The S curve - © Robert Sommers 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Smokestack Lightning

Come rain or come shine

If you don't want people talking about Climate Change, which you spent your time debunking while running for election, it makes sense to disembowel the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Anything to do with climate change research is purportedly heading for draconian cuts in the prospective budget.
The Trump administration budget proposal would slash the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by more than $1 billion next year, forcing the agency to cut about 8 percent of jobs. The weather service, part of NOAA, would lose 355 jobs, including 248 forecasting positions.Other proposed cuts at the NWS include $11 million slashed from the tsunami warning program, and a $15.5 million reduction to ocean surface and marine observation programs.
More about the entire topic here.
If you think it's only a joke to suggest that the Trump administration would terminate an active observatory once we've gone through the expense of putting it in orbit, well, then you haven't read the rest of the budget proposal, which attempts to follow through on earlier threats to gut NASA's Earth-observing missions. Two are not yet launched. One is a satellite called CLARREO pathfinder, which is intended to develop instruments for a follow-on satellite to produce detailed climate records. Another, PACE, would track ocean-atmosphere interactions. Two other satellites would have specific instruments shut down—one of them an Earth-observing camera championed by Al Gore that has been targeted by every Republican administration since he left the vice presidency (the Bush administration shelved the working hardware rather than put it in orbit).
But the most striking thing is the call to shut down the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which has only been in operation for less than four years. The ability to monitor Earths' carbon dioxide fluxes was considered so important for following climate change that NASA built a second after the first was lost in a launch accident. The Trump administration would now shut it down.
It's not only in space where environmental monitoring would be cut. For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there is a clear theme to the budget request: efforts to collect data or study our home planet get funding cuts, and climate-related efforts doubly so.
Both agencies are cut by about 20 percent in total. The only increases in NOAA's budget are for facilities or operating costs, with the exception of work to incorporate data from new European weather satellites. About 250 positions would be cut from the National Weather Service, with another 25 cut from the Tsunami Warning Program as one of the two US Tsunami Warning Centers would be shut down. A NOAA summary document notes that "Support for [tsunami] preparedness education, outreach, and innovation research will cease."
Funding for development of weather forecast models, hydrological models, ocean observations and ocean acidification research, climate research, and university partnerships would all be cut. Although the budget seems to reverse last year's call to scrap several future weather satellites—endangering weather forecasting as older satellites die—it cuts $565 million from two satellite programs without really explaining how that would be done.
In addition, as the above snippet mentions, the budget has the National Weather Service in its sights. 355 jobs are slated to be cut.
Sobien told weather.com Tuesday that if the budget proposal is approved, it would mean that by 2019, more than a quarter of the NWS staff would be eliminated. 
"That means many offices will have to close or close nights and weekends," Sobien said of the proposed staffing cuts. "Already, many NWS staff work months at a time with no days off and are forced overtime."
"What you will see is a decrease in forecasting and warning accuracy," Sabien said, adding that inaccurate forecasting will "cost us all a whole lot more than $75 million."Literally, this (proposed budget) is risking all of our lives to save a few million dollars," he added. 
How many times can you say idiotic? Looks like we are in for stormy weather. And lets fast track pipelines in our national parks as well. I would like to ask my Republican friends, especially you socially liberal, fiscal conservative types, how much of this stuff you are prepared to own? Yea or nay, make yourselves heard so that we have a record, okay?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Embryonic Journey

My stomach is tied up in knots today. Big Dave is in the hospital, some serious internal issues, undergoing surgery.

Dave is a former roommate of mine and one of my oldest and very closest friends.

We have both always been there for each other in our forty year plus friendship.

Wish I could be in two places at once but I can't, have a show in Palm Springs this week.

I was thinking I needed to hear some airplane, turned on Pandora and this song came right to the fore on its own accord.

Will take it as a good sign.

Wishing my friend the best. He is one tough guy.

Happy Eleven.

The Blue Heron Blast enters its eleventh year of shpieling in just a few weeks. This is a picture that Kerry took of me August 17, 2007, just prior to the year of the blog's inception. My, do I go on. Eleven years. Note the black hair on the rather porcine subject. Thought I would have it forever. Sheesh.

