.

The Meursault 1993, Le Bastion Des Dames De La Tour Bussiere (XV S), Patriarche Pere et Fils was buttery, smooth, with subtle fruit notes.  Delicious.  Dr Desert Flower and I enjoyed it with cheese and dried fruit in our new Orange County home.
 I look back with a great deal of fondness to the Sebastien stash of wine, savoured over more than a decade, enjoyed with family and friends, and I am somewhat remorse that the supply has ended.  It was a wonderful run while it lasted.

2007 Was As Good As 2006

Back in 2006, I did a posting on Vieux Chateau Grean, mise en bouteilles du Chateau by Danielle et Richard DUBOIS, St. Sulpice de Faleyrens France, a wonderful $12 Bordeaux.  Well DDF and I recently enjoyed a 2007 bottle, and it was just as good.  I actually blogged this twice..  but I am having some serious issues with continuity here on google blogger from the Apple Store, so I am going to make this short and sweet (for the third time).

Château du Bois Chantant 2010

I was pleased to find this new bottle under $10 at Total WIne -  Château du Bois Chantant 2010 (link here).  I think it was $9.  It tasted more like a $15 or $20 bottle.  Very nice on the tongue, pleasing, and superb quality. And for < $10 it is hard to beat!
This is what you get when you hold down the "Option Key" and "Rotate" in iPhoto

Château de Bel-Air Lussac-St. Émilion 2009

We recently enjoyed a semi-fancy Bordeaux at Christmas - a Château de Bel-Air Lussac-St. Émilion 2009 (link here).  DDF bought it at Total Wine for about $20 and we had it with some delicious pork for a holiday meal while our son was visiting.  The bottle has been sitting around my office for far too long, for an over-due blog posting.

It was a good, full bodied, healthily tannin'ed Bordeaux.  No complaints about the wine - it was good, and drinkable, and if you're looking for a nice Bordeaux under $20 that's a step up form the $9 bottles I usually blog about from the bargain bin, you could do much worse than this one.

Lussac-St. Émilion is the "cheaper cousin" to regular St. Émilion.  I always find it a little under-handed when a restaurant lists Lussac-St. Émilion or Lalande de Pomerol as actual St. Émilion or Pomerols.  They're adjacent regions, very similar, but Not The Same, and when a sommelier tries to pass off the cheaper cousin, sight-unseen, grrrrrrr.

So, enough of my rant...  I have 2 more bottles to go in the next 30 mins.

Vegetarian Feline Diet

I got this from my Uncle this morning, in a string of dog & cat images.  If it is not photo shopped, then it is pretty funny.

Poor George!

Les Piliers Syrah 2009

Dr Desert Flower has developed a Petite Syrah proclivity.  She had a good petite syrah when she first moved to Orange County, and now she buys them whenever she sees one.  I saw a Bogel Petite Syrah in the wine rack last weekend, much to my dismay, as I bought a Bogel PS from Costco several years ago in Phoenix, and it was dreadful.  My hope is this newer vintage will be better.

But that posting will have to wait.  This posting is about a French Rhone, Syrah, Les Piliers 2009 (link here).  It was drinkable.  A little sweet (not so dry) and a little bit fruity.  I would not have bought it, as it was more than $12 (my internal hesitancy fulcrum at point of purchase - or rather, point of shelf-to-basket-selection).  2.5 stars out of 5 is "about right" in my perspective.

[this image is also my first attempt at "straighten" in iPhoto... sort of getting the hang of it]

Star Wars Family Tree

Over at Ilovecharts they had a great posting recently on the "Star Wars Family Tree" (link here).  You should check it out, if you're a fan of Star Wars (as I was in Jr High School).

Anakin Solo...  LOL!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pugsley's Perfect Porter

I picked up a Shipyard Brewing Co (Portland Maine) Pugsley's Signature Series Imperial Porter at my local Ralph's supermarket last weekend.  I drank it 2 nights ago, before dinner, and WOW... it was impressive.  Alan Pugsley is the English master brewer who crafted this amazing porter.  The back label reads:
"Pugsley's Signature Series is named after Shipyard Brewing Company's master brewer Alan Pugsley. Alan is from England where he worked with Peter Austin at the world-famous Ringwood Brewert before moving to the United States in 1986. Imperial Porter is a full bodied, very dark, malty beer with a good roasted character coming from the Crystal, Chocolate and Black Porter Malts used in the mash.  Warrior, English Fuggles, and EastKent Goldings Hops balance the malts with a good hop bite.  The brew has an OG of 1.070, rounding out after fermentation with just a slight residual sweetness and cutting dry at the finish.  To fully experience all the flavours, this Porter is best enjoyed at 55 degrees Fahrenheit."

