Monday, September 30, 2013

Terralsole Brunello DI Montalcino 2004

Dr Desert Flower splurged and got this $28 Italian red at Total Wine, Terralsole Brunello DI Montalcino 2004, before some friends came over from Phoenix to visit us here in California.  Bottled by Mariobollag, and imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains NY for Total Wine.

As you can see it is an Alfio Moriconi selection, and Mr Moriconi has shown his tastes are good, repeatedly.  As this bottle showed, Moriconi picks both inexpensive and moderately expensive wines.

The wine maker actually signed the bottle in silver ink, but since we'll be moving soon, I am not savings it.

If you're looking for a good wine to share with friends under $30, and you're going to have pasta or some other Italian food, this would not be a bad option.

Saint-Esprit, Cotes Du Rhone, Delas 2010

Saint-Esprit, Cotes Du Rhone (appellation Cotes du Rhone Controlee), Delas 2010.  Raised and Bottled by the Delas brothers in Tournon Sur Rhone, France, this was a delicious wine.   Dr Desert Flower got it at Total Wine for less than $12, and we enjoyed it at home over dinner last month.

I've actually had dinner in Tournon many years ago, when I visited a small satellite factory from a French supplier that was making excellent quality parts for my employer.  We had a great bottle of wine with that dinner - it was a Rhone wine from the region, as I recall, and it was the advent of my wine awakening.


Tormaresca Neprica Puglia

Tormaresca Neprica Puglia 2009.  This bottle of delicious and inexpensive Italian Puglia wine was enjoyed for less than $8 a bottle with a grilled steak in August here.   We got it at Trader Joe's.

Estate grown & bottled by Tormaresca SRL San Pietro Vernotico, Italia.  It is 40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  "Tormaresca" is a "tower by the sea" (in English, we'd call it a 'light house' or other type of nautical beacon).  Regardless, the wine was good, fine quality, drinkable, and I highly recommend it.


Arizona Natural Hazards

Last Friday I was listening to KJZZ online, and saw a link to this at the bottom of the screen.  Very interesting stuff, if you are a property owner in Arizona.  It lists all the fault lines, active seismic zones, potential fire prone areas, flood plains (all of Phoenix), and major earth quakes.  It also shows a little bit of Southern California as well.  Very useful stuff.   I don't know if any other states have done this, but kudos to Arizona for publishing it along with FEMA.
http://data.azgs.az.gov/hazard-viewer/   (you may have to REFRESH this a 2nd time to get it to show on your computer)

Jaguar vs Caiman

In my perspective, pound for pound, there is no other land predator species alive today (non human), who is as lethal as large feline.  This is an impressive video:

Posted September 26th, 14 million hits already. National Geographic does excellent work.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer of 2013 Affordable Wines

I had delusions of grandeur that I'd be posting a whole bunch of separate entries about various wines that Dr Desert Flower and I enjoyed over the summer.  Fall arrived just 2 weeks ago, and there's a formidable collection of empty bottles building up in my office. a-waiting to be blogged about.  But pragmatically, I am running out of time, and the rental house in which we are living now had a lock box on the front door and is going "to be shown" to get the next set of renters in here once we head to our new home in October.  So this morning, while our visiting son is sleeping upstairs (and before I get the bacon fat heated up in the skillet to cook everyone pasteur raised eggs) I am going to post as many of the bottles we enjoyed over the summer as possible, all in one fell swoop.  The recycling bin will be heavy with colored glass this week.
Castillo Clavijo Tempranillo was an inexpensive Spanish Rioja (D.O.C.) imported by Saranty Importers, White Plains NY.   It was a Crianza (as my one page wine summary explained years ago) and it was pretty good.   No complaints.  The Spanish, and their government regulatory & quality assurance system (as well as a brutal market place) know how to make good wines that are affordable for "everyday drinking".







 Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, California,  was a lark purchase at Trader Joe's during one of my "I love California" wine buying trips to the store.  I want to love California wines, and there are many good ones, but most are really over-priced.  The Rioja above was less than $10 (everything on this posting will be less than $10, unless otherwise noted) and it came 1/2 way around the world, was made in a country (and regulatory system) that Californian wine producers would consider "oppressive", "stifling" and "not supportive of the free market"and yes cost a dollar less a bottle to me, the end wine drinker, in California.

