Friday, February 28, 2014

Sorry Denying Fools, There's Still A Drought

Orange County is one of the most affluent regions of America, and many of its well off citizens spew no shortage of effluent from their mouths about things they do not understand - either willfully or ignorantly.  When I hear some elderly, affluent man, talking to his girl friend / daughter on a walking path in a posh coastal community (like Dana Point's Strand Beach) and he says "They say on a scale of 1 to 10, that this drought is an 11, but then it rained. They don't know anything! Where I live up in Los Angeles County, they have weekend water restrictions, and you can only water on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (dagnabit!).  There's no water shortage, they just need to stop dumping it in the rivers for all them damn fish and give it to the farmers and their farms instead!" ...when I hear such mis-informed, incorrect, misguided statements coming from an elderly man, it really makes me lose respect for 'the greatest generation.'  No Brokaw, this guy was not among them.

There are many really smart, factually well informed retired persons.  I correspond via email with many of them.  I strike up conversations with some of them in person when I am at a grocery store, concert, or family gathering.  But it seems that the (wealthier they are + the older they are)  x (the more geographically concentrated with other wealthy retirees they are) = (the more willfully ignorant & misinformed they are).  As Louis C.K. once said: “A 55 year-old garbage man is a million times smarter than a 28 year-old with three Ph.D.s, especially smarter than him.”

If you are a frequent visitor to JustJoeP, you know I am a fan of rain.  I write about it Often (link here). I used to play in it as a kid.  I missed having it frequently when I lived in Arizona for 5 years.  Rain (in moderation) helps things grow, refills reservoirs, brings life to places that were rather barren previously.  Rain is good.  California is in a HUGE drought, that has been more severe than any drought in recorded 120 year history in California (here the DATA: link)
or, if you don't like embeds:
Now, if Americans scored better on basic math aptitude tests, they'd be able to see that "6 inches" is smaller than "22 inches".  And if they scored better on English and Language aptitude tests, they'd know that "Driest to Date" does not mean "bring a chapstick & some lube when you pick me up tonight to go out for dinner".

So when there's an intense storm that sweeps into a drought stricken area, as all of Southern & Central California are drought stricken, and it drops a few inches of rain (1 or 2 or 3 inches, all numbers still much less than the 16 inches we never got last year), the drought is still not over.  It doesn't even become a mini-drought.  It's still a very severe drought.  We'd need 6 more of these massive storms to come through, and dump just as much rain (if it ends up being 3 inches, by the time it is all over Sunday - we got a 'whopping' 0.96 inches this morning... or...  about 15 more of these "1 inch" storms would be needed, for the Faux News watchers who can't do math).

Sure, the weather radar was all angry & red this morning, for about 20 minutes.  Then it passed, and the birds started singing again.  Some drizzle came, some "green radar" rain came, and then it all subsided again.  It's a very wet world outside right now, but we are still in a severe drought.

Just because it snowed in the Midwest & North East today doesn't mean there's no such thing as climate change.  Climate Change, by definition, Will Cause More Severe Fluctuations.

Tell the English citizens living along the Thames that the current variation is "normal".  Tell the farmers in Bakersfield CA that the lack of rainfall is normal.  Tell the polar bears who don't have any ice aged more than 6 months old from which to hunt seals.  Tell the Australians who had record floods last year.  Local weather events Do Not contradict over-all climate change trends.  They reinforce it.  Deny it all you want, it doesn't mean it will go away or that it is not true.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not Just A Bright Spot - At 60X!!!!

Ok, so it has been about a year since I last posted about the ISS (international Space Station) that hurtles overhead at 17,250 mph in an orbit so predictable that NASA sends out email s(or tweets, if you're into that sort of thing) as to where it will be, based on zip code (plus four! don't you forget it!) (link here).  But that was when I was renting a house that had tremendous amounts of trees in the NW, N, and NE views of the world.  Now I OWN the home I live in, and I have a fairly un-occluded view of the sky from the NW to the SE.   I cannot see 180 degrees of sky, but I can see a good 140 to 150 degrees of sky, looking through the palms, apricots, birds-of-paradise, and my nosey-and-intrusive-asshole-Joe-the-neighbor's Indian Hawthorne tree/bush.