Well, I didn't detect Any "hop bite"which is good, because I detest bitter, biting, hoppy beer.  I did taste coffee, chocolate, malty deliciousness.   This quote from the Shipyard website says it best:

"The Pugsley's Signature Series Imperial Porter from Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine pours out jet black in color with no light getting through and a one finger, tan head that sticks around. On the nose aromas of chocolate, coffee, deeply roast grain, nuts and earthiness. In the mouth flavors of creamy bittersweet chocolate, coffee, molasses, smoke and a slight herbal hoppiness. Full side of medium bodied. Nice carbonation. Good lacing. Smooth mouthfeel. Slightly sweet on a long finish that ends with a bitter twang. A wonderful Imperial Porter."

My beer fridge is set at 45F, so somewhere along the 2 hour drinking curve, this Porter warmed to around 55, then 60, and all 22 ounces were consumed before it got to 65F.  I didn't notice any "bitter twang" though - maybe I got a 'bad bottle'?  There were a little bit of gritty residual tannins in my bottle, so it may have been out of the bottom of the vat.  I enjoyed it tremendously, and it will not be my last bottle...  though... my new Californian primary care physician has recommended I cut down from 22 ounces to 12 a day... so I will have to look for this porter in six packs instead!

When I first saw Alan's thumbnailed head-shot on the back of the bottle, I thought "there's some hubris for you" ... but after drinking this fine beverage, heck yes, if I had created this, I'd certainly put my picture on every single bottle too!  Excellent stuff.  I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Walking Dud

Back in the Fall of 2010, I was eager to watch AMC's new series, The Walking Dead.  Then, in February of 2012, my interest sadly began to wane.  Now, this season, each episode bounces between
- poorly written
- laughably dumb
- idiotic choices, made by
- unlikable / un-relatable / unsympathetic characters
I am not saying that writing for a apocalyptic zombie series is easy, but the producers and writers of The Walking Dead have got to stop listening to their focus groups (which lead them to kill off the unlikeable Lori last season) and start writing more logical, believable dialogues, plot lines, and characters.

The awesome Tumblr Ilovecharts once said:
But now the magenta bar has grown to fill more than 3/4rds of each episode.  Dr Desert Flower refuses to watch it with me, as it is medically & scientifically impossible and the characters' speeches are inane.  I Fast-Forward through every scene with 'The Governor' and Andrea, as I could not care less.  Andrew Lincoln's British take on a delusional rural Georgian Sheriff has become strained at best, and when he tries to "dumb down" his accent in an 'I don't know' chain-link fence conversation with the patronly vet  Herschel he comes across as developmentally disabled, instead of borderline psychotic.

One bright spot is Norman Reedus as Darly Dixon, who is surprisingly one of the few redeeming characters in the whole show.  Michael Rooker's Merle just needs to be bitten, and taken out, as does the entire population of Woodbury.  Danai Gurira's Michonne character is being squandered in a deluge of sulking and silence, when (I've heard from my friends who have read them) she plays a MUCH BIGGER role in the comic books on which the series is based.

Leave Lori dead (and eaten, thank you).  If her widow Rick wants to run after psychotic hallucinations of her, have him get bitten and killed.  If 'The Governor' and his band of "deadly marksmen against the national guard, but inept against prison inhabiting civilians" show up, have them be consistent.  They either kill everyone, or they all get killed.  Dodge Ram pickup truck doors can't stop M4 full metal jacketed rounds.  If you're gonna beat the hell out of Steven Yeun, and give him a severe concussion, he needs to act concussed.   While Herschel's amputated leg LOOKS authentically shorter, Merle's hand-in-a-metal-sheath prosthesis isn't fooling anyone.

In season one, the very first zombie Sheriff Rick ever kills, he does so with a face shield (proper PPE) and a base ball bat.   Now, everyone is stompin, punchin, kicking, bludgeoning zombies one after another without any regard to how bone fragments can cut you, how decomp splatter can get in your eyes, mouth, or nose (or Any open wound you've sustained), and every single episode is a cross-contamination farce.