Velvet Moon was not bad.  It was drinkable.  Went well with a grass fed, pasteur raised steak I grilled (which cost more than the bottle of wine...  maybe I need to re-think this...) and I would recommend it as an adequate red table wine.  It's nothing to rave about, nor is it anything to criticize, trash, or pour down the sink.  It was OK. If you're in the mood for a OK Cabernet, you could do worse. I know that's not a "gushing" review, but Velvet Moon didn't knock me off my feet or leave a powerful, distinct impression. Would I buy it again?  Eh, probably...  if it was on sale.  Why not?

The Bougrier Loire Valley Anjou (Appellation Controles) 2011 from Total Wine was an Alfio Moriconi selection.  Total Wine's website calls it a "blush selection" - I called it a Rosé.  We drank it during the 2 week August "Hot Spell" when temperatures climbed over 85F here in Southern Orange County, and it's always nice to have a cool Rosé on a hot summer day.  The Total Wine site says it is $11 a bottle, but I think we got it on sale for $9.99.  It was light, refreshing, flavorful with lots of fruit while not tasting like HFCS flavored kid's grape juice. The French - much like the Spanish - also have excellent quality controls, government over-sight, and time-tested regulations on wine production that make excellent sense and help to produce excellent wines.  This Anjou selection is among them.

I explored a new selection in the Bila-Haut, Cotes Du Roussillon Villages - Appelation Cotes Du Roussillon Villages Controlee.  It's full name is "Les Vines De Bila-Haut, by Michel Chapoutier, 2011."  Mis en bouteille par M.Chapoutier (Michel is a negotiant who bottles lots of wine).  The Languedoc region is often under-appreciated both in France and in the US, but I've actually had a bad bottle of Languedoc wine.   This bottle of red was wonderful.  "Fleshy and well structured" is what the back label said...  ok...  I guess so.  I didn't notice any "fleshy" tones or tastes.  It was good.  It was drinkable, and I liked it.  If you try it, you'll probably like it too.


Chateau de Sales Pomerol was NOT under $10.  It was a DDF purchase to have a delicious (and somewhat expensive, at $28) bottle of Bordeaux on hand for a colleague of her's from Phoenix who came to visit us last summer for a weekend at the beach and shopping with DDF.  Bottled by Heritiers de Lambert, this Pomerol did not disappoint, and delivered the full flavored, robust tannins of a hearty and impressive Bordeaux - which is primarily Merlot (and some Cabernet Franc mixed in), so take THAT, Merlot haters!  I'd recommend it if you can find it for under $30 a bottle and you have a special occasion and you serve it FIRST, and not as a 2nd or third bottle with dinner.

The Noccese Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (D.O.C.) 2008 from Chiusa Grande was a Trader Joe's purchase that was either $11 or $12, and it was not just delicious and affordable, but it was also ORGANIC!  Imported by Organic Cellar, Laguna Beach CA, it was a great wine.   Estate bottled by Azienda Agricola Chiusa Grande di Franco D'Eusanio, Nocciano Italia.  I really meant to blog about this wine earlier in the summer, but I got distracted - in Southern California there's just so much more to do outside and at the ocean than there is in the desolation of western Phoenix.

The Harthill Farm Pinot Grigio was a $6 WholePaycheck purchase by DDF that she especially enjoyed, and has been a repeat purchase on our dinner table.  I do not mind pinot grigios, but DDF has become somewhat of an aficionado of affordable and delicious white wines.  The Harthill Farm offering is now a "go to" for us.  Bottled in Livermore and Ripon California, Harthill Farms "gets it", providing high quality & delicious Californian wine at a reasonable price.

And now...  it is time for breakfast.

More wine blogging after breakfast.  Stay tuned....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking How Bad It Can Be

Over at I Love Charts, they posted this earlier this week, and it really amused me.
And don't forget, the Full Heisenberg.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gerard Bertrand Minervois 2008

I do love my Minervois.  I found this Gerard Bertrand Minervois at Costco of all places for $10 a bottle, and it was as good as Chateau Landure - about which I have opined here before.  It was the last bottle at the Laguna Niguel Costco, and had been placed in the wrong bin, but I relocated it to my cart and was delighted when it rang up at just $10.  Why Americans can't relate to French regional wines and rely upon the varietal for what they like or dislike, is well beyond my comprehension.  I could take the Best of grapes, and throw them together poorly, transport them haphazardly, store them warmly, and they'd be terrible.  "Syrah / Carignan" well..   yes...  but don't forget the Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, and Mourvedre grapes as well.  Silly narrowly focused, uninformed American shoppers.