So this afternoon, when I got the NASA email alert:
"Wed Feb 26 6:12 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 80 degrees, Appears: NW, Disappears: SE"
I was Delighted!   (see, I am Really Not That Hard to please me, honestly - I am a man of simple means, and modest proclivities)

I was out in my driveway, looking towards the NW, at 6:05pm.  I had a wonderful Trader Joe's Vintage Ale in hand and my Lumix camera slung around my neck.  I was determined to try and take a "HD quality" video, and if that didn't work, a "still photo" at 60X zoom (in "sunset mode" one can get the 24X zoom to go to a 60X optical zoom).  The results are as follows:



Not as good as I had hoped for...  or as good as looked through the view finder, where I could SWEAR I saw the distinct patterns of the solar cells...  but maybe my mind fabricated that geometry. Sort of lackluster, visually.  The view finder said it was "58.8X" (nearly 60X) so I was hoping for a higher resolution.  Regardless, it was VERY COOL!  My neighbor Sheri came by walking her old golden retriever, as she does every morning and evening, and I heard her ask behind me "whatcha looking at?" (my camera pointed up, almost 90 degrees, into the sky).  I told her (excitedly) "The International Space Station, 200 miles up, hurting along at more than 2000 miles per hour" (I forgot the 17.250K mph actual speed) .. and pointed it out to her.  At first she didn't see it.... and then she said "that looks like an airplane, are you sure?"  "Yes, I am very sure, NASA sent me an alert, I know exactly what it is".

My neighbors must think I am nuts.  Back in 2013, my SE Asian neighbor (I Think Steve & Stephanie are Laotian, but they might be Cambodian or Mung, I am not sure) Stephanie was watering her lawn and saw me staring up at the sky.  I pointed out the space station hurtling westward, and she crossed the street to see why I appeared so fascinated and to see what I was seeing.    By that time, it was near to the Eastern horizon, like the image below.  Not much to see.
I'm sorry, but after watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Moyers and Company via DVR last night, I believe it is IMPOSSIBLE to Over-Emphasize the importance of Science and Engineering literacy / awareness / competence and De-emphasize mythology and superstition in the U.S. of A.  I LOVE the FACT that I am able to SEE a scientific and technological marvel, fly over-head, predictably, safely, routinely, doing amazing & unappreciated work... while in the comfort and safety of my own driveway.  Very cool, indeed.

How Wolves Change Rivers - Trophic Cascade

How Wolves Change Rivers.  Or... "How destructive uncontrolled deer populations can be to an ecosystem".

This video was brought to my attention by my friend John Kress.  It's produced by "Sustainable Man".  Very nice indeed.  Excellent scientific work that went into all of the factual observations, recorded data, and scientific method applied.   (you mean, they didn't just trust in a Bible story for guidance on how to observe the actual changes, over time?)

Whenever I hear a former Wasilla Alaska mayor (a town with NO City Services whatsoever, relying entirely on the county & state to help the citizenery) turned partial single term governor, talk about how she enjoys shooting wolves, I begin to mourn for the loss of insight, the lack of focus on science, and perpetual dumbing down of the United States electorate.  At least she helped prevent a McCain presidency (and a war with Iran that would have resulted)... even if she's really bad at everything else she's tried to do.

If you're afraid of wolves, that's natural for an uninformed human to feel fear of a pack of large predatory carnivores who are poorly understood by most people.  But in the last 100 years in North America, there's been exactly 2 people killed by wolves (link here).  In comparison: "in North America, since 1990, bears (black and grizzly) killed 59 people and cougars killed 11. In the U.S., domestic dogs kill 20 to 30 people every year. And hunters kill nearly 100 people in the U.S. and Canada every year and injure around 1,000."  Appears homo sapiens are still the most lethal species on this planet, after viruses and bacteria (on average).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cannon's Misfire

Last night, Dr Desert Flower wanted to go to a nice seafood restaurant in Dana Point called Cannon's.  We'd been there before, and the food is ok, the service not bad, and the views of the harbor are beautiful.  I made a reservation for 7pm on Opentable.  We arrived 5 minutes ahead of time, and were seated window-side by 7pm.  So far, so good.