I had high hopes, but they're dashed.  I can watch an episode now on DVR in about 15 minutes.  Oh well.  But like any train wreck...  I want to see how it "ends", so I'll keep fast forwarding until they conclude the series.  Hopefully, with all the main characters getting eaten.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Timing Matters In Still Photography

Hearing about the recent Carnival Cruise debacle (you get what you pay for, Carnival is the cheapest cruise line, taking the most maintenance short cuts, with the fewest redundant essential systems on their floating mini-cities), when I saw this photo it made me chuckle.  It is not directly related to the Carnival Cruise Triumph, but it does seem slightly vacation / cruise related (though the cobblestones sort of detract from that perspective).  [I'm also a huge fan of shoulder-less tops on appropriately proportioned females]

Rockin' Fish's Obsolete Online Menu & Ballast Point

Dr Desert Flower wanted to go to see "The English Beat" on Saturday night, who were playing down in Laguna Beach, about 30 minutes from our house.  Sadly, I was stricken with a severe sinus infection that had turned my nose into a non-stop mucus generator, and my upper respiratory tract into a massive multiple sneeze machine.  I was in no shape to go to any kind of concert, but I agreed - hanky in hand - to try and eat a meal with her at Rockin' Fish in Laguna Beach.  DDF had see Rockin' Fish when we've eaten at C'est La Vie in the past, right across the street, and has wanted to go since we moved here last year.

Luckily my nose stopped running long enough to park the car, walk into the establishment, and order some food.  Because of my aging eye sight, I always try to look online at the menu before heading to a new place.  Rockin' Fish has an very detailed menu on their website, and I was delighted to see the Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter (brewed in San Diego) listed.   I was all set to try a new porter... even with greatly reduced taste bud sensitivity.

The waiter approached, I ordered from memory, and received the response
"we haven't had that for about a year now."
"About a year now? Your website lists it."
"Yes, we have a problem with the website"
Ugh....
Then the waiter piped up "if you're looking for an IPA...." ...I cut him off.
"No, I am not at all interested in a hoppy IPA.  I don't like them.  What do you have that is not brewed by a soul-less, purely-for-profit, no-love-of-the-beer-or-those-who-produce-it, beverage; one that is a high quality, locally brewed beer?"
DDF laughed to try and inject a little levity, since I was coming across as somewhat of an irate ass - cold enhanced and all - and I lightened up.

The waiter offered the "Bootlegger's "Old World Hefeweizen", out of Fullerton California.  Since Franziskaner got corporately bought out, I'd stopped drinking Hefeweizens, but my buddy Matt and I always used to enjoy a good Hefeweizen together back in South Carolina and then in Nevada, so I thought, why not?   It was pretty good - served in a Stone Brewery etched glass even - but it was not the porter I had hoped to sample.  The meal was fine, Rockin' Fish is not a bad place, they just have an obsolete online menu that they truly need to update.
No longer deciduously impinged

So Sunday, on my way back from the Farmer's Market in Laguna Niguel, I stopped at my local Ralph's, who have one of the best grocery store craft beer selections, and much to my surprise, I found a selection from Ballast Point - Amber Ale Calico.  I thought I'd give it a try (they also had a Ballast Point IPA, which I didn't even glance at twice).

After trimming a deciduous tree that was impinging upon a trio palm trees in the corner of my yard, I popped open the cold Ballast Point, and soaked in the hot tub.  HOPPY after-taste, that lingered and lingered, or as DDF put it "like an old sweaty sock" - well... not as bad as a sweaty sock.  It was drinkable, but wow, it was hoppy.  Not what I had hopped for.  I will have to remain on the look out for the Black Marlin Porter.

A Properly Stocked Craft Beer Fridge

Now that I've purged the last of the corporate, soul-less, profit-above-all-else swill from my beer & wine fridge, the bottom of it is finally presentable.

Stouts, Porters, and ciders, are heavily favored.   [note:  I was hoping to be able to REMOVE the shadowed / double exposure in the above image with iPhoto, as I blog this from the Mission Viejo Apple Store "Open Training" session, but I played with iPhoto for a good 5 minutes and the image above is The Best I could get it adjusted to 'sharpen' and 'contrast'.  I am sure with a much better photo-shop tool I could have reduced it further, but this is the limit that iPhoto can achieve, when in the optimal environment, working with a somewhat double-exposed image].