It got a 91/100 rating from Wine Speculator, which (to me) means that someone from Wine Spectator knows someone from the Chateau who knows someone, who got them several cases, and they liked it even though it was not a 20 or 30 Euro bottle.  I liked it, it's made in Minervois, and that's all that's important to me.  =)

Angeline Sauvignon Blanc

Dr Desert Flower likes her Sauvignon Blancs, as long as they don't taste like grapefruit.  Angeline S.B. was delicious, inexpensive (less than $10 a bottle) and available at Total Wine.  It was not bad at all.   If you want a good white wine, try it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Have you met Aliki?

Portlandia's "Farm" sketch was incredibly funny, where two yuppies order chicken at a local organic restaurant that provides them with a portfolio on the chicken they're going to eat: "His name was Colin, and he was fed a diet of sheep's milk, soy, and hazelnuts".  DDF and I laughed our asses off watching it the first time.  It remains one of the funniest bits from the show.  Jason Sudeikis plays the cult leader Aliki, at the Farm, most hilariously.
When I saw the Vital Farms eggs at WholePaycheck ($6 a dozen) and they were "Certified Humane", USDA Organic, lpasture-raised, local California eggs, I thought to myself "ok, these are a $1 more than Farmer's Market eggs... but I didn't wake up early enough to go to the Farmer's Market... and... these eggs even Have Paperwork!" - there was a little certificate, inside the carton, telling all about Colin and his friends.  Well, obviously Colin didn't lay any eggs, but the hens he would have liked to have procreated with if he'd not been served to discerning restaurant customers did lay them.

The eggs were some of the darkest yolks I've ever had.  Fully flavorful, satisfying delicious.  They are not "the cheapest" eggs in the world, but they are certainly some of the healthiest & most sustainable.

Four or Five days a week for breakfast, I will typically sauté 1/4 or 1/2 an organic onion in a heaping tablespoon of bacon grease (Canadian maple cured thick strips of bacon, cast iron skittle fried, and recovered), throw on 3 or 4 handfuls of organic baby spinach (covering all the onions, and using "more than you think, it'll all reduce down" as my dear friend Ron advised), several cups of Trader Joe's  sliced crimini mushrooms (it's really hard to find organic mushrooms in California), and a handful of Costco bacon bits, on a medium flame in our new Circulon Symmetry 12 inch sauce pan until the spinach shrivels down to little strands, the criminis are all coated in the residual bacon grease, and the onions are translucent.  Then add 2 scrambled eggs on top of this tasty mixture, maintaining the medium flame.  The 12 inch pan spreads out the eggs for faster cooking and heat transfer - I like my scrambled eggs dry, not gooey, as gooey makes me want to verp as it makes me think I am eating something the consistency of snot.  The 8 inch pan would work too, it just takes longer with nearly 1/2 the heated surface area (and nearly double to the egg thickness layer).    Season with organic pepper and sea salt.  It's a tasty breakfast / brunch / sometimes lunch (when work keeps me busy all morning until 1 or 2pm).  Come to visit us, and I'll cook you some eggs as I did our friend Rick back in July and DDF's Phoenix scientist friends who've visited OC this summer as well.






Dearly Beloved - I Thee Red


Trader Joes was carrying this wine at the Dana Point store, and I was in a "California Wine" purchasing mood, so I picked up a bottle of "Dearly Beloved - I Thee Red" from the Central Coast.  I usually don't go for kitschy labels, but this one appealed to me.  Bottled by Dearly Beloved Wines, Hopland CA, it was a tasty red.  Smooth, drinkable.  It was $7 or $8 at Trader Joes (I can't remember exactly how much).  It was good.  I can't complain.