The waiter took more than 5 minutes to come over to ask us how we were "hungry" I replied.  We ordered drinks, soups, salads, and main courses, tout suite.  "Do you want them to come out All at once?" the waiter inquired.  "As they're ready" I told him.  DDF ordered (menu here) a Napa Sauvignon Blanc, Cannon's salad, and the Mahi.  I ordered the lobster bisque, Oscar Filet (filet mignon with king crab), and a Mendoza Malbec.  We looked out over the harbor, and chatted about the day's and week's events, at work, locally, on the radio, and about things happening in the world globally.

My lobster bisque arrived solo, and I'd not eaten in about 10 hours, so I told DDF "if it is too hot, I'l let it sit until your salad arrives".  "Go ahead, don't wait".  I sipped it from my spoon, and it was barely above human body temperature, about 15 degrees cooler than I'd expected, but it tasted fine, so I sipped it, slowly, and we continued to converse.  Maybe it was from some other table's order, who changed their mind to have chowder instead, and they sent it back to the kitchen, who didn't rewarm it, and it was re-routed to me.  I don't know.  Soup was done, salad no where in site.  Bus boy takes empty soup bowl away.  Another 5 minutes pass.  Salad arrives, it's fine, DDF begins eating it.  We still have no wine.

Enter another couple who are then seated at the table adjacent to my right elbow.  Window seats are at a premium, so the restaurant has chosen to squeeze as many tables as close together at the windows that look over the harbor some 100+ feet below.  The couple is in their 50s, dressed nicely, and are rather "loud talkers"  Salad is done, wine arrives, with apologies from the waiter for the delay.  The wine tastes fine. The restaurant is 1/2 empty, with loads of additional capacity, it is not tourist season, so I am baffled as to why things are taking so long.  Another 10 minutes or so pass before the main courses arrive.

My filet comes with scalloped potatoes and grilled seasonal vegetables.  I've ordered it "medium" since I do not know where it was sourced, and when I am not familiar with my ranch source, I make sure any microbes have been heated to 165F and killed.  The filet is fine.  The vegetables - red & green peppers, red onion, and okra, have been scorched and blackened by the inattentive chef (he's not over-worked, the place has more empty tables than full ones).  The potatoes have not been cooked - they're hard, raw, sliced, with a yellowish flavorless sauce poured over them.  Not a hint of cheese, butter, cream, or anything that provided any substantive flavor can be detected.  I do not believe the potatoes ever saw an oven before making it to my plate.   DDF states that her mashed potatoes are quite tasty and offers me some, which I decline.  I know she loves mashed potatoes, and...  well....

The couple at my right elbow, have this loud conversation:
man: "so tell me, how that whole thing with IHOP worked out?"
woman in sparkly sweater: "oh I was so angry! When their sign says they are open to 10pm, it doesn't matter that we got there at 9:46.  Those two women, the hostess and the waitress were both so rude to us, saying 'you know it is already 9:46, we close at 10, can you eat quickly?'  So I called the IHOP corporate offices, and they kept thanking me for calling and telling them about what a horrible experience I had.  They said that everyone at that IHOP location were going to get re-trained, and that the two people who were rude to our business party were going to get written personnel file reprimands and verbal warnings.  My friend So-and-so (inaudible) told me 'they're just entry level positions' and I told her that it didn't matter, you can't treat customers like that, and the IHOP corporate customer service agreed."
man: "it just shows you how all of society is degrading, no one wants to work any more or is willing to earn their wages. This whole country is going down the drain"

I .... wanted...  to say and do very unpleasant things to this couple, and unload on them, but I refrained, and just stared at my uncooked, hard, tasteless potatoes and blackened scorched vegetables, and the space on my plate where my filet used to be.  I knew that anything I said to them would not have changed their minds, and it would have ruined DDF's evening.  No desert, just a check, and we got out of there almost 2 hours after arriving for $120 (a dollar a minute?) - which would have not bothered me if both DDF's and my food would have been served promptly, warmly, unburnt, and more than just 1/2 of it flavorful.

That Goes For Joes, Too

(Ne confondez pas la différence.... II )


Jo Sticks

Jo Blocks

"This gun, shoots through schools"

Fox News Founder

Ne confondez pas la différence...