Come on over and have a beer with me sometime.  If you're looking for a hoppy IPA, I won't have much to offer, but I'm working my way through many of the local Southern Californian craft brewed beers.  Imperial Stouts, are by far, running way to the front of the pack.

Thirsty Marco

Regardless of content, "rising star" Marco Rubio's (Marco Blonde, in translation) State of the Union Republican rebuttal speech last Tuesday night will be immortalized by his unquenchable thirst.   The Daily Show on Wednesday spoofed him.   Colbert lampooned Rubio's 'stare into the camera regardless of circumstances' And SNL did a great bit as well, with Marco REEEACHHHHING far out of frame to quench his thirst.

Bill Maher pointed out succinctly that Rubio's speech was full of old ideas from 5 years ago, as if President Obama's first term had never happened.  It sounded like the party of whiners, claiming how the Democrats are destroying their great nation, instead of a speech from a up-and-coming-new-party-star who is supposed to be visionary and forward thinking.   Rather sad, but not at all surprising.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

United States of Drone Strikes

If you're not comfortable with being a country who reigns death from above onto not just jihadists planning on killing Americans, but on everyone else around them, , check out the Bureau for Investigative Journalism:

They've been keeping track of all the drone strikes the US has been doing around the world.  In 2013, we've gotten better, killing just 3 children (and a 153 terrorists).  I don't think any child should die from a drone strike - or killer robot in the sky strike - and probably most of the 153 terrorists who've been killed had 1 or 2 or more kids themselves, who will each grow up to try and avenge their fathers by strapping on a bomb, or trying to learn to fly a plane into a building, or blowing up a ship in the gulf of Adan, or driving a truck into an embassy laden with explosives, or something more heinous.  

I never was comfortable with W's targeted robot killings.  I am still not comfortable with the Obama administration's (the CIA's mostly) targeted killings.   If Venezuela, Iran or Cuba had these, and they were flying over the US or Canada or any of our allies, think we'd be pissed off about it?  Do you think we'd be "at war" with that country (not just the organization piloting the drone, but the who country who harboured them?).

I don't know what a good ratio of "terrorists : children" kills are.   I would think "zero" would be the best number.  Yes, there's not been a successful terrorist attack on the US since Obama took office - the underwear bomber blowing his own genitals off doesn't count.  But if it was President Palin, or President Romney, and they were blowing up Yemenis, Pakistani, Sudanese, Malian, Somalian, or any other country's citizen, even if those citizens were really really evil people who wanted to kill Americans but who had not done anything against America yet...  do you think the nation would be OK with it?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Creative Bike Responses

I saw this creative graphic today, and it made me laugh.   I've done several of these myself, when walking, biking, or driving and some other driver obscenely gestures, yells, honks, or threatens me.  Though I have never flashed anyone, yet.  =)

Get The Smaller Raw Honey Bear

I adore raw honey.  The micronutrients within it, and the full rich flavor, make it a tasty addition to Greek Yogurt, recipes, occasionally tea, and other things.  Honey is still heavily laden with sugar of course, so one cannot coat your food in it if you are watching your sugar intake, but a little dab here and there is great.

The Absolutely Delightful local Phoenix honey I purchased nearly 4 years ago in Phoenix took a long time to finish.  And I used a butter knife to get some of the final dabs out of the bottom of the bear, but couldn't get to the contoured recesses.   So this morning, lacking any fresh berries to put on my yogurt, I cut the head off the bear with an old serrated steak knife.  After the partial decapitation, I was able to scoop out the final 1/4 teaspoon dabs of golden deliciousness.

I doubt I will ever get another BIG BEAR of raw honey again.  The honey separates over time, slowly, precipitating the waxy solids to the bottom, which are too viscous to flow out of the head-mounted spout.  The little bear can be consumed in a reasonable amount of time (less than 4 years me thinks) and  if any solids precipitate out, they'll be able to be reached and extracted without resorting to decapitation.