Over 7055 posts. Several million direct views. Thanks for reading. Wouldn't be much fun by myself. And thanks to all you lurkers out there who still read the screed daily. I saw one of you at coffee the other day and said hello and can't tell you how much it means to me. Forward ho!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Lucinda Williams - Can´t Let Go

Red winged blackbird, Hemet

John Hartford

Mick Mulvaney is a liar

In a clear case of illegal loansharking, Golden Valley Lending was lending money at a usurious 950% interest rate.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took a couple years to build a strong case against them and they were ready to pounce.

According to anonymous sources inside the bureau, new CFPB head Mick Mulvaney ordered the regulatory action dropped and then lied about having had nothing to do with it.

Read the whole sordid story here.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Can I Tell You?


My niece was in town this week, attending a law conference. She lives in Toronto with her husband and children. Her father's passing has affected her deeply, as it has similarly hurt me.

She asked us to join her for dinner. She wanted us to take her somewhere that was important to her father Buzz and to our family, sort of retrace his steps. We are all still processing as best we can. A memorial dinner, if you will.

The only real possible choice for us was Busalacchis. Busalacchis was sort of our family restaurant, back then the location on Fifth and Robinson that no longer exists except in our collective memories.

We would join our father and Shela there when we were younger, all of our separate families, the waiters would dutifully trot out the gold Sommers nameplate for our table. The old craftsman house turned restaurant was like eating in someone's home. The best chopped salad, the best fruto di mare. Superb Italian food. We were at home there. And we felt genuinely honored there too.

The staff were so warm and became so close to us, the maitre 'd Diego such a close friend that he played his native flamenco guitar at Leslie and my wedding. Food and wine always perfect.

Busalacchis moved to various other places, the brothers split up somewhere along the way. Living in Fallbrook we don't get down there to San Diego too much anymore. I stopped by and saw Joe after my father died and he was already aware of his passing and very warm and supportive.

We met Rachel at Nonna in Little India last night and a young man who identified himself as Joe's nephew seated us. We had somehow messed up on the date and he found a space for us anyway. Quickly, in a packed restaurant. I had explained the deal to him and he took care of us. Nonna is a newer Busalacchi iteration, a slightly different paradigm, bit less expensive, bills its fare as comfort food. Real, tried and true, not overly fancy. The block is full of those kind of places, if that is what you are looking for.

Leslie, my niece and I shared story after story of my late brother and exchanged family news. Fabulous food as always, antipasti, lamb, short ribs, funghi pizza, pasta, chopped salad. Enough food to feed an army. A great and entertaining server from Milan.

I think of my niece as still a kid sometimes but she is not, she is a beautiful, cerebral, self assured and talented woman.

She told us a story about Buzz and his mountain of unpaid parking tickets that had us rolling off of our chairs.

Everything was going fine until they brought our a huge dessert plate for our table, gratis.

Cannoli, tortes, macaroons, chocolate covered strawberries, the whole shebang. Sweet quickly became bittersweet for me, they often walk side by side.

For some reason the generosity of the Busalacchi family coupled with the intense sadness and pain that I still feel every single day because of the loss of my brother chose that moment to hit me right between the eyes.

I managed to hide most of my tears but not all of them. The hurt is never far away and it looks for opportunities like last night to bubble to the surface.

I want to thank the restaurant for taking such amazing care of us, old clients that those present were probably too young to remember, for still being family, and to my niece for taking the time to dine with us, my wife for accompanying me. Buzz, it never gets easier for those of us left down here.

Out of Anacortes

Roger Miller - One Dyin' And A Buryin'

Peregrine Falcon, Torrey Pines

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Nahash Sefta

I have been meaning to write something about an issue that sort of flew by in early January; the disclosure that the Obama administration had tipped off Iran about Israel's intentions to assassinate the head of the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qassem Soleimani. This story comes on the heels of the Project Cassandra revelations.

The original article runs here in Haaretz.

The article was picked up by Bret Stephens of the New York Times and he got into a twitter tete a tete with Tommy Vietor, another wet behind the ears Doogie Howser talking head for Obama. It is worth reading.

This whole colloquy is very interesting and instructive. Because it shows the delusion of the Obama administration in attempting to persuade itself and the rest of us that the Revolutionary Guard, a ruthless and thuggish bunch of rogues, responsible for perpetrating countless acts of terrorism the world over, including bombing the Beirut barracks of the United States military, were a legitimate political force and capable of moderation.

And I started looking into this story and the fingers all point back to the head of the CIA, John Brennan. Brennan wrote a paper in 2008 that outlined his hopes of incorporating the Iranian proxy Hezbollah into the Lebanese government and establishing an American rapprochement with Iran.

