Friday, October 31, 2014

Twas a Beautiful October

We moved to Laguna Hills in October of 2013, and the move had consumed much of the oxygen and energy to the point where I couldn't really enjoy owning/renting, sunsets, the warmer-than-Laguna-Niguel climate, or the nice backyard.  This October, the first full month of October we've lived in the house, I took advantage of ample opportunities to enjoy beautiful sunsets, a backyard full of hummingbirds, clear blue skies, and never-again-repeated cloud formations.
Taken from the "breakfast / drinking nook", living room adjacent, chez nous, from 3 feet away

Louie Gohmert is Ferengi

Stephen Colbert (I am going to miss him after December 18th) revealed this week, that anachronism Louie Gohmert (Texas's First District congressman) is actually Ferengi.  So insightful!  Why had I not seen it earlier?

Last October Friday Off

Today's an unusually cloudy day here in Southern California, as 300+ days a year in Orange County are sunny or mostly sunny.  While the sky threatens to rain from a gray pall that hides the sun, not a drop has fallen yet today in my neighborhood.  But I've got the day off anyway...  as I have every Friday until the end of the year this year, burning up accumulated vacation days before the end of the year.

And while I thought I'd be relaxing and kicking back today... there's far too many other things to do / be done.
- 5:15am take DDF to the train station (I-5 was closed due to a crane collapse last night that blocked the whole interstate in San Clemente, forcing a convoluted train commute)
- 7:00am pick guava to take to yoga class
- 9:00am yoga in Chapparosa Park, in a class with my old neighborhood's neighbors (don't forget to take guava bags!) [it was partly cloudy in Laguna Niguel, and a crisp 65F for outdoor yoga]
- 10:30am doctor appointment check up (all is well)
- 11am parkour the Dana Point Strand Beach rocks, twice, and run the steps 5 times.
- 1pm pool maintenance, filter cleaning, chemical balancing
- 1:30pm clean up messy street-side sidewalk covered in smashed ficus fruits before Trick Or Treaters track it up to front door.
- 2pm blog about extreme right wing OC Tea Party inadvertently helping rational voters to fill out their ballots based upon criteria other than ideology
- 2:30pm clean up garage which has become a jumbled mess
- before dusk, prepare for Trick or Treaters' arrival
- watch DVR'ed Walking Dead & Dr. Who before DDF gets home (she despises Walking Dead)

Next Friday, I'll be actively fighting jet lag and avoiding curry dishes, but then after that... the rest of 2014 Fridays should be smooth sailing.

Converting Guano Into Something Useful

I voted last Monday via absentee ballot, as I will not be in town next Tuesday to cast my vote locally.  Even though our democracy is extremely flawed, and special interests have bought and sold most politicians and the leadership of both the Democrats and the Republicans, I still feel that if a citizen doesn't vote, then they also need to 'sit down and shut up' if they disagree with anything that their government does, locally, in their state, or in their country.  If they've voted, then they have a voice - even if it is a very quiet one, muffled by millions of dollars of Super-PAC funds and billionaire robber barons who are manipulating the media and the electoral system for their own personal gain or promoting their brand of ideology.

Here in California, there's all sorts of online resources for sample ballots (like this one, here), and how to find out where to vote in your precinct.  Since it's a well funded Blue State (for the most part everywhere except Orange County, apparently) that gives more to the Federal government than it takes from the Feds, and it has a remarkably educated citizenry who are also motivated to try and show that government can do work that promotes the greater good, things tend to "work better here" than they did in Arizona, South Carolina, or Indiana, where Dr Desert Flower and I lived previously over the last 30 years.

But when it comes to the lesser known, "non partisan" races, for school boards, commissions, and judgeships, it is somewhat harder to discern what a candidate stands for, how they might vote, and to whom they owe their allegiances, their moral and political alignment.  Sure, one can individually Google every candidate and thoroughly research each race, but that takes time.

