Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Last Weekend's Epiphany on The South

Last weekend, Dr Desert Flower and I went down the hill on Alga Road to go see Free State of Jones at the Cinépolis in Carlsbad.  It exceeded expectations, despite what the critics on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes say, it was a great film that shined a light on the racist, bigoted, arcane & persecutory laws & culture engrained in The South - in this case Mississippi.  McConaughey was great in it, but so were Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, and a host of other excellent actors.  Having lived 16 years of my life in South Carolina, I can talk about how it felt, what I heard, and what I saw when I lived there... I'm not an outsider who never lived nor experienced the hatred and bigotry in the work place, in public places, and in conversations about it with my friends and co-workers who were trying to rise above the ugly, despicable, evil past that ensconced The South before, during, and after the Civil War, and still lives and breathes today (sorry SCOTUS, racism and bigotry are NOT dead even after we elected a black President; they're still alive and well in many parts of The South.

Then, when we got home after the movie, we watched Bryan Cranston in the HBO movie All the Way, where he portrayed LBJ accurately.  The movie portrayed the hatred and bigotry of The South (again, Mississippi leading the way... but other Southern States agreed with them) very accurately as well.  Not only was it well acted, but well written, nuanced, well researched, and well directed.

After watching both of these films so close together, whose settings were 100 years apart, but which accurately and poignantly portrayed the racism and hatred in The South that is still alive today, I am resolved that I never want to move back there and live there again.  Perhaps in another 100 years, after I am ashes, the progress seen since the Civil Rights legislation was passed in the 1960s MIGHT continue and the old entrenched racists die off, with their progeny becoming slightly more progressive and color-blind - similar to how Gay Rights & Equality was unthinkable 20 years ago by main stream America, and now it is an accepted fact for 95% of the country.  But I won't see it in my lifetime.

I am not a hater, and I still firmly believe that there are many very nice, very accepting, very civil & loving people in The South, both in the states that voted for George Wallace, and in the states that didn't.  I've met and worked with many of them, or they were my neighbors & friends.  But the fact remains, that there's a solid double digit percentage block of Southerners who still think lynching is a good idea if they can get away with it, who believe Klan meetings are an acceptable form of social gathering, and who have a false-superiority complex in regards to anyone who is not Caucasian - black, brown, Asian, Jewish, Catholics, Sikh, Muslims, included in their fearful hatred & loathing.  Trump's tapping into their base with his rhetoric and his re-tweets of white supremacists, and "the worst" is manifesting itself amoung us in America.  I do hope that in November 2016 we can close the Trump chapter and not open up a "Wallace 2.0" era of the American political landscape.

No, I'll take the multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-lingual melting pot that is California,
any day over any of the nicest places in The South.  Yes, it is expensive to live in California, but the weather is great, the people are nicer, the hatred is (I've seen) less wide-spread, the wildlife is more diverse, the waves are at least 10X better than the East Coast, the population is more heterogeneous & diverse & growing (+300,000 residents last year! We're gonna add another congressman or two at least in the next census, making the most populace state even more populace!), the businesses RUN BETTER and are safer (and growing), the wine is better, Science is accepted and not argued against or 'disbelieved', the State budget is balanced (after getting a Democratic governor, finally!), the humidity is lower (in Northern San Diego County, at least), religion is less invasive & pervasive, and the people are more accepting of everyone, not just those who look like themselves.

31 Scientific Societies Agree...

Climate Deniers - much like birthers - hate facts but really hate the Scientific Method even more.  Climate Deniers can make up their own facts, and then cite fringe scientists or paid corporate lobbyist studies to reinforce their opinion-pushed-as-fact, that agrees with the idealogical narrative they’ve engrained in their own psyche.  Sadly for them though, the Scientific Method doesn’t care which side of the ideological fence you might be on, or if you’re liberal or conservative… it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that your experiment is reproducible, your instruments are calibrated, and that you didn’t falsify any of your findings.  If your experiment is reproducible, then theories can then be tested and if they’re true, then they’re widely accepted by the scientific community. 

So yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sent a letter to the United States Congress, signed on by 31 different scientific organizations, that stated Climate Change is real and that greenhouse gases (CO2 and chlorofluorocarbons) emitted by human activity are the largest driver of Climate Change.  This is a more forceful version of the 2009 letter to Congress that 19 major scientific societies signed… and which Congress promptly ignored.  

