Peregrine flight

Thursday, June 30, 2011


KerryB sent this over. Blog might need a little shot of testosterone. I have never been a big metalhead but Motorhead has its links in Hawkwind, the british psychedelic cult band and so I cut them a little slack. Gabba Gabba Hey.

Thursday Housekeeping

Shawn sent over this video from Thailand, made by some friends of his in a band called Flow: Drugs against War.


I received a request this morning to post a piece from a woman named Barbara O'Brien. Her blog is www.mahablog.com. A blog that purports to make the world safe for liberalism...Now I will do it, being a nice guy and everything but the last time I wrote about mesothelioma I got a cease and desist from those jerks down in Orlando so I do so a bit timidly. Here goes:

Environmental Damage Caused by Tornadoes

The recent tornadoes in the South and Midwest left behind acres of tangled, shredded debris — building materials, trees, cars, refrigerators. They also left behind some potentially serious environmental hazards.

Faced with challenging cleanups, states are relaxing some environmental protection regulations in the affected areas. Missouri, for example, is temporarily lifting some restrictions on what can be discarded in landfills. The state also is allowing residents in affected areas to burn vegetative matter on their own property, but only with the permission of the local fire department. Burning is an obvious way to quickly clear a pile of debris, but indiscriminate burning of made-made materials could release a poisonous stew of toxins into the air.

Toxins already released by the tornadoes are a bigger worry. These include asbestos, lead paint chips, gasoline, oil, and battery acid. A contractor cleaning up an Alabama site found the area contaminated by highly dangerous polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), leaked from damaged electrical transformers. 

Asbestos appears to be the biggest concern, especially in neighborhoods with older homes, schools, and commercial buildings. The massive storms ripped asbestos insulation out of walls and smashed asbestos shingles, tiles, and other building materials into dust. 

Asbestos is a mineral that breaks into tiny fibers. If breathed into the lungs the fibers can cause a host of severe illnesses, including the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma. However, the effects are not immediate. There are people receiving mesothelioma treatment today because they breathed asbestos as long as 40 or 50 years ago. 

State and federal regulations require that asbestos removal can be done only by specially trained and licensed contractors, who wear respirators and “hazmat” suits. But with such widespread damage, it’s expected that many people will plunge into cleanup work without calling in experts to find out what hazards might be present. Some states are telling residents to at least wear high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) masks and heavy gloves when working around all tornado debris. 

There were scattered reports of broken sewer and gas lines after the tornadoes had done their work, but more damage could be done by the cleanup. In some communities ruined building materials are being heaped along roadways, right on top of residential sewer lines. Eventually heavy equipment will be brought in to haul the debris away. Older lines in particular might be crushed, causing another kind of biological hazard and possibly compromise drinking water.

Most of the storm damage was in residential and farming areas, and it’s hoped that lingering environmental hazards will be isolated, and few. It may be weeks or months before the full extent of environmental damage is known. 


I dig the new world map I have placed on the blog, replacing the feedjit map I had been using. It seems like it is recognizing more hits, even though it does not tell me exactly what post the people are reading like the old one did. If I made any money at this I would actually spring for a pro version that could give me far greater demographic analysis. Kind of sexy looking widget. Blog went over 13,500 views last month, increasing by another thousand. We are blowing up in Tajikistan...


Went over to our friend's Beth and Leven's home to play hearts the other night and had fresh sockeye cooked in papillote or parchment paper with orzo and an arugula salad. Our meal was cooked by our wives and was extra delicious, the salmon being spiced by a special cumin rub. It stays wonderfully moist in the paper. We used to cook in paper a lot and I would like to do more of it.

Then the girls made "by the book" mint juleps, which exceeded every possible expectation.

Ken Seals took me to the first Padres/Braves game last week, the one where the Pads came up with an 11 to 2 victory. Maybe the best seats I ever sat in, right behind first base. Stopped at Lefty's first for a chicago dog and a slice of thin crust sausage pizza. Really good. Ken mentioned that we certainly wouldn't look out of place, two guys eating dinner together in the rainbow colored Mission Hills neighborhood. 