Shipyard Brown Ale

I picked up a six pack of Shipyard Brown Ale at my local Ralph's supermarket, after enjoying the Porter and Blueberry Shipyard varieties earlier this year.  While I enjoyed drinking it, the Brown Ale fell short of my "amazing flavor" expectations that the Porter had previously established.  It's a fine beer, very drinkable, pleasant; not wimpy, diluted, or corporate by any means.  I just don't know if I'd buy it again, if there are other choices to be had.  Not a failure, but not a 'home run' either.

It was good, but not great.  Portland Maine continues to make some good craft beer.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grifone Primitivo

Grifone Primitivo - From Old Vine Zinfandel - Puglia, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, bottled by Roccadoro, Pontedera Italy and imported by Latitude Wines for Trader Joes, is a delicious red wine from the heel of Italy.  "Zinfandel in America, Primitivo in Italy, Mali Plavac in Croatia" the back label states.  Whatever the name, it is delicious, smooth, full flavored, and at $8 a bottle, very economical to drink.  I enjoyed it with a nice rare grilled grass fed rib eye steak.  Yum.

...and it was infinitely better than the $2.49 "Three Wishes".

Downtown Brown - Bottled

Back in January, when I rode my bike on Catalina Island on my birthday, I enjoyed a 22 oz pour of Downtown Brown, at the Lobster Trap in downtown Avalon.  It was a delicious, dark brown, nutty ale that was refreshing after a strenuous bike ride.

When I was shopping at my local grocery store, I saw they were selling 6 packs of Downtown Brown, from the Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka California.  I picked up a six pack, and kept it in my fridge until my old friend RGK came to visit back in July, and we polished it off the night he was here.  Downtown Brown is just as good in a bottle as it is on tap, in my perspective.

Cheap Wholepaycheck Wine - Three Wishes

Sometimes, the cheapest wine is also the lowest quality wine.  This was certainly the case with the Three Wishes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that I purchased from Wholepaycheck, simply because a) it was $2.49 a bottle and b) the stack of cases and bottles was cash-register adjacent, making a "point of sale" decision easily convincing.
I opened the Cabernet first, and noticed a slight "medicinal" small.  I had a taste of the first glass, and decided "perhaps more appropriate for a 2nd, or 3rd bottle of the night".  I went onto a much more pleasant Italian wine (which I'll post later) and came back to the Cab 2 days later.   It had mellowed a little, but it still was not a good "first vintage" bottle.

The next week I opened the Merlot.  It had a turpentine-esque aroma, and was completely un-drinkable.   I poured it down the sink after 2 sips... hoping the 2nd sip would improve.   It didn't.

If you've visited JustJoeP previously, you know I am a HUGE fan of hidden gems, bottles under $10 that are good quality and drinkable.   The two bottles I purchased from WholeFoods for $5.98 (total) were not hidden gems.  They were not even iron pyrite.  I cannot recommend them.  The only "Three Wishes" they granted for me were "not wasting $10 a bottle", "not giving me a headache hangover", and "not finding a dead animal in the bottom of the Cab I drank".  As far as wishes go, that's pretty low expectations.

Sublime Sun SPF50+

Living as close to the beach as we do now, I've spent a good deal of time at the shore.  Not wanting skin cancer - as several of my friends and family members have been diagnosed - I've been trying to avoid being burnt and moderating my exposure to our G2V averaged sized fusion reactor in the sky (the Sun).  Dr Desert Flower gave me a bottle of L'Oreal Sublime Sun SPF50+ to put on my face (we coat ourselves in SPF70 primer, multiple passes, with the spray guns) and it's worked rather well.  No face burning.  No clogged pores or break-outs.  No allergic reactions.  Washes off nicely in the shower with soap.  It is good quality stuff.  A little dab on the finger-tips, massaged into nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin, and 20 seconds later, my face is ready to withstand the ravages of solar radiation.  It took all of 2013 (so far) to go through this little 1.7fl oz bottle.

Highly recommended.

Kitchen Sink - Total Wine

Often the rating on a bottle of wine from a wine magazine (like Wine Speculator [what I call "Wine Spectator" after my mother-in-law got me a subscription to it 10 years ago] or Wine Advocate) is corporately driven, mass marketing targeted, and oblivious to the really good wines that are less than $10 a bottle.  Sure, not every bottle under $10 is great, and some are not even good, but many are wonderful, drinkable, delicious and affordable table wines.