Ne confondez pas la différence (don't confuse the difference) between Ariels, Aerials, and Ariels, and Aerials.


More Aerials

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mother & Child, Heading South

I was lucky enough this evening, just before sunset, to see a mother whale (I THINK it was a gray, but I am not sure) and her 1 year old calf heading south towards Baja.  I took these images at a 24X zoom, nearly a mile away, with a 16 Meg setting.  This is about 1/10th the size of the original photo, which had a great deal more ocean in it.
The calf's spout next to Much Bigger momma is visible in the above picture.  In the below picture, you can see mother's fin (I think) beside her calf who is heading back underwater after getting a breath of fresh air.
This was taken about 100 yards further south, around 40 seconds later.

Since I'd been looking for spouts and breaches for the previous 2 hours, seeing one just as I was leaving, was very moving.   I told 3 other groups who were heading out towards the lookout points in the head lands about the pair heading south, and it seemed to make each of their days.

The sunset was pretty nice as well. (sunset image taken 30 seconds after the last whale pic)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

There WIll Be Apricots

The apricot tree beside our garage has started to bloom.  The previous owners said that the tree was previously so productive that they used to string netting from the fence to the garage eves to catch all the fruit before it fell to the ground - they've left us the netting.  I think in a few months I'm going to have to start stringing it up, and harvesting daily.  That is, if the house finches stop raiding the blossoms, tearing each one off in quest of some tiny drop of nectar promised within perhaps.

Warblers and finches used to do the same thing in Phoenix with the yellow and orange blossoms on the trees around our house, but those were not fruit trees, so I never felt like I was being robbed of fruit.  I actually opened up the breakfast nook's sliding window this morning and growled at the finch raiders, who just looked at me like I was crazy, and went on tearing off blossom after blossom.  The tree has, if I had to guess (like a jelly bean jar), at least a 1000 buds and blossoms on it, so sacrificing a few dozen to adolescent male finches is not that big of a deal.

Supposedly apricot trees (or at least the variety planted beside our garage) are on a three year cycle, where they go two years without producing fruit, and then on the third year put out a massive crop.  From the looks of the blossoms, we are fortunate that our first spring in our new home will be blessed with apricots - and the oven even has drying racks, if we want to truly be "Californians".

I am really pleased with how the Panasonic Lumix macro feature automatically kicks in when zoomed in Up Close.  Again, my thanks to Ron.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Big Kitty In My Backyard

On Thursday night, I was skimming my neighbor's fallen leaves out of my pool and spa, when I noticed muddy tracks along the side of my pool coping bricks and spa tiles.  I took a few pictures, and I measured them...  and found they were more than 1.5 inches across, and more than 2-1/4 inches long... they looked feline.  No claw marks, with about a 20 inch stride.

I looked closely at our 20 year old cat's paws, and they are much less than 1 inch wide, and less than 1 inch long, and she weighs in around 12 lbs.  A quick google search showed that we Very Likely have a bobcat who is visiting our back yard in the middle of the night.

I'm kind of surprised that we'd have a bob cat being in the middle of the subdivision, and 3 blocks from the closest park, but we are one of the only houses on the block with a pool, and we have no Large Dog in our yard, while 2 of our neighbors have small yappin' dogs.  From the look of the muddy prints, the bobcat probably jumped down from the wooden fence (a 6 foot fence is an easy jump for a bobcat, when they can ascend a 40 foot all saguaro cactus while chased by a mountain lion [link here]).

These don't really look like the splayed, clumsy prints of a lumbering opossum - which my neighbor across the street said used to be digging in his yard.  No, they look very bobcat-like.

We won't be leaving our back door open at night anymore.  A hungry bobcat would eat our house cat for dinner without much of a fight - though probably more of a fight than from the all-bark-no-bite chihuahuas who border us on 2 sides.  Maybe the bobcat is hunting citrus tree rats...  one of whom I executed with a large spring loaded trap 3 weeks ago, baited with guava (not a mouse, a wine bottle sized rat).

Then this morning, I am sipping a cup of tea and looking out the kitchen window, when I see a mass of smashed down, trampled flowers in the corner of my yard.  Upon closer inspection inspection, I did not find any hair, or feathers or paw prints or entrails, nor did I find human foot prints...  but something very large smashed down the previously lively plants that were flourishing the night before.