Our friend D's wife is out of town so we went out to dinner in Temecula last night and decided to try the Gourmet Italia restaurant.  I must confess that it may have not been the place I was looking for. The meal's result can be called mixed. I was sick all night, staying close to the throne, but it could have been lunch, who knows?

We started off with a poached pear salad with gorgonzola. Here is a cell phone picture.

I thought it was a bit strange how all the ingredients were segregated on the small plate, which did not lend itself to easy mixing. The beautiful red pear (soaked in port) was delicious.

I decided to stay light and had gnocchi and pesto, which was also great but tasted very fattening. I don't want to know how much butter or cream.

Leslie and D had filet's a signature dish and things started to spin out of control. Hers came tiny, his was huge. she wanted medium rare, got medium, I heard the swarthy cook in the nearbye kitchen swearing in italian, she got her bristles up, finally they brought another one cooked the way it was supposed to be.

Vibes were a little funky by then. Tried to turn it around with homemade canolli and creme brulee. They were both good althought he creme brulee was a bit sunken. D said that creme brulee either comes out custard or pudding and we both liked the custard type and this one was very eggy.

We had a decent Barbera, fairly expensive, nowhere near as good as the one we tried at Cucina Urbana. Will probably give the place another try.


My radiator gave out the other day, 14 months after the last one died. The chinese piece of plastic junk split a seam. Two months out of warranty, the good folks at Pro Tire Automotive replaced it and didn't charge me a cent. Not the first time they have gone beyond the call of duty. Thanks, fellas.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Buddy's Boogie

Cape Chestnut

One of the best things about our building is this incredible tree outside. This lovely specimen is a Cape Chestnut, one of three in downtown Fallbrook, it is always the last of the three to grace us with its gorgeous pink flowers and light aromatic bouquet. Trees don't get much prettier.

You don't see a lot of Cape Chestnuts around. We had one on Mt. Helix when I was a young boy and my sister Barbara was highly allergic to it. When it is in high season, as it is today, people will often knock on my door and ask me to identify it.

The Cape Chestnut is actually a member of the citrus family Rutaceae and has its origins in africa. Calodendrum capense is found on the eastern side of the african continent, stretching as far south as Capetown, S.A.  and as far north as Kenya.

This tree is used in Africa for its rich oil called Yangu, high in antioxidants and amino acids and containing an inherent sunscreen, it is used to make skin care products.

It was named by English explorer William Burchell (1782-1863), who in 1819, thought that this south and tropical african tree resembled the chestnut tree of his native homeland.

The tree likes warm temperatures and full sun. I tip my cap to the far sighted individual who planted it on Main Avenue. Next time you are in the area, swing by and take a look.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Martha Davis - Martha's Boogie

Effeminate mice with clotted blood

Some interesting news on the science and environmental front. I have been a sometime participant on a closed genetics board called double helix for the past several years and somebody posted this link yesterday.

From Nature News:

Scientists have developed a gene-repair kit that treats the blood-clotting disorder hemophilia in mice. The technique replaces genes in targeted organs without removing cells from the body, simultaneously correcting multiple mutations. It broadens the range of diseases that can be treated with gene therapy.
The method uses enzymes called zinc-finger nucleases. These are molecular scissors that replace specific DNA sequences by cutting through the double helix, after which the cell's repair machinery fixes the break.
Until now, therapies using zinc fingers have required cells to be taken out of the body, genetically modified in a dish and returned. This works for some immune and blood disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia, and trials are underway for HIV and diabetic neuropathy, but not for diseases affecting tissues less suited to this type of manipulation.
To develop a way to correct mutations within the body, Katherine High, a hemophilia researcher at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, teamed up with experts on zinc-finger nucleases at Sangamo BioSciences in Richmond