Dr Desert Flower scored such a wine in Kitchen Sink, at Total Wine just before Labor Day.  Kitchen Sink had a "favorite selection" of one of the Total Wine employees, but at $5 / bottle, of course it was not rated by any wine magazines.  With the attitude of "if it is not very tasty, I might make a sauce with it" she bought the bottle.  We drank it the weekend before labor day, and it was great!  Smooth, pleasant on the tongue initially and at the back as well, with a slightly fruity aroma, but not overpoweringly so.  We enjoyed it, and at $5 a bottle, everyone who likes a pleasant white wine can too.

The back label says it is a mix of Chardonnay (which DDF detests), Chenin Blanc, and Gewürztraminer, bottled in Santa Rosa CA by "Kitchen Sink Blends".  Nice job, KSB!

The NSA Thanks You

Cool!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What I Learned Body Boarding On Friday Afternoon

"What I Learned Body Boarding On Friday Afternoon" or "Body Boarding For Dummies".

I am a California novice.   I don't pretend i know everything about what to do or how to do it here, and I find those who try to appear to be "way so cool" to be laughable (and I choose not to hang around them).  On Friday afternoon, my last conference call ended at 1pm (after starting my day at 4am and not having breakfast until a quick snack at 11am).  I checked the wave conditions at Dana Point, and found that there was a "2 star" rating (out of 5 stars) at the surf rating sites, and that the waves were estimated at 2.5 feet high.  "Cool!" I thought, time to body board!

I broke out my O'Neill Psycho 3:2 wet suit, body board, cooler (for re-hydration), reading glasses and book (Gaffigan's Dad Is Fat), towel and sun screen, and headed down to Dana Point.  I scored rock star parking at the best parking spot at the top of Strand Beach, headed down the 200+ stairs, and looked for the best area to begin body boarding.  There were dozen of adolescent & 20-something surfers, and 1/2 a dozen children and "old men like me" body boarders.  I headed for the body boarders, and avoided the skillful surfers.

While websites said the waves were 2.5 feet high, they often ran 5 or 6 feet high, with formidable crashing into the shore.  The wind speeds were about 10 mph.  It was clear and sunny (good thing I had SPF 50 on my face and neck) and the water was about 66F.  Here's my take-aways, as a rather novice body boarder:

1)  Wear a wet suit.  Your fingers and toes will get chilly in the 66F water, but the rest of your body will be fine.  3:2 or thicker..  (the kids in the 2 mil suits were shivering)

2)  When you are bobbing out in the surf, up to your neck, your toes in the sand, and a Large Wave approaches, and you feel the TUG of the under-tow drawing you out to sea, and the water level goes from chin, to chest, and then to wait level (dropping almost 3 feet) LOOK at the oncoming wave.  If it is about to crest, DIVE DAMNIT!   DIVE INTO and UNDER IT!  You will come up on the backside of the wave alive, and well balanced.  If you naively choose to try to "ride the wave" you will be pummeled, pounded into the surf and sand, and tumbled like an old sock in the dryer, repeatedly, dizzily, to the point where walking a straight line is a significant challenge.

3) When another body boarder (or boogie boarder, or no-board-surfer) rides an excellent wave for dozens of yard, at the crest, and makes it from the deep water all the way into shore in-tact, and you NOTICE this, and marvel at it, and then that person swims back out past you, it is nice (and good karma) to compliment them and tell them "that was a good wave you caught".  Telling them this will Make Their Day.  The responses I have received when I've done this have ranged from "thank you" to "that is the best wave I caught all day, I've been out here for 4 hours!".

4) when the seagulls are laughing, they are not laughing at you.  They just make that sound, that seems like laughing to humans.

5) when you ride a crashing wave all the way into shore, and you try to maneuver to avoid crashing into three 5 and 6 year old little girls who are standing in knee deep water, but the wave is so violent & powerful that you still glance against the leg of one of the 3 foot tall little girls (who tells you "I'm fine" when you ask her "sorry about that, are you ok?") it is time to call it quits.  If an old man approaching 50 years old cannot control his body board trajectory, and he crashes into little girls who are standing knee deep in the surf, he's too tired to keep body boarding.