(and yes, that is my new Mac, which  carry around the house (weighing less than 2 pounds as it does, and no thinker than 2 or 3 issues of Science magazine) as I prepare food during my work day - very convenient, since FM radio doesn't carry very well in mountainous Orange County CA)

USAir and American Airlines to Merge

San Diego public radio KPBS just announced that the AP is running a story that USAirways and American Airlines will merge to form a single airline, one of the largest in the world.

For my friends who fly American Airlines, you have my sympathies.  At least American won't go out of business, but you're merging with USAir, AKA, US-Scare.  As a former Phoenix resident, I was forced to fly USAir more than I liked for business and for personal travel, and I cannot say I had a pleasant flight on USAir, even once.  I know people who were platinum level frequent fliers, or "President's Club" preferred travelers on USAir, and (of course) they always received excellent service... but I was not one of them.  "Sit down and shut up", "be happy I didn't run out of peanuts", "the next step will be coin-operated plane bath rooms" seemed to be the genre of air travel on USAir.

I've never taken a USAir transatlantic flight, but my (2) American airlines transatlantic flights, and my (2) US transcontinental flights were four of the most unpleasant business class flights in my 15 years of business travel.  I know a sample size of n=4 is not statistically significant, unless you work at a private cancer test research development firm near Phoenix (then the sample size is probably twice as big as normally would be), but I did not enjoy my few AA flights.  My NorthWest, KLM, Delta, Lufthansa, British Air, Dragon Air, Singapore Air, Air China, China Southeastern, Thai Air, EVA, Continental, New Zealand Air, Emirates, Alitalia, Swiss Air, Austrian Air, and Air France flights have been significantly better than American and USAir.  United has not been much better, but at least United is partnered with Lufthansa, and with German airlines, there's a disciplined process.

Two Inexpensive French White Wines

Dr Desert Flower prefers white wines, si I try to keep a stock of drinkable, good quality, inexpensive white wines in the house.  Domaine De Pouy - Vin De Pays Cotes De Gascogne 2011, and Blason de Bourgogne 2009 Saint-Veran, Applelation Saint-Veran Controlee Burgundy are two such wines.
The Domaine De Pouy we picked up at Total Wine for less than $10 a bottle, and it was smooth, drinkable, with subtle fruit flavors or apricot and pear.  The Blason de Bourgogne is a $8 Trader Joe's wine, that tastes like a $20 Burgundy.  Yes, $8.  I picked up two more the last time I was at Trader Joe's.   Highly recommended.

Two More West Coast Quality Craft Beers

Available at Ralphs, are Dead Guy Ale by Rogue Brewery, Newport Oregon, and Firestone Walker's Reserve Porter, Paso Robels California.  I drank the Firestone more than a week ago, and can't recall specific details, but it was a good quality porter.  Not overly smokey.  It was full flavored, smooth, and satisfying.  And the label - with a lion and a bear (who has toned abs) ready to box - amused me, as an added bonus.

Rogue's Dead Guy Ale "It Glows!" had a label that made me smile in the store.  It did indeed glow-in-the-dark, when I drank it last week, after dusk.  "Deep honey in color with a malty aroma. Rich hearty flavor and a well balanced finished" - Rogue's back side label states succinctly, and accurately.

These won't be my last two bottles of either of these fine Craft Brewed beers.

Nature's Subtle Signs

One day last week, I got my work done before 2pm, and saw what a lovely day it was outside.   I packed up my yoga mat, hopped on my bike, and headed South to the beach to go do yoga at my favorite sea side studio.

As I left my neighborhood and descended towards the coast, leaving Laguna Niguel and approaching the city of Dana Point, I saw an ominous cloud bank.  Big, thick, low elevation white clouds, were rolling over the North-Westerly hills, with the wind blowing towards the South-South-East.  It was such a pretty day in my drive way, that my short sleeves and bike shorts were quickly becoming inadequate to keep me warm.  How cold could it get?   I intrepidly (and in hindsight, foolishly) continued to head South and downhill, through the Monarch Beach golf course adjacent to the Ritz and St.Regis resorts.

When I finally made it to the beach, it looked more like D-Day (or the Battlefield D-Day simulations I have played electronically), with an angry sea, cold mist, gray over cast, and harsh crashing waves.  Three life guard SUVs were huddled close together, watching the 1/2 a dozen surfers who were attempting to negotiate the pummeling waves.  I stayed just long enough to snap the two photos below, before heading back uphill and towards Laguna Niguel.