The 31 scientific societies on the 2016 letter include:
American Association for the Advancement of Science American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Biological Sciences 
American Meteorological Society
American Public Health Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists American Society of Naturalists 
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Botanical Society of America
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Entomological Society of America
Geological Society of America
National Association of Marine Laboratories
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society for Mathematical Biology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society of Nematologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research 

Read the letter here, for yourself:

“Dear Members of Congress, 
We, as leaders of major scientific organizations, write to remind you of the consensus scientific view of climate change. 
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science. 
There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.1 
To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others. 
We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate. “

Problem is, the Republican led congress doesn’t want to work with real scientists.  It derides and dismisses them, denying the scientific community’s CONSENSUS, clinging to a corporate profit driven model of increased compulsory consumption.  

Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have grandchildren…  or possibly never will… since we are either AT the tipping point currently, or far beyond the tipping point globally… and since I am not one of the wealthiest 1% of Western Civilization I won’t be the one building a well stocked, well filtered, fully independent & sustainable for millennia under-ground bunker complex where my progeny could live & work & go about life after the seas rise, the fish & plants & pollenating insects all die, and hordes of angry surviving scavengers sift through the hell-scape that used to be Earth as they absorb massive amounts of UV from Sun without an ozone layer to filter it, breathing air with a significantly reduced oxygen content, and living much shorter life spans due to the toxin build up and cancer from the unmitigated UV (UV and DNA are not very compatible).  Il faut voir.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Crazy About the Black Oily Flowers

When we moved to Carlsbad last yer, I noticed the hummingbirds were crazy about these very tall, very dark, almost a black oily color flowers that were in the front and back yard.  The one plant int he back yard was very scraggly, and sent up only one shoot of flowers, but the plants in the front yard were very healthy, quite robust, and sent up multiple shoots of flowers which the hummingbirds preferred to all other forms of food.

Taking pictures out the window of Dr Desert Flower's office and the attached bathroom, I've tried to capture the images of the voracious hummingbirds focused on the black oily flowers.  Here are a few.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Principled, Determined, Ethical & Admirable

Watching this 76 year old man - old enough to be Speaker Ryan's father - sit on the floor of the House of Representatives, demanding a tallied vote on legislation to restrict no-fly-list and known terrorists from purchasing weapons, trying to protect American citizens last Wednesday and Thursday morning, was inspirational.  This man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr and who has fought for civil rights and the rights of ALL Americans his entire political career, without scandals, without corruption, without compromising his ethics... was a stark contrast to the sophomoric and idiotic assaults by mentally challenged fools like Louie Gohmert of Texas who wanted to physically assault Democratic members who were in the sit-in, and who proclaimed his stupidity by saying he was "going to go home and buy a gun" - woefully inadequate, aren't you Louie?

Time will show that John Lewis was on the right side of history, while inarticulate court jesters like Gohmert will not even be a minor foot note.  Thank you Representative John Lewis, for being one of the best parts of a not very good week.  I hope your health holds out and you're able to continue serving for as long as you're willing and able to do so.

Smug, Cowardly and Disingenuous

Watching this smiling, smug little boy pound his gavel in the House of Representatives early Thursday morning at 230am, passing 'all the bills that were slated to be discussed from June 22nd to July 3rd' in one vote, and then calling the House into recess, was just despicable.  Sad that elected federal leaders from the Republican party do nothing to protect US Citizens while protecting the NRA & their own Primary Election viability instead.  Stop hiding behind your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, Paul the absolutist.  And then run off and hide for the July 4th recess.  Despicable.  Paul Ryan, you were almost elected Vice President. in 2012  You can do better than being so scared of the NRA.  Where is your leadership?  Stand up, and protect American citizens! The next time you try and run for national office, your cowardice will be remembered.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sentinel Hummingbird Turf Battles

Around my home, I have 10 hummingbird feeders, on 8 hangers - essentially 8 different locations. Six of the eight locations are "out of the line of sight" of each other, so that a hummingbird male who tries to guard / covet / protect / defend one location cannot effectively cover more than one of the six.  I've come to observe today, that EACH of the six separated & isolated locations has a male hummingbird who has claimed it.  Each of these six hummingbirds chase off all other males who approach, and if the female is a different species, they get chased off as well.  The guarding males allow females of the same species to drink from their unlimited nectar supply, and vociferously swoop and strafe me when I go to refill the feeders.