6)  A "one star" surf rating, is rather "boring" with 1 foot high waves, and a "green flag" rating.  A "two star" rating, at 2 feet, is fun and exciting, and enjoyable, with a "yellow flag" rating.  A "two star" or "three star" rating might be fun for seasoned surfers, with a "red flag" rating, but for old men like me, it means a wet suit full of sand, a dizzying tumble in the surf after being pounded repeated by powerful waves, and a dazed-and-confused stagger back to your cooler, sandals, and towel.

7) Wear your body board wrist tether, it will keep you from having to swim (or wade_ ashore to retrieve your body board that will inevitably be wrenched from your tenacious grasp when you are pummeled by a crashing wave. But remember, when you wearing your wrist tether, that the chord is somewhat elastic, and when the board Finally Breaks Free of the waves, it will have a tendency to WHACK you in the neck or face as it breaks free of the shore bound wave.

8) Rinsing your wet suit in the shower while wearing it, and then peeling off and rinsing it "inside out" will be the easiest way to get all the salt water off the suit.  Make sure to use the coldest water possible, so as not to degrade the suit (hot water and hydrophobic coatings are not so compatible).  Make sure to keep the original equipment hangar close to the shower so that you can hang up the wet wet suit, after rinsing.

9) remember to watch how large of a volume of liquids you drink while wearing a wet suit.  While emptying your bladder in the ocean might seem "natural" to some people, voiding your bladder inside your wet suit is just plain old nasty.  And when you get home, tired, and post-surf-tumbled, and you have a full bladder, getting out of the wet suit and going to the rest room will become of paramount importance to the human brain.

10) soaking in a hot tub, for about an hour, with jets on your neck, shoulders, and lumbar, with a large glass of iced ethanol, helps to alleviate the pain that being tumbled in the surf can cause.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nest Mate Black Chinned Brothers?

These little guys only 1/2 heartedly spar with each other, and perch unusually close to each other just outside my window.
They appear to be black chinned adolescent hummingbird males.  They have very small "goatees" of bright feathers under their chins, unlike the full grown adults who look like they spilled a quart of cranberry juice down their china and throats.  They do the little "are you threatening me?!?" head bobs...  but they'll sit on adjacent branches, and easily within stroking distance, but they only 1/2 heartedly 'fight'.  Then a Rufous or Anna's hummingbird comes by, and it's a melee, with "Battle of Britain, 1939 Spitfire vs Messerschmidt - esque" dogfights chirping and speeding and whizzing about the back and side yards.  Once the "interloper" is driven off, one or both of the young males comes back, to roost above the feeders.   They are not really a "team" but they are not really "rivals" either... they are pretty much just peaceably co-existing - better than my brothers and I ever did!  If a female black chinned hummingbird shows up, they'll Swoop Down, and chirp "hey baby...  how you like my feeder? you in estrus yet, hmm baby?"
I'm going through about 1/2 a gallon of nectar a week now, out of the 6 feeders in my back & side yards.  That's a pittance compared to some bird fanatics who go through 2 gallons Each Day (as Birds and Blooms has told me).

Brave Little Lizard

A few weeks ago, I photographed this lizard on the wall, just outside out breakfast area to the West of
our kitchen.  It was mid day, and this lizard was busy doing "push ups" on the top of the wall, the same way the whiptail striped lizards would in Phoenix.  But the wall is just above and next to 2 large hummingbird feeders, and there was a buzz of activity all around the feeders, with adolescent black chinned males, fully grown Anna's males, and fully grown Rufous male hummingbirds vying, parrying, dog-fighting for who would dominate the delicious feeders - so much testosterone, in such tiny little birds!   The lizard was "not impressed" by these darting and speeding avian creatures, and actually, at one point, put his head over the edge, at WATCHED one of the hummingbirds, CLOSELY, as if to say...  "come closer punk, and I'll bite you, latch on, and have hummingbird for dinner".  Now, I have seen grotesque youtube videos of fully grown preying mantis devouring hummingbirds (no, I won't provide a link, it's too gross), but I'd never seen a small 5 inch long lizard attempt to eat a hummingbird, or even try to menace one...  until August of this year.
video

The adolescent hummingbird was keenly aware of the wall mounted lizard who was observing him, and he hovered, and chitted, and tried (ineffectively) to scare off the lizard from his vantage point about 12 inches above one of the feeders.  Eventually, after a few minutes, the lizard gave up and went about its way looking for easier & slower prey, but it was fun to watch while it lasted.