But Brennan was not the only Obamaite with a soft spot for terrorists. John Kerry led the fight to keep funding a martyrs fund, to reward the families of Palestinians who murdered Israelis. Jen Psaki refused to call them terrorists at all, preferring the terms "freedom fighters." Chuck Hagel had a similar world view.

There are several stories of Obama leaking Israeli intelligence information to thwart their plans, I don't have time to revisit the issue right now but it is easily found on line.
In 2012, the Obama administration leaked damaging information that inexplicably sought to sabotage a burgeoning strategic alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan. Such an alliance would have enabled Israel to seek alternate bases in close proximity to Iran from which it could conduct military operations including surveillance and rescue missions, refueling and maintenance and even direct military strikes. The embarrassing disclosure shed unwanted light on a covert military alliance that would have greatly enhanced Israel’s strategic capabilities vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.
Then again in 2013, Israeli officials bitterly complained to the Obama administration over leaks sourced to administration officials that the Israeli Air Force had struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia. The Israelis termed the leak “scandalous” and bitterly noted that it was not the first time that administration officials had publicly linked Israel to attacks aimed at preventing arms from falling into the hands of Hezbollah terrorists. At the time, the Israelis were attempting to keep a low profile but the administration’s leaks blew everything and Israel’s involvement could no longer be concealed.
Obama likes to say that he was the best friend Israel ever had but I find the argument laughable at best. He always had a thumb on the scale favoring the Persians. And his IRS targeted and harassed pro Israel organizations.

What he also did was allow the Iranians to get access to a tremendous amount of currency and further their intentions to promote and foment terrorism around the globe. And at times he walked hand in hand with them.

Today an Iranian drone entered Israel. An Israeli jet was shot down with Iranian munitions. Will this be the first salvo in a deadly conflagration that torches the entire region?

I am not a fan of Netanyahu whatsoever. I think that the Israeli settlement policy has been duplicitous at best. But the country is surrounded by enemies that to this day have sworn to annihilate them. I stand with Israel and stand for their survival.

Barack Obama has made the problems in the middle east worse. 

Congo Square

Friday, February 9, 2018

Stupid is as stupid does

I am about to get real busy and think I have time for a quick spout before all hell breaks loose. The national irony meter is really pinging these days. The FBI asked the GOP not to release the Nunes memo because of National Security considerations and Trump did it anyway. But he won't release the Dems' counter memo because of...you guessed it, National Security considerations. Beautiful.

"People need to take some aspirin
 sometimes and tough it out...
you can get through these things," he said.
The intellectual hubris of the current administration is striking. Rather than listen to expert doctors, drug policy is being orchestrated by one Kellyanne Conway and a bunch of political operatives.

Jeff Sessions says that instead of taking opioids, he suggests that people merely take an aspirin. Bingo, Jeff, brilliant.

[Carbon dioxide is not] a primary contributor
 to the global warming that we see.
Scott Pruitt's latest pivot at the EPA is that hey, who says the global warming that we have been denying for so long won't turn out to be good for us all in the long run? Might want to run that message by those people whose houses will soon be under water, Scott...

Betsy DeVos just got an F grade from teachers across our great land, primarily for cutting $9 billion dollars from the education budget and rolling back Obama era regulations that protect students against campus sexual assault as well as deal with restroom use for transgender students as well as problems associated with for-profit colleges and student debt and borrowing.

“You know, it really doesn’t matter
 what the media write
 as long as you’ve got
 a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

President Trump is too busy and attention deficient to deal with a written Daily Intelligence Brief, a tradition that goes back at least seven presidencies. Just tell him the abbreviated Cliff note version, thank you.

All of these government luminaries have one thing in common, they all think that they are smarter than the experts and they have all turned their backs and noses at the people who actually know something about the agencies they govern.

If you don't live in an area with good public schools,
 you can move to a different place
if you have the financial means to do so. 
Low information voters elect low information leaders who appoint low information ignoramuses, well you know how the story goes...The dumbing down continues.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fare thee well

This is a song from the first Grateful Dead show I ever attended in California, a debut for the famous but relatively short lived "Wall of Sound" sound system. I post it because the man who wrote the lyrics for this and so many other great songs for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has passed away.