I biked back up North to a park in our neighborhood that had a Southern Overlook, elevation about 390 feet above sea level - where on a clear day, one can see the ocean - and did yoga as a small murder of crows cawed around me.  Next time, I will not ignore nature's subtle signs, and now I know how rapidly a micro-climate can change here near the coast.  Yeah, it's rough here in Southern California. =)

My Preferred Yoga Studio

This is my preferred yoga studio.   Dr Desert Flower and I have enjoyed it together (link here).  I've enjoyed this location 1/2 a dozen times.   It is a 15 minute walk from the parking lot, or a 5 minute bike ride down hill, and a strenuous 200 foot vertical climb back up in 2nd or 3rd gear.  Whenever it is over 65F, and not raining, I try to get down to this preferred studio in the afternoon.

Good Bye & Good Riddance Jan

When I listen to San Diego public radio (KPBS) and they have a story about Arizona, I feel so very relieved to no longer live in Arizona.   Today, aged Scottsdale blond, turned governor, Jan Brewer toured the Arizona / Mexico border in a helicopter and held a press conference afterwords where she scolded the Nation's President, telling him that he needs to come down here and see the border for himself.  She was disappointed that she couldn't stick her bony finger disrespectfully in his face again, so she used her grating accent and narrow perspective to do so instead. Yes Jan, the Obama administration deported over 400,000 illegal immigrants last year, a new record.   And the net immigration flow is now negative, with more latin Americans leaving the USA and heading back south and leaving US crops unpicked to rot in the fields, lawns un-groomed, chickens un-butchered, and floors un-scrubbed.

Yes, California is heavily regulated, more-so than other states on some issues, but at least there are elected state leaders who are more reasonable and who actually represent most of their constituents, as opposed to just angry white seniors who vote out of fear, in droves, during Arizona primaries.  Each day I live here, I am liking it more and more.

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale

Trader Joe's contracts Unibroue in Quebec to brew a "Vintage Ale" for them.  The bottle is the same size and shape as the La Fin du Monde that I enjoyed and mentioned at the beginning of this month.  It tastes similar, but I like it more.   It has a slightly smoother flavor, and it is a dollar cheaper than the Unibroue flagship brand.  It appears I am averaging about one a week.
My thanks to my buddy Ryan for introducing me to the concept of Golden Ales.  Though I scoffed at them initially, I've grown to really appreciate them.

Two Awesome Californian Imperial Stouts

I've taken to drinking Imperial Stout craft beers.  I find them to be satisfying and delicious.  Karl Strauss  Brewing, San Diego California makes a wonderful Wreck Alley Imperial Stout.  I picked it up at my local Ralph's supermarket the day before the Superbowl, and drank it just after kickoff the next day.  Lagunitas Imperial Stout, brewed in Petalum California ("Doggone Good!") was a tasty craft beer as well.  I Think I picked it up at Total Wine last month, but I am not sure.   I know Trader Joes doesn't have it, as they looked at me as if I was speaking Greek when I asked them if they had any last week.  It might have been Albertsons.... ?  I enjoy asking waitresses at new restaurants that Dr Desert Flower and I visit "do you have any local beers?" "Yes, we have a XYZ IPA" they sometimes reply.  "Any Imperial Stouts?"  .. and they look at me as if I have just inquired if they have any Burmese Pythons, very confused. "A glass of water will be fine for now, as I look over your wine list".
See, the nice thing about local craft beers here in California, is that it is much easier to find them in multiple retail outlets than it was in Arizona or South Carolina.  They're made locally, distributed widely, and in high demand by discerning Californian beer drinkers.  So there is no shortage of supply or demand.

Both Karl Strauss and Lagunitas make IPAs, but I am honestly not a fan of IPAs.  Too heavy on the hops for shock value and impressive bitterness.  Similar to how many Californian red wines are too heavy on the oak.  Don't blast my taste buds with hops, oak, tabasco, or hot chilies (as Chengdu China Sichuan food does).  No, instead, give my taste buds a complex mix of subtle and nuanced flavors that delight the senses, instead of over-whelming them.

I will be sure to note further Imperial Stouts here, as I find and enjoy them.  Stay tuned.

Working With Turbines...