Luckily, one group of very angry, mostly white, mostly very old (retired), highly motivated and very vocal Tea Party affiliated Orange County California residents set up a website that helped guide me as to who I Do Not want to vote for: everyone they've recommended.  (link here) or the long link form, here:

It was very handy to see broad generalizations and Made-for-Fox-News hyperbole right there, in black and white, published for all of those devotees who consider guano as one of the 4 basic food groups.  Here are some actual text excerpts from the idealogical (and illogical) page:

*Neel Kashkari (R) vs. Jerry Brown (D)
RECOMMENDATION: Skip this portion of the ballot! I vehemently recommend that folks skip this portion of their ballots! Leaving the Governor’s portion on your ballots blank this year, will send a very loud and clear message to the CA GOP that you’ve had enough of them pushing RINO candidates on us, especially for such crucial offices! Had the GOP and their progressive donor allies not steamrolled over the authentic conservative in the primary Tim Donnelly, this race to challenge Jerry Brown would have likely been much more competitive and Brown would’ve been forced to defend his atrocious record!"

Yes, Jerry Brown has an atrocious record.  He's brought the state out of the massively deep fiscal hole Schwarzenegger and the Republicans dug (just like Obama had to with Bush), and successfully launched an expanded California Cares medical website without hiccups (better than the Affordable Care Act did).  He's being a moderate & successful governor....   how atrocious!   Earlier this week, the OC Tea Party website actually called Kashkari a "Liberal Republican candidate" but they've since taken that wording down.  Now they are just urging voters to NOT vote.  Fools.

For Lt Governor, Treasurer, and State Attorney General, same thing:  "No Recommendation" - they hate both the candidates because they are not bat sh*t crazy enough to warrant a Tea Party endorsement.

Then...  for State Controller, they list this gem:

*Ashley Swearengin (R) vs. Betty Yee (D) (OPEN SEAT)
NO RECOMMENDATION Ashley Swearengin is said to be the new rising star of the state GOP, but she’s certainly not the rising star of conservatives! As the Mayor of Fresno, this woman is an ardent supporter of Jerry Brown’s bullet train and she refuses to rule out the possibility that she might even vote for Brown this November!"
WHAT!?!?!?!  She might compromise, seeking a middle ground, and work across the aisle to get the business of governing done, instead of pouting in her own sand box if she doesn't get her way 100%?  Unimaginable!!!!!

And then, on judges, this bat sh*t site was very useful.  One such example is here:

You may be surprised to know this, but Goodwin Liu was nominated by Obama in early 2010 and again in 2011 to serve on the ninth circuit court of appeals! He is a former UC Berkley Law Professor, who was so incredibly liberal, that even some Senate Democrats joined Republicans in blocking attempts to end their filibuster of him! Obama had to withdrawal his nomination, not once but twice! Even the liberal former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had reservations about nominating him because of his extreme views! Liu is a radical pro-abortion supporter, who also believes in an “evolving” Constitution! After a 16 month battle to keep Liu from the ninth circuit, Obama finally dropped his nomination. Shortly after that, Jerry Brown appointed him to our state’s highest court! I’ve pasted tons of info about Liu below! I strongly encourage you to vote NO on him!! This guy has no business serving on the bench! Vote NO on Goodwin Liu for re-election to the Supreme Court!"

Don't pay any attention to his legal record, his rulings, jurist prudence, or judgement... none of those things obviously matter if he has all that Obama all over him!!!  Focus only on ideology, and ideology only.  We get our way, or we don't vote!  Or maybe...  we take up those "2nd amendment remedies".  Guano.  Absolutely bat sh*t crazy.

But you know...   I should not be so hard on the OC Tea Party.  I can relate.  When I lived in South Carolina and Arizona, I knew I was always throwing my vote away when I checked the boxes for reasonable candidates who were opposed to Methuselah (McCain) or running against total Flakes, Brewers of terrible beverages, or total anachronisms who soon will be extinct as their telomeres continually shorten.  It's just a matter of time before the OC dinosaurs die out as well.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Larry's Dead, Long Live Sebastian