I am considering investing in a wildlife night camera...   if these sightings continue.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Obama Derangement Syndrome, Still an Epidemic

From The Moderate Voice, I found this sad but strongly correlating article by Dana Millbank on ignorance, poverty, and manipulation by the media entitled "10 Obama Myths" that still promulgate in the reddest states.  (link here)

  • Obama conspiracy theories have flourished in the Deep South, where wealth and educational levels are both low. This makes sense: Where voters are least informed, they are most susceptible to misinformation peddled by talk-radio hosts and the like. For this reason, voters in reliably Republican states, which tend to be poorer, with lower test scores, are more vulnerable to misinformation. To use one measure, the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress test of eighth-grade reading, all but one of the top 10 states were in Obama’s column in 2012. Of the 19 doing worse than average, 14 were red states.
  • “Obama derangement syndrome is running pretty high right now among a certain segment of the Republican base,” Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, told me. “There’s a certain segment of people who say, ‘If you’re going to give me the opportunity to stick it to Obama, I’m going to take it.’?” In other words, a large number of that 29 percent who said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response knew that he wasn’t but saw it as a chance to register their displeasure with the president. Obama has driven a large number of Republican voters — Jensen puts it at 15 to 20 percent of the overall electorate — right off their rockers.

  • The ten myths about the President:
  • Obama was responsible for the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
  • Obama hates white people.
  • Obama is a socialist.
  • Obamacare will raise insurance costs for consumers.
  • Death panels are a part of Obamacare.
  • Obama is a bigger spender than Bush.
  • Obama is welfare obsessed.
  • Obama is Muslim.
  • Obama was not born in the United States.
  • Obama is coming for your guns.

  •

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 California Debut

On the advice of my buddy Rufus Blooter, in order to get better quality images faster & more easily, I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 off of Amazon.  It arrived today, and an hour later I had it out of the box, and was taking pictures of everything I could in my back yard.

It zooms quickly, auto-focuses precisely, and takes - at least I think - photographs with remarkable clarity.  The Anna's Hummingbird above is a mature male who thinks he owns my backyard, chasing off all other hummingbird intruders, and watching me from a distance, wary of the flightless & nearly hairless ape who approaches "his feeders".  (the original image is 3.8 megabytes, 4000 x 3000 pixels, F/2.8, ISO320).  Yes, the Anna's male is sticking his tongue out, if you're looking at this on a high quality large monitor.

This Rufous hummingbird was not yet chased away by the larger Anna's (and yes, I need to clean the feeder...  that's on the "to do" list for Sunday morning, before we go to the beach.  The Lumix had some difficulties trying to focus on moving objects, but at 200 beats a minute, a hummingbird's wings are pretty hard to see regardless.

The macro feature works well, as long as you stay more than a foot away, and THEN zoom in.  If you're closer than a foot (0.98 feet per the manual) then the Lumix software can't compensate for the Leica optics.  It took 4 tries to get this hyacinth image "just right".  (the hyacinth spontaneously 'popped up' all on its own from previously planted bulbs...  a lovely January & February surprise).  This image is 4.8 megabytes, ISO400, F/2.8, and it seems to LEAP out of the screen at me, far better than the 3 megapixel Sony Cyber Shot ever could have.

"Far Away" shots are also pretty nice, on the "auto" setting.  A little "mountain icon" pops up in the corner of the view finder, to let you know its shooting in "landscape mode".

Thank you my friend, for your advice and perspective.

January Gardening

We've planted many flowers around our home, to add some color to the land scape.  The previous owners had renters in the house for 2 years before we bought it in October last year, and the landscape had become somewhat neglected and over-run with "low maintenance" plants that had little appeal.  We've changed that.  And unlike many parts of the midwest or northeast that are frigid & buried in snow or ice, we planted these in the warm 65F sunshine in December and January.  They appear to be thriving in the California winter.
French lavender is Dr Desert Flower's Favorite lavender
My mother called me to tell me that "on our bird bath in the back yard, we have 24 inches of snow. It looks like a birthday cake".  I do not miss that kind of weather, the shoveling required, or the salt put on the roads to melt ice that also attacks every metal surface it contacts.