Barlow was a familiar presence at Dead shows. A very bright and good guy, he was a seminal figure in the fight for internet freedom with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which he co-founded.

Thank you John, for all of your contributions.

Calling Rufus T. Firefly

When I first heard about Trump's intentions for a grand soviet style military parade I thought it was a spoof. Unfortunately I was wrong. Then I flashed on the episode of the Beverly Hillbillies where Jethro drives his Army tank around Griffith Park. Bingo!

If there is a parade, do you think the commander will demand to wear a military uniform? He is the supreme commander you know? Lots of medals on the jacket for what did Tammy Duckworth call him, Corporal Bone spurs? Our first President with five deferments, Kim Jong Don.

A thousand problems, real problems in our military, from PTSD to bad medical care at the V.A. and various forms of chemical exposure and we are going to spend millions of dollars on a dumb parade for our great leader? Perfect! Have to have lots of planes and missiles and ample adoring (not to mention nubile) servicewomen performing rockettes style dance moves. 

I can't quite be sure if this is more Chaplin's Great Dictator or Marx Brother's Duck Soup. But things are getting sillier by the day. Don't you agree, comrade?


Tewa Lodge

Joe Ely - Gallo Del Cielo

Road trip

I have just returned from a fast jaunt into the southwest flavored midsection of the country. The adventure actually started almost two weeks ago. Leslie's favorite aunt had died a while back and left her a collection of antique Japanese tansu cabinets, amongst other things. She paid storage for a couple years and finally said enough was enough.

Leslie flew to Florida, stopping off first for a short stay in Dallas and rented a fifteen foot truck in Ft. Lauderdale. She hired some people to help her clean out the storage and they packed the truck. She saw my sister briefly. Then Leslie took off back across the country by herself. First night Tallahassee, then Baton Rouge the second.

She found the right local seafood restaurant, Don's, and sent me pictures of what she says was an amazing crab and crawfish feast.

It was raining her whole trip in the southeast and the driving was hard. What an amazing and tough wife I have to go it alone and attempt such a drive.

But I couldn't allow her to eat all this wonderful food by herself. Time to hit the road. Saturday I hitched a ride to the airport with my kind friend Pat. I flew from Ontario to Dallas on American for the unheard of price of $54.00.

Leslie's brother Andrew picked me up at the airport. We all went out for dinner that night, great to see the whole family but the new Italian restaurant we were trying, Mille Lire, was honestly pretty ghastly. I am not going to waste ink writing about it but would caution you to beware if you consider going there.

Next day after a delicious breakfast at BuzzBrew (I had the pork butt and eggs) we started driving north. The southern route would have been much shorter but it is so militarized now on the border and I didn't want a repeat of my horrible experiences a few years ago in Van Horn.

Now I lived in Texas for near five years in my youth and have been back many times since. Just not my kind of place, as I have written about previously. If you love it, well all power to you, pardner. With a couple notable exceptions, I pass.

We headed towards Amarillo passing many non remarkable sections of parched dirt. Plastic bags strewn across the windy landscape found themselves unwittingly impaled on scraggly cactus bushes. I would hazard a guess that most Texans don't believe in any of that climate change bidniss but it appears to wreaking havoc on them nonetheless. At least this particular route spared me the gassy stink of West Texas.

We went through many small towns like Clarendon where there seemed to be a competition with the neighbors in collective piety to see who could erect the most crosses on one's home or place of business. Identical pvc cross on every block. Pity or woe to the non believer who is forced to live in such a town!

We did stop to buy fresh pecans near Quanah (named for the Comanche chief Quanah Parker) and met some very wonderful folks. Bought a delicious apricot scone and sampled and purchased fresh pecan fudge. Looked for barbecue but being Sunday, all the places were closed. Guess they were busy celebrating the other Texas religion, football, it was Super Bowl Sunday but it wasn't like we cared a lick.

We got into Amarillo after dark. Typical constant road construction. A windy city with few redeemable virtues that at least I could perceive, we headed for its most famous landmark, the place that serves the free 72 ounce steak. The Big Texan.

The proviso of course is that you have to eat the whole thing. Had passed the billboard for years. What do you think, was I up to it?

Of course I could have decimated the thing if I chose, with room to spare for dessert, but decided to be nicer to my gastro intestinal tract and settled on a paltry 32 ounce ribeye, which actually was pretty fantastic. Leslie, as usual, said that her filet was much better than mine was.