I Don't Want This To Be Me

My Godfather sent me this image this afternoon (along with about 20 others...  but this one was the best).
This would have taken several hours to sculpt.  No beaches around here have white walls like that.

Another Lackluster Year For The Bears Offense

Confused Bear Offense
Dr Desert Flower and I were out looking at possible homes to buy on Sunday, so I missed the NFL Sunday Ticket to which I stupidly and Expensively subscribed last May for nearly $300.  When we got home around 3pm, I turned on the TV thinking I could watch the Bears game that I'd set the DVR to record earlier.  DirectTV had other plans for me though.  See, I did not hit the little "red button" hidden behind the sim card front door, to "reset" my box, since last May when I subscribed, so it recorded NOTHING.  This infuriated me, having paid so much for a season, and having planned to watch the game while frying up several pounds of maple cured bacon from Canada in my cast iron skillet, reserved exclusively for bacon frying.  I finally calmed down, put on the Green Bay / SF game, and tried to enjoy it.   Green Bay was not losing enough, so I turned it off, and watched some old Dr Who episodes that I'd not previously seen as I fried the bacon, salvaged all the bacon fat, and burnt up the afternoon.

I saw a show called "NFL Shortcut" and had no idea what it was, but I hoped it might have some or all of the Bear's game highlights.  It was set to play at 9:30pm Pacific time, so I set my newly reset DVR to "record" the little "$" show on NFLST, and hoped for the best.   I knew that Chicago beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24 to 21, but I had no idea about the details of the game.  DDF and I watched BReaking BAd, and I went to bed early, having a 5am call Monday morning.
Typical Bear Defense, Week 1 of the 2013 NFL Season

So this afternoon, when I finished my day of work, I began to cook myself breakfast at 3pm, and low and behold, there was the "NFL Shortcut".  It was commercial free, time-out free.  Just the plays that mattered.  In less than 30 minutes, at a frenetic pace, I was able to see every run, pass, fumble, kick, and turn-over.  It was a great game for the Chicago defense, in particular Tillman.  But sadly, again, another lackluster performance by the Bears offense.  The running backs tried, and made some progress.  Marshall caught several passes with amazing skill.  But QB Cutler could not organize his troops, and exhibited his typical inconsistencies.  Throwing on 30 yard pass, and getting a first down, and then squandering the next 3 downs to have to kick.  There as no cool steely finesse of Aaron Rodgers.  No 3-ringed bravado of Tom Brady.  No decades honed innate skills of the Manning brothers displayed.  No flair of a Colin Kaepernick, and even the Andy Dalton's losing performance was much better than Cutler's accidental, Defense produced winning performance.

I found myself cringing at punt after punt.  Again this year, once Cutler was sacked hard, the little birdies and stars flew around his head and he had trouble finding his targets, keeping his courage, and effectively scrambling.  It's sad that Chicago management thought it best to get rid of Lovie Smith but kept Jay Cutler.  Would have been better to cut Cutler, and begin grooming a young-and-up-coming rising star.  it'll be another "near 50% season" at this rate.  And I got to pay $300 to see it at home...  but I will not be yelling at my TV.  Just shaking my head, disgusted, wishing San Diego was a better team, and that Los Angeles still had the Rams.  At least the Glendale AZ Cardinals might do well... Fitzgerald is having a better year...   I still own underwater property in that state, and can be happy for them if they win next week.  I love a great defense in the NFL, but a defense needs at least a "pretty good" offense to be able to win games.  If the offense is lack luster, the defense gets burnt out, frustrated, and injured.  il faut voir.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Thank You Experian!

On the Credit Rating Agency website from the company Experian their tag line is "A world of insight".  What it really should say instead is "Intrusively and without your knowledge, pimping out your data".  Why do I say this?  Well, from personal experience.