We had a hydraulically propelled pool cleaner that came with the 25+ year old pool in our back yard when we bought this house last year in October.  The concept of the cleaner was to pump water through him, via a dedicated pump, and through Bernoulli's principal he sucked up debris from the floor of the pool while a "whip tail" behind him drove him around the bottom.  The problem was, this "dumb device"
- cost $50 to $100 a month in electricity costs, to run the pump
- climbed walls at stairs, and then the whip tail Shot Water out of the pool, spraying the whole backyard (fence, windows, house, etc) before the cleaner re-submerged.
- was a pain to clean out the debris bag
- was 25 years old
- often got "stuck" in corners
- had a large floating umbilical cord that accumulated floating debris
When Ron's son G came to visit in July, he named the pool cleaner "Larry", and stated "Larry tries hard, but he is not very good at his job".  We kept Larry around during the summer, and near the end of August, he stopped moving forward.  The reducer gear train that turned hydraulic pressure into wheel motion had begun to seize, causing Larry to nose dive, whip tail wildly slashing, but the main cleaner unmoving.

So DDF and I went down to Leslie's Pool supply in Laguna Niguel, where Dave there explained that not only would a new Polaris 9450 robotic pool cleaner "learn" our pool, that it would cost 1/10th as much to run as Larry did, since it was low voltage, low amperage, no pump... and that if we didn't like it, we could bring it back within 30 days for a refund.   He is basically a "pool roomba".  We plunked down $1k for the 9450, and took it home.  I sank him in the pool that afternoon, and we named him "Sebastian" after the Caribbean hermit crab from little mermaid.

Sebastian does a good job in both the pool and the hot tub.  He sucks up leaves, dead earth worms, and scrubs the sides and bottom of the plaster pool very effectively, in less than 2 hours.  In the spa, he gets all the leaves and dirt debris that falls from our neighbor's trees, and does it in less than 20 minutes.  Dave assured us that Sebastian (the 9450) would "learn" our irregularly shaped pool... and I am still skeptical of that for the large pool, but Sebastian Does a Great Job of knowing he is in the circular hot tub; scrub and climb, back up, pivot, repeat.

And our San Diego Gas & Electric bill was $100 cheaper after getting Sebastian... and while we Did run the air conditioning less, we also never ran Larry again.  Throughout the winter, I am looking forward to leveraging Sebastian for saving me time (not having to scrub the sides of the pool myself), picking up debris automatically so I don't have to try and fish it out of bottom of the pool with a net, and saving money on electricity.

Bianchi California Pinot Grigio 2013

Last night, DDF and I went out to a place in Dana Point that serves a great brunch and breakfast, and has Just Started serving dinner.  What A Dish serves delicious food, has a talented bakery, and an attentive staff.

While they do not have a "wine list" they do sell wine by the bottle, and recommend if you're buying more than a single glass, to get the whole bottle - $22 a bottle, compared to $7 a glass.  As DDF was getting salmon and I got chicken marsala, both with quinoa risotto we chose the Bianchi Santa Barbara County pinot grigio and it wonderful.  We didn't finish the bottle, and they re-corked it so we could take it home.

A pleasant (and filling) meal, a fine bottle of wine, and an attentive staff.  It was quite an enjoyable evening.

California Made Quality

The outdoor patio furniture cushions that DDF and I had in Arizona did not do so well in the brutal Arizona UV punishment they received, and the fabric started disintegrating visibly when we moved to California in 2012.  The tops of the cushions were literally falling apart, and the outside fabric had embrittled, severely degraded.

So we went out looking for replacement cushions on Saturday afternoon.  Lowes & Home Depot had no selection and didn't want to sell cushions without also selling chairs.  California Patios had very minimal selection, BUT, the owner of the El Toro store referred us to Green Thumb nursery, just a block away.  We've always loved getting our plants & landscaping supplies at Green thumb, and I'd forgotten that they also have outdoor furniture.  When we got to Green Thumb, their Christmas display had usurped the outdoor furniture area.  But we asked a helpful Green Thumb worker who guided us back to the stock room where there were these lovely blue cushions.  They were not cheap - $75 each... when we had paid just $300 for the whole patio set back in 2007 when we bought it.  But they are Gold Crest, made in Ontario California, and are excellent quality.  The Amazon Bezos profit-makers DDF found online were $35, I am sure made in China, and would have probably lasted a year or two at most in the sun.