So after work today, I decided to photograph each of these six possessive males, and document them here, so that you can see them too.  When I go into my kitchen to make tea throughout the day, I can see two of the Anna's males - one outside the kitchen sink window and one outside the patio doors.  When I walk through the living room I can see another Anna's perched beside the hanging fuschia and jasmine. As I cross the dining room, there's another Anna's  perched in the plum tree, standing vigil over the feeder hidden under the pepper trees.  Then, when I go into Dr Desert Flower's office, I can spy the Rufous hiding in the oleander beneath the two feeders.  And each time I return to my office, outside my window is a very feisty Rufous (this month) who sits in the lemon tree outside my window, menacing any creature who comes near his feeders, including a lizard that was at least 5 times the bird's body mass who had climbed up the wall behind the jasmine I planted here, and who probably would have enjoyed dining on the Rufous if he'd come within striking range.

For those with slow internet connections, these are each 4 to 6 megabyte jpegs, so you might want to view them when you're on free Wifi and not roaming on a mobile device.

Office Window Rufous quaffing refreshing nectar after chasing off a rival
Office Window Rufous perched in the shade of the lemon tree
Hungry patrolling lizard, beside the lemon tree

The Rufous in the oleander outside of DDF's window, looking up at me; taken at a 58.5X zoom "thru window" setting
The living room Anna's, guarding both feeders visible from the couch.
Kitchen door Anna's, perched in the dwarf palm, 3 feet from his guarded feeder
Kitchen sink window Anna's, looking down at his feeder & the human with a camera pointed up at him. (58.5X zoom)
The immature juvenile in the plum tree outside the dining room window; he hasn't gotten his full plumage yet
It's been rather 'gloomy' here, weather wise, with the "June Gloom" marine layer hanging around most every morning, and not burning off until at least 2 or 3pm, even though we are more than 3 miles (as the heron flies) from the shore.  Each of these males, in full sunlight, are much more brilliant than they are in the shade, but getting them "to pose" in the sun is next-to-impossible, as they appear to enjoy guarding their posts in the shade more often than in the sun.

Below are several other hummingbird related shots taken over the last few weeks, that I thought turned out pretty well.  I hope you enjoy them too.

2 juvenile males cautiously sharing the feeder outside my office, while the Rufous is off chasing away another challenger.

Thirsty Rufous outside of DDF's office window
A mature male Anna's, June 7th outside the dining room in the plum tree, before moving onto bigger nectar feeders
He was rather a ham, and liked to pose, as long as I stayed inside the house (yes, exact same bird as previously pictured)

Under the dwarf palm outside the kitchen door, last week. Maybe I should call him Tyrion?

The plums last week
After picking 1/5th of them

Mature Anna's male in the front yard palm tree, ready to fight the Rufous who hangs out there.
Iridescent Anna's in the lemon tree, before the pugnacious Rufous chased him away, last month
Same Rufous last month; this shot taken as I crouched in the door of my office's closet to get a different angle.
Time for me to go pick the last of the plums, and then walk down the street to get the mail.  Cheers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Confused & Self Loathing, Not a Terrorist

The scared, self-hating, confused little boy who used to be named Omar Mateen was NOT a terrorist.

He was
- a former physical abuser of his ex-wife, before their marriage failed and ended in divorce
- an openly angry and expressive of disgust when with his father in Miami when he and his father saw two men kissing and the son became outraged that men would do that
- a Grindr profile user, where several users blocked him because he was 'creepy' (as I just heard on All In with Chris Hayes)
- a Jack'd profile user (yet Another Gay Men's chat and dating website)
- a frequent visitor to The Pulse night club in Orlando before he went on a killing spree in the early morning of June 12th, right after 'last call' at 2am, armed with a legally purchased AR-15
- completely ignorant of the dichotomy, animus, and outright armed hostilities between Hezbollah (fundamentalist Shiites in Lebanon) and ISIS / ISIL  (fundamentalist Sunnis in Iraq & Syria) when this confused & stupid little boy called Orlando 911 and 'pledged his loyalty to ISIS', AND Hezbollah,  AND the AL Qaeda inspired Tsarnaev brothers of the Boston Bombing.  When you DO NOT understand the centuries long hatred and conflict between the diametrically opposed groups such as Hezbollah and ISIS, and you claim allegiance with BOTH of them, you're ignorant, a fool, and incredibly desperate for someone, ANYONE, to like you, claim you, want to support you.
- A natural born US citizen (Queens NY), not an immigrant
- formerly on the TSA No Fly list & investigated by the FBI after he bragged at work (as a security guard) that he knew the Boston Marathon bombers, that he knew people in ISIS, and that he was a big deal among terrorist organizations [the FBI investigated this little punk Mateen for 10 months, interviewed him with an under-cover agent, and then had 2 formal interviews with him, before finally finding he was 'all talk' and had no actual affiliations to any organizations]