Working with Turbines, I was drawn to this image.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Menaced by Denis

I've been Menaced by Denis.  Lemme explain.  I needed to get my first Californian haircut.  It's been almost 3 months now, and I was getting a bit shaggy.  So I go to the place Dr Desert Flower gets her hairs cut, but it was Monday, and they had some kind of hair demonstration, CEU, training session going on, so everyone (about 20 women) ignored me as I stood by the front door and receptionist podium.

No problem, I had a Target run to do - Rainex for the cars' windshields, bike gloves to replace the ratty ones my son left, new socks to replace the holey-ed ones.  Went to Target, cruised a couple of strip malls looking for another possible hair salon - found 2 closed salons, one Vietnamese nail salon/hair combo place whose acetone vapors hit me before I got out of my Mazda, and one "one chair" salon that had just one stylist doing a color job, and 9 or 10 empty chairs.  No thanks.

So I head back to DDF's preferred salon, and the training class is STILL going on.  I stand at the door, ignored.  So I leave, and walk across the vast parking lot to Supercuts.  I don't normally go for the corporate express hair cut...  but I was getting frustrated.   I walk in, there's 5 or 6 people waiting.  "How long will it be?"  (there's 2 stylists working) "About 30 or 40 minutes" was the polite receptionist's reply.
"Can I make an appointment for later?"
"We don't take appointments more than 30 minutes in advance"
Ugh!
"That's okay, I'll come back another day".
In my car, I realize, it is 3 days before Valentine's Day, and likely everyone who wants a hair cut to impress their beau or belle is getting one...  so I drive home, and google "stylists" in my zip code.   A 20 stylist salon pops up, just a mile south.  I've biked past this place...  I know where it is.. and they'll take walk in's at 4:15.   Kewl.  I'm there.

I walk in... and I am introduced "This is Denis, he'll be your stylist".  Ok.   That's fine.   I haven't had a guy cut my hair since the Barber in Highland cut it when I was a teenager, 2 blocks from my parents' home.  But that's fine.   I show Denis print outs of options 1, 2, and 3, and ask if he can do "Option 1" (the Affleck).  "No problem" he reassures me.  And starts shampooing me.   Why do hair stylists try to talk to you when your head is in a bowl, and they are squirting water into your hair?

Dried off, I get in the chair.  Denis then precedes to tell me (non stop, without me able to get a word in edge-wise) all about
- his world travels
- his hatred of Chicago and fans of Chicago sports teams
- his love of the German language
- his hatred of the French, and how America is "the opposite of France"
- his love of curry and Indian food
- how much he loved visiting China
(I mentioned how Sheldon Addleson, Gingrich and Romney's financial backer, gets more than 1/2 his income from Macao casinos, as Denis waxed on and on about taking his mother to Macao and how much he loved it)
- how this has become a nation of takers who expect to be given everything "I've WORKED for my living!", Denis exclaimed "for anyone to expect their employer to Give Them Anything, ughhh!!!"

As Denis trimmed my side burns, he remarked how most people's ears are not the same height or shape.   I commented on how Colbert's ears are disproportionate, and he said 'I watched him for the first time last week, but I CAN'T STAND that Jon Stewart!"

I remarked how The Daily Show is an equal opportunity satirist show, lampooning BOTH Republican and Democrats, as they each warrant it... and he dismissed my comment summarily.  "if you're not a liberal when you're young, you don't have a heart, and if you're not conservative when you're older, you don't have a brain"  ... ok Denis, your tip is shrinking, exponentially now.

I asked him not to put product in my hair, and he slathered "bed Head" through my short blond and gray.   He then put The Rest of the bed head In His Own Hair...  ew!   I don't want his hair stuff in mine!   (or mine in his, cross pollinated!)

All the while, as Denis was cutting my hair, he would (about every 15 seconds) GRIP my head in his fingers, and RE-TILT it to the position of his choosing, forcefully.  He'd grip my hair, yank it tight, before shearing it.   Not really painfully...  but not pleasantly, and at the strangest angles.   Had I come in with any cervical vertebrae issues, he would have severely injured me.   I've never had any hair stylist ever do that to me before, ever.

When we were all done, he talcum powdered my neck with a horse hair brush, making me EXTREMELY itchy.  I waited until DDF came home to show her my Affleck cut, before I ran upstairs to go shower to get the talc and product out of my hair.  "So you don't want to go to Monday trivia tonight?" - No.   I just want to wash Denis's menacing out of my hair.