We think the new bright color is lovely, matches the pool (and the sky here in Southern California) and are a fitting upgrade for our backyard.  Come visit us, and we can brunch, have drinks, watch sunsets, or just sit around on the new cushions and watch the hummingbirds flying sorties all around us.

Chateau Poyanne Côtes de Bourg 2013

Another Trader Joe's hidden treasure, I found this Côtes de Bourg red awesome and it was only $7 at the Laguna Hills Trader Joe's.  Drinkable, a high quality right bank Bordeaux, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've read haters' blog postings about how unpleasant and undrinkable it was, with terrible smells upon opening and pouring.  Guess what boys & girls, you got a bad bottle; it had turned.  The one I had was awesome, and at $7, even more impressive.

If you're looking for an inexpensive, high quality Bordeaux, why not try the Chateau Poyanne Côtes de Bourg?

Dana Point Vapor Trails

While I was doing yoga at Sea Terrace Park in Dana Point last week (just twice last week, but 5 times the week before) in the afternoon around 1pm, I noticed a powerful odor of desperation mixed with sweat & perfume.  A woman in her 50s, dressed in inappropriately tight clothes like she was trying to be in her 20s (or maybe that fit her in her 20s?), walked down the sidewalk some 30 feet away from where I was doing yoga, then she crossed 1/2 the distance into the grass, and laid down on the grass upwind of me, between my mat and the ocean.  A strong perfume odor assaulted my nostrils.  She was more than 75 feet away from me, but the perfume scent was so pungent, I could almost taste it.  A massive vapor trail, I was enveloped in its wake.

As I finished up my practice, and then headed over to Strand Beach to run the stairs multiple times, I thought about the word "Vapor Trail" and how it was one of many of the double / triple / quadruple entendres that Rush has chosen for their many albums (link here).  The more I thought about it, the more it drilled into my consciousness, especially as I parkoured rapidly from Strand Beach's funicular stairs to the Head Lands zig-zag along the breakwater rocks beside the sidewalk.

Rush - to hurry; a feeling of exhilaration; moving quickly
Fly By Night - temporary, transient, not to be relied upon; owls also fly by night
Caress of Steel - steel is cold so it cannot really warmly "caress", but when forged or smelted it can radiate brilliant heat and light in which one can bathe (as I have in China, Romania, Italy, Canada, Austria, France, Taiwan, Germany, and the US) which is sort of a 'caress'
2112 - concept album, doesn't count
Farewell to Kings - goodbye monarchs, but also, control from within that which was previously externally guided... or, Much More Simply, a quote from Charles Anthon's "Classical Dictionary" from 1872 where he quoted Saint Gregory's words from 381 A.D.*
Hemisphere - of the brain, of the buttocks, of the globe; 1/2 of a sphere
Permanent Waves - tidal forces; hair permanents; standing oscillatory patterns
Moving Pictures - cinema; dramatic images; actual movers who move framed pictures
Signals - green/yellow/red; stop & go; start and stop; radio or television signals
Grace Under Pressure - creativity boiling beneath a cap; a contained muse; performing well despite immense scrutiny
Power Windows - of a car; Windows platforms (1985) were just beginning to appear in PCs; portals to powerful offices
Hold Your Fire - juggling fire; not discharging your weapon; with-holding crucial information until later; choosing your battle
A Show of Hands - puppetry; clapping; using hands to make music; mimes; voting by raising your hand
Presto - magical conjuring word; viola!; Presenting; of a quick tempo
Roll The Bones - throwing dice, rolling over in your grave, old people moving
Counterparts - time piece internal parts; complimentary or opposite parts; a spouse; a colleague in an alternate location
Test for Echo - a sound test; a sonar test; a radar signature
Vapor Trails - what a star leaves in it's wake as it orbits around a galaxy; what comes out of an e-cigarette (which was not yet invented, when the album came out); the wake of a noxious gaseous release from between the legs; the plume of off-gassing perfume from a person in the park who has applied far too much
Snakes & Arrows - though I Saw this concert in Phoenix, it was not one of my favorites
Clockwork Angels - I neither have this album nor have seen this concert… the whole Ayn Rand praising by Peart (from 2112, brought to my attention last year) has tremendously decreased my Rush enthusiasm.