The food and service at the Big Texan was frankly wonderful. I have paid twice as much and not had near as good a steak, at some pretty fancy and revered establishments.

Took a while to find a hotel that we both liked after dinner. We got off on the wrong road and the wrong foot and took a circuitous route around the city before getting back on track and finding our bearings. At one point my wife offered to take me to the airport but things leveled off.

40 west is the 40 west. Driving across the Lonestar state is always a horrible drudge, from any route and perspective. But at least from Amarillo it is a short haul towards Tucumcari. I saw a couple beautiful prairie falcons and the ubiquitous red tails. Honestly, was awfully nice to escape back to the Land of Enchantment.

Truth is, I brought a camera, but never stepped out of the car with it the entire trip. We were trucking and we both wanted to get home. But we did drive through both Tucumcari and Santa Rosa to get some flavor of the towns and route 66 and I shot through the car windows and with my car phone.

Wasn't particularly feeling it.

But was intrigued by the old neon, as always. Remember when I shot Central Avenue in Albuquerque at night about eight years ago? Kind of wish I had been passing through at night this time.

100% refrigerated air

I used to be a sign painter and still revere old signs and typography. And Route 66 is mecca for such relics.

Unfortunately things are breaking down so fast, we are in the last stage of entropy for much of this signage.

Many of the quaint old buildings that I admired four and five years ago are now fading fast. Ft. Defiance is gone, many iconic stops on the 40 sure soon to follow.

Would love to take the time to plan a week or two and go out there to these little towns and shoot and catalogue, do it at night, capture the beautiful sign images while they still exist in this world of ours.

Computers have put an end to hand lettering. I got out of the signage business just as the Gerber machines were coming on.

I learned the old fashioned way, from a ninety four year old sign painting master, Les Gampp. Now basic composition is a forgotten art, hand lettering has gone the way of the buggy whip.

The craft of one stroke lettering is near lost to the world, like so many other things, to a sea of conformity and homogeneity.

Everybody too freaking sophisticated and modern cool now to have fun and experiment. People no longer get the beauty of a hand made letter.

Slick and modern has mowed down everything in its path. Raise a glass to the glory days. Hope I can find the time to get back there and give myself the space to just shoot one week with no worries.

We drove to Albuquerque and had lunch at the Pueblo Cultural Center on 12th. Wonderful meal of native food. Had mutton stew and really good gourmet street tacos.

Our friend John Feldman, the pedal steel playing lawyer head of the swing band Curio Cowboys, stopped by after our meal and we followed him over to his studio/clubhouse to see his wonderful collection of posters and southwest material. Classic.

Ended up making it to the Twin Arrows casino outside Flagstaff that night. Great food, great place to stay. Won a couple hundred at the tables.

Drove out early the next day. Saw snow on the mountain, couple bald eagles in the air.

Raced trains, saw a lot of trains this trip. Hit Tommy's in Barstow for fuel. 15 south was wall to wall, or assholes and elbows as my late stepfather used to say.

Good to be home.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rodney Crowell

Palm Springs Modernism Winter Show

Palm Springs Modernism Week is fast approaching.

The Blue Heron Gallery will be exhibiting some exciting new material at the show.

For more info and pictures of my new artwork and objects please go to my gallery post here or to this page for more information about Modernism Week.

No alteration, straight out of the can

33.3764° N, 117.2511° W

My good friends Brigitte and Morgan are moving north to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and Leslie and I wish them both well. It is so beautiful up there. I am sure that they will flourish.

I believe that Brigitte might have been born in Toronto, not sure but I think so. Roughly the same latitude as Sequim, which is 48.0795°. Toronto is 43.6532°.

My wife has told me that she is ready for cooler climes, contemplating a move in a similar direction. She was born in Detroit, latitude 42.3314° N. Did it thirty years my way. Fair enough.

Les P.'s son has recently moved back from Washington to his native Southern California. Reportedly couldn't take the clouds and rain any longer. It depresses some people.

The point I am slowly coming around to is that I think that we like the sun to come from us at the same angle that it was coming at us at the place where we were born.

There is an old indian adage that says that where a man first puts his moccasins will be his home forever.

I was born in San Diego. 32.7157° N, 117.1611° W. Even when I go to San Francisco something is not entirely right for me, light wise.

I am a child of Southern California. I like this latitude. Not that I won't try to adapt if we ever move but 33 degrees is my sweet spot.

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.