DDF does like the hair cut, as my buddy Ron recommended in the comments section...  so that's good.  But I won't be back to have Denis harangue me about the evils of liberals, his love of curry, or have his unlicensed chiropractic services applied to my upper spine.

Now...  off to dinner!  =)


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cat Nuts Roasting

For all of my friends in the snowy North East
It was a cool 49F here today... we had to leave the top up on the convertible on our way to Trader Joe's and Wholefoods.  It's supposed to be 58F here tomorrow, and in the 70s by Thursday.  I hope your power remains on and your families can stay warm.

Dumping the Koppel Hair Cut

Since the early 80s, I've had pretty much the same hair cut.  I call it the "Ted Koppel" (link here).  The Sr year college resumes I sent out had a little wallet sized of a 20 year old JoeP with the Koppel cut.  6 years after that when I changed jobs for the first time, again, another variation on the Koppel cut.  So now I am in Southern California, and the Koppel cut is rather antiquated.  Ted's a great journalist, I just need to divorce myself from his hair cut.

So the two variations I am considering are here:
link 1
and here:
link 2
I can't decide which one will work better... but either will be better than the perennial Koppel cut.

JustJoeP visitors and followers are encouraged to comment here... and voice their opinions.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

4 to 1

The superbowl ended with a score of 4 to 1.. Baltimore over San Francisco.   This did not make me mad or sad.  This made me temporally rich.  See, I bought 15 squares- at $2 a square - at the neigbor's superbowl party.   I not only won the 3rd quarter...   but I won the end of the game and emptied the kitty.   We (DDF and I) netted over $120 in friendly neighborhood wagering (after putting out $30).   Wow.  I am amazing, and delighted.   =)

Meow. Grrrrrr...

I am glad I have no canine DNA within me.  =)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

4 Delicious Craft Beers

So I have stopped drinking corporate beers, made in soul-less factories, without any flavor, taste, or meaning.    I've recently enjoyed the Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout (which my son said to me was the BEST beer he's ever tasted), The Mission Street Brown Ale, Boatswain Chocolate Stout, and the Epic Brewing Smoked Porter.      The Rogue, upon first taste, was not pleasant, BUT, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tastes were delicious, and it had a smooth finish.    Very smooth.   The Mission Street Brown Ale was good.   The Boast swain Chocolate Stout was flavorful, delicious, and highly recommended.   The smoked porter was a little bit too hoppy for me. but not a bad beer.  Mission Street and Boatswain are available at Trader Joes.  The other two were Total Wine purchases.

I photographed all 4 of these on the top of my drum set hard cases, which rest in my office, right next to my set up 5 piece Ludwig drum set  =)    ....I thought this was very appropriate.

I highly recommend that you try these beers.  They're delicious.   They're made by real people who love beer and beer making.   Yes, they are 2X to 4X more expensive than the swill that Inbev, Miller-Coors, and others crank out, but they are worth the price.    Enjoy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Little Husky

I got this from my Godfather.   It made me laugh.  =)

15F In Niskayuna

I finished up my work day today with a conference call with Niskayuna New York.  Schenectady / Niskayuna was 15F - or as my researcher colleague put it "a brutal 15F here today".    I told him it was a pleasant 19 here...  Celsius  =)


So yes indeed, I did yoga at the beach.   As I write this, I am sitting in my backyard, watching the Rufous hummingbird male - who has claimed my yard and its 4 nectar feeders as his - chase away intruders and sing at the top of his tiny lungs, while I drink a La Fin Du Monde triple golden ale... mmmmm   delicious stuff.  [Brewed by Unibroue, Chambly (Quebec) Canada).  Yes, California suits me.

And using the handy pre-loaded program "Photo Booth" I will now share with you my very first "Photo Booth" photo, taken on my MacBook Air, here in my back yard, so that you can indeed see what La Fin Du Monde looks like, and buy one locally (at Trader Joes as I did, or elsewhere) for yourself, and enjoy this goodness.

Yes, that IS a map of Quebec on the 750ml bottle... (1 pint, 9.4 fl oz) though it is mirror imaged, since "Photo Booth" does not have an image editor to flip mirror images on photos.  =)