Granted, much of what comes out as "News Coverage" immediately following such horrific and despicable acts is frequently inaccurate.  But it has been 36 hours, and Actual Journalists like Chris Hayes are on the scene, interviewing people who had friends killed, who had been at the night club before the shooting, who had talked to this turd Mateen on gay men's hook-up aps, and the stories are being reported in the LA Times, Washington Post, and other reputable, researched, long-standing journalistic sources.  Even the shooter's own father has told reporters that his son was not stable and angrily blew up when he saw openly expressive gay people with public displays of affection. Nobody ever loved nor will ever love dead Omar.

So wether it is a public marathon in Boston, an African American church in Charleston, a Californian social worker office, an armored US Army Texas military base (Ft Hood), or an elementary school in Connecticut, each of these delusional, hateful, fearful, unloved, incapable-of-loving, heavily armed, NRA endorsed, socially out-cast, social rejects continue to inflict pain and sorrow upon American citizens who have DONE NOTHING to them.  Meanwhile, complete dumbasses like Drumpf try to say they "predicted" this, and thank themselves for their inaccurate self-proclaimed false prescience.

Congratulations to Walmart & Dick's Sporting Goods for no longer selling AR-15s (following Sandy Hook, and the potential of class action law suits and horrible publicity).  Shame on every other gun dealer, gun show participant, re-seller, and NRA stalwart who continues to try and defend "the right" for every miscreant, dumbass, and confused little boy in America to buy & own assault weapons.  What pathetic hunters and terribly inaccurate marksmen they must be! (I used to be qualified as a 'Sharpshooter" by the NRA, 35 years ago... and can still hold my own at a gun range [indoor or outdoor] with a BOLT Action rifle. A real man doesn't need a semi-auto nor automatic rifle to defend himself, period. Anyone who disagrees is compensating for their lack of marksmanship, or their inadequacies in the bed room or elsewhere.

Love will always over-rule fear and hatred.  Fear & hate are effective in the short term, but over the log term love will Always win out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bousquet Malbec

While shopping at the Carlsbad COSTCO yesterday afternoon, and talking to my dad on the phone, I passed by an end cap in the alcohol area of the store that had $8 Domaine Bousquet Malbec, 2015. "Made with Organically Grown Grapes" in the Tupungato Valley in Argentina, I had it last night with a grass fed sirloin steak, grilled to medium rare.  It was really pretty good, especially at $8 a bottle.

Dr Desert Flower tried a few sips last night, and liked it too - so it is not "just me".  This evening, while watching coverage of Republicans distancing themselves from Donald Trump on the evening cable news, I am finishing the bottle's last two glasses.  Still very nice.  I recommend it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Fearful America or a Strong Confident America?

Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a foreign policy speech yesterday in my own backyard, San Diego.  Her audience was full of supporters, many of whom were veterans and their families.  I DVR'ed the speech, and watched it over lunch today.

While I've not been a huge Hillary Clinton supporter, I did admire her unwithering and strong response to the Republican held marathon Benghazi hearings, which showed she was not culpable of anything nefarious in regards to the embassy attack there. Hillary Clinton's San Diego speech on June 2nd was factual, poignant, articulate and informative, even though it was somewhat nationalistic.

You can watch the entire speech here
...and if you're not good at following links, you can just click on it at he bottom of this posting.

But what I will do, dear readers & visitors, is to list the factual gems that I took from the speech, the ones that really hit home, had impact, and (as I watched the video) brought the crowd to their feet.

"Smart & Principled Foreign Policy"

"Choice between a fearful America that's less secure and engaged with he world, and a strong, confident America"

"Donald Trump's (Drumpf's) ideas are not just different, they are dangerous incoherent. A series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and out right lies."  [I Loved that quote]

"He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability, and immense responsibility."