You see, about 2 months ago, Dr Desert Flower contacted our bank (one of the big national, too-big-to-fail US institutions) just to inquire if they could call us back about a home loan, since we are renting here in California.  The very next day, our phone began ringing off the hook, with misguided and misinformed mortgage brokers from shady, never-heard-of-before, finance companies.  Each of these unprofessional callers incorrectly assumed we were "re-financing" our California home (which we rent, and do not own, but the callers were too stupid to figure that out).  The first day, there were 4 callers.  The next day, 6 more.  These were inane callers interrupting my work conference calls, leaving long messages, all of them dodgy and circumspect about who they were, how they got my name, or with which company they were associated.  I began telling them off, to remove my name from their lists, and asking them if they understood what the "Do Not Call Registry" was, and are they familiar with the $10,000 federal fines they would be hit with if they called back?  The 2nd week, the calls stopped.

Then, this week, DDF contacted a mortgage broker referred to us by our realtor, as we are looking to possibly purchase a home and wanted to see how much of a mortgage we could be pre-qualified to receive.  That mortgage broker again ran a credit check on us, and yesterday, once again, the flood gates opened.  3 calls yesterday, 5 calls today.  I began interrogating the callers directly, after they butchered the pronunciation of my last name:
"what is the nature of this call?"
"from what source did you get my contact information?"
...and then telling them I would never be interested in getting a mortgage from a telephone broker who I do not know, who I have never met, who is being predatory upon my wife and I, and whom I do not trust.  Sheepishly, some of them apologize.  Others, just rudely hang up on me.
"Do you understand what the Do Not Call Registry is?"
"Do you understand that if you call back, I will be reporting you and your company to the Federal government and they will hit you with a $10,000 fine?"

After the 5th call today, I looked up Experian, since 3 of the unsolicited callers told me that they 'purchased a list of potential borrowers from Experian' - to which I told each of them "that was not money well spent, was it?".  Buried 5 levels down on their web page, is an "Opt Out" page (link here).  It also has a link to the Do Not Call national registry.  I called Experian's OPT OUT number (1-888-5OPTOUT, or 1 888 567 8688) and the computerized answering protocol had the nerve to ask me for my name, address, social security number, and phone number.   Of course, it could NOT figure out what my street was, since it is a bastardized Spanish spelling that is meaningless and un-referenceable, so that lead to "leave a detailed message, with the spelling of your street address" logic path.

I never asked Experian to sell my information to anyone.   I never authorized Experian to sell my information to anyone.   And I am obviously not happy that Experian pimped out my name, and the predatory lenders have swarmed my phone number like locust.    I don't know if the other 2 national credit rating agencies do the same thing, but it is rather despicable and underhanded.  I rank credit rating agencies on the same list of bottom feeders and those who add no value to society, along with derivative traders, ambulance chasing injury lawyers, California DMV workers, industrial artificial franken-food manufacturers, tele-marketeres, and political strategists.

Hey you kids, get off my phone!!!!  grrrrrrrr

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Today's big number: 340

This depressed me when I read it.... (link here)

So the Navy has to apply for environmental permits now, and in doing so, state how many cetaceans they anticipate their going to kill or harm.  340.  That's how many dolphins and whales the US Navy predicts it will kill from 2014 to 2019 in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico, during training exercises with bombs and by testing sonar...  Awesome.

At least now, the Navy is finally admitting that active sonar harms cetaceans.

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/aug/30/navy-says-its-probably-about-bomb-hundreds-dolph/

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Bigger Saturday Afternoon

With 4 people working together (2 elementary school children, and 2 adult males) we made a much larger castle complex further north on Salt Creek beach, over the course of 3 hours.   It was great fun.

When high tide began to approach (towards 5pm, high tide projected to be 640pm last Saturday) the furthest outpost, closest to the shore, began to be battered by the surf's onslaught.  The youngest of our all male construction crew wanted to destroy the entire complex before we left, but we convinced him to just let the ocean take it.  He reluctantly agreed.

When Dr Desert Flower and I walked the beach on Labor Day (September 2nd, about 40 hours later) there were no remnants of the 10ft x 8ft x nearly 3ft high castle and 1 foot deep moat.

I am getting "the hang of it" now, and have figured out the 'goldilocks' ratio of wet sand to dry sand that is required to make the structure formable and sturdy enough, without having it collapse in an amorphous slurry.  It is one helluva work out, and there's something "to show" for it when it is done, so I know this will not be the last sand castle my hands make on the Pacific Ocean's California shoreline.