I am pretty sure DDF will say that my mentioning of the doused perfumed vapor trail was not very nice, but, it did occupy my Friday afternoon thought patterns, and getting the remnant scent out of my sinuses and mind took even longer.

[Note:  finding the Anthon quote took some google detective work, with a -Rush, -Album, -Game, -Rowley, -Video boolean qualifiers]

* He bids "farewell to kings and their palaces, and to the courtiers and secants of kings; faithful, I trust, to your master, but for the most part faithless towards God, farewell to the sovereign city, the friend of Christ, but yet open to correction and repentance; farewell to the Eastern and Western world, for whose sake I have striven and for whose sake I am now alighted."  S.Gregorii Nazianzeni, Opera, Oral. 32, delivered in June, A.D. 381 by Saint Gregory.  Charles Anthon - Classical Dictionary, New York, Harper, 1872.  

2 More Obscure Delicious Saints

Continuing my earlier theme that "a bad saint is hard to find" in French wine (here, and here), I present Saint Bris and Saint Cosme.  I'd never heard of either of these saints growing up in da Region of NW IN, but then again, I never drank a delicious French wine until I was in my 30s, so I had a somewhat sheltered up-bringing in many ways.

Saint Cosme is a 2012 Cotes-de-Rhone that went down well, with a slightly mineral finish.  DDF and I both enjoyed it - and she typically doesn't like Cote-de-Rhones.

The second saint in today's posting is Saint Bris.  Saint Bris was a white wine that I bought for DDF at Total Wine.  It was nicely dry, not sweet, crisp, very drinkable Sauvignon Blanc... I think we paid a whole $12 for it, and it was worth it.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good, affordable French white.

Château Colombier-Monpelou 2008

Back in July, my buddy Ron's son G came to visit with us for a week in California from the UK.  While G was here we enjoyed some hearty grass fed, hormone free rare grilled steaks and other delicious dishes.  The first nice "dinner" we had at home, DDF insisted we open up a good solid Bordeaux for G to taste.  I selected this Château Colombier-Monpelou 2008 which I believe we purchased at Total Wine for around $20.  It did not disappoint.

Sure, it was G's first taste (by his own admission) of a quality Bordeaux wine, but like my own introduction back in 2002 in Jonzac France by Pierre Gourdon (R.I.P.) who served us an amazing Margaux which he'd cellared for 10 years, I wanted the first taste to be better than "OK".  DDF and I tremendously enjoyed it, and G liked it.

Soplica Pigwowa - Quince Flavored Polish Vodka

Back in January, when I was visiting my company's main manufacturing plant, one of my colleagues from Warsaw was also there and he brought a bottle of Soplica Pigwowa to me, from his manager, to take back with me to my home in California.  There was a small ice storm at the time in the South Carolina Upstate, and the Poles and I had a good chuckle at how a 1/2 inch of snow and a tiny layer of ice made most South Carolinians paralyzed with fear and unable to come to work, but it was like a Spring Day in Warsaw or Chicago.

I thanked my colleagues, brought the bottle home, and then didn't open it for months.  When I finally did, the flavor took me for a loop - I mistakenly attributed it to cherry cough syrup and it made me wince.  About a month later, I had another sip, and I realized...  this wasn't cherry, it wasn't quite pear...  it was like a pear crossed with a raspberry.  The bottle sat around for months waiting to be blogged about... and DDF wanted to jettison the old bottles, so this is the first of several beverage posts this weekend.

When I googled the Soplica Pigwowa today, I came to realize it was Quince flavored, and now in hindsight, I appreciate it more.  It really was smooth drinking throughout the Spring and Summer.

Now, if I visit Warsaw next January, my dilemma is what to take the Poles?  I don't want to show up empty handed...

Bear, Woods, Pope, Daily Show

Taken as a screen shot on July 23rd...   I found this on my old Sony 3Meg pixel camera this afternoon.  