"It's not hard to imagine Donald Trump (Drumpf) getting us into a war just because someone got under his Very Thin Skin."

"He says he doesn't have to listen to generals, admirals, ambassadors or diplomats, because he says, and I quote" 'I have a very good brain.'"

"He praises dictators."

"He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia."

"He says we are, and I quote: 'A third world country'"
[Having Just visited a third world country in April, I can refute that America is a 'third world country']

"We are not a country who cowers behind walls."

"Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world. They have nothing to match them."

"If Donald gets his way, they'll be celebrating in the Kremlin."

"We are lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders; why would he want ti make one of them an enemy?"

"He said this about a war between North Korea and Japan, and I quote: 'If they do, they do; Good luck, enjoy yourselves folks.'"

"Our approach must be 'distrust and verify.'"

"There's no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course deal."

"He brings the following tools to the table: Bragging, mockery, and composing nasty tweets."

"I don't understand Donald Trump's (Drumpf's) fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.  He praises China for the Tiananmen massacre, saying it showed strength."

"He said if he was grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he'd give him an A."

"I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants."

"He said maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS?"  ... A Trump (Drumpf) presidency would embolden ISIS."

"This isn't reality television, this is actual reality."

"We cannot put the lives of our troops in Donald Trump's (Drumpf's) hands."

"During the raid to kill Bin Laden, our Seals took the time to move the women and children to safety. Donald Trump (Drumpf) may not get it, but that's what honor looks like."

"It matters when he
- makes fun of people with disabilities
- calls women pigs
- proposes banning an entire religion from our country
- or plays coy with white supremacists"

"America stands up to countries who treat women like animals, or different races, religions, or ethnicities as less human."

"Plenty of Muslims and immigrants serve and fight in our armed forces."

"Making the right call takes a cool head and respect FOR THE FACTS. It takes a willingness to listen to other peoples' points of view with a truly open mind. It also takes humility, knowing you don't know everything because if you are convinced you're always right, you'll never ask yourself the hard questions."

"Imagine Donald Trump (Drumpf) sending you spouses and children into battle."

"Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account, but America's entire arsenal. Do we want someone thin skinned and quick to anger who lashes out at the smallest criticism?"

"Every lesson from our history teaches us that we are stronger together. We remember that every Memorial Day."

"Two very different visions; angry, afraid, and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline.  The other is hopeful, generous, and confident in the knowledge that America is great just as we always have been!"

I thought the speech was fact-filled, and addressed the FUNDAMENTAL difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf. One is an experience, rational thinker, and experienced diplomat - maybe I don't agree with everything she's done and stood for, but at least I know what those things are.  The other, is a thin skinned, egomaniacal failed business man who inherited his fortune from his rich daddy, and who has no filter on anything he says aloud or on Twitter.

I am somewhat sad that Bernie Sanders will probably not be the nominee for the Democrats, but it will probably help me more on my taxes that he's not the candidate, and, Hillary Clinton will likely get more done facing a Republican congress than Bernie Sanders would have been able to do.

If Donald J Drumpf wins, then this blog will stop in 2017 or 2018, once a post apocalyptic nuclear Winter descends on the northern hemisphere of the planet. Australia and New Zealand would becomeisolated quarantine zones where sheep and mankind live out the rest of their days breathing air through filters to avoid the heavier alpha particles that the jet streams will carry across the equator to rain down a slow radioactive death Down Under, while the Northern Hemisphere plays a day-to-day game of kill-or-be-killed in the smoldering ruins of what is left of North America, Europe, and most of Asia.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jon Batiste Borrows From Howard Jones

Jon Batiste, the Stay Human band leader on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, has - I believe - borrowed from Howard Jones.  Each time I hear The Late Show's theme song Humanism, the chord progression and rhythm at the end of the song strongly resembles Howard Jones song Things Can Only Get Better.

Don't believe me?  Listen to Things Can Only Get Better, starting at 1:07 mark,

Then, listen to Humanism, starting at the 45 second mark,


Borrowing part of a song is no rare thing.  Rush borrowed the bass line in  Enemy Within  from Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper.  And Led Zeppelin "borrowed" entire tracks from other artists, usually uncredited (don't get me started...)

= )