Very funny.  =)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October Sunsets, My OC Back Yard

It is so nice to be able to sit in my back yard, drink a glass of wine, photograph hummingbirds and sunset clouds, at the perfect temperature of 75F with a very light breeze...

Location is everything.  I am glad DDF brought us here.
Me thinks they are nest mates...

Martin Fry Loves Quarter Note Triplets

After reflecting about the ABC concert that DDF and I went to last weekend, I am convinced that Martin Fry is In Love with quarter note triplets.  Drummers (and other musicians) who know what quarter note triplets are, and who have studied and practiced rudiments when they were kids will "get it".  I am surprised that I had not noticed it previously:  

How to be a Mill-i-on-air-air-air-air-air-air-aire!  (with three quarter note triplets, followed by a down beat, on each syllable)

Be-Near-Me, Be Nea-Ear (two quarter note triplets)

Shoot that Poison Arrow into my haaaaarrrrr--art, shoot that poison arrow, [quarter-note-triplet]!!!

The Look for you In-For-Ma-tion (tri-po-let, Down beat), is The One Thing, the One Thing, that Still Holds True...  (consider each Capital letter as the quarter note triplet down beat).

My friend Tim Beitz once told me, 20 some years ago in Cincinnati  "it is impossible to listen to good reggae music without bobbing your head, mon"  ... and I found myself bobbing my head to quarter-note-triplets each time that Martin belted out a ly-ri-ic that focused strongly upon the quarter note triplet in nearly every ABC song.   After the concert, I realized it is ABC's signature sound.  The quarter note triplet.  Enjoy.

The Actual Playlist

Sure, if you go to a live concert, you can find the song play list online.  I used to try and TEXT myself the playlist (as I did at the Puscifer concert with my buddy Ryan [link here] from the Greek Theater)... until Dr Desert Flower showed me how you just google it and BAM, it shows up... like Soundgarden (link here) and NIN (link here).. making me feel somewhat foolish that I wasted my time during the concert to actually text myself.

But last weekend, I wanted to surprise my bride of 27 years, Dr Desert Flower, with a trip to somewhere we'd never been.  After asking her if her feet and knees were feeling like dancing (and she confirmed they were) I told her to get dressed in a retro outfit...   and I would surprise her.   My best buddy Ryan had told me about a "Totally 80s Bar and Grill" in Northern Orange County, that he'd heard about via The Facebook from a former co-worker (or neighbor? ... unclear) ... and even though it was a good 30 minutes away, they had a pretty appetizing menu and opened at 5pm (closing at 2am) so I surprised DDF.  She dressed in a hot outfit, and I dressed like an 80's Don Johnson in a white cotton sport coat and teal t-shirt.  We drove to Fullerton. (had it not been for Ryan, and The Facebook, we never would have known about the place)

Upon arriving, the door men were checking everyone's online printed tickets.  We had no tickets.  We had no clue who was playing.  I told the bouncer that their website had no "events" listed for Saturday night.  The head door man said "that's because we sold out on Friday, so we took it off the website".  Oh....   OK.   "We'll go someplace else for dinner" I told DDF.  But my brilliant wife had the foresight to ask "who is playing?"

"Um... they're called...  ABC?"  the younger bouncer said.
DDF and I LOOKED at each other.
The older bouncer said "Is it just the two of you?   We could squeeze you in... you just have to pay the $30 entry fee"
"Honey, get your money out and pay the nice man" DDF said.

So we ate, we drank, we listened to 80s music for 3 hours, and we saw an ABC concert.  It was fun.  Then we danced until midnight, when DDF's feet started to hurt her, so we droe down the I-5 thirty minutes back home to the cocoon of South Orange County.   We found that we were two of the Most attractive, youngest, least morbidly obese, least ancient looking, straightest couples there.  It was a good concert, and Martin Fry is a great entertainer, and he looks alot better today than he did on "Bands Reunited" on VH1 10 years ago.  After the band left (to "go back to London Town tomorrow!" as Martin said), I asked one of the security guards next to the stage if it was ok to pick up the discarded drum sticks and play list...  and he handed them to me. (Promark 730s, wooden tips...  nice) Way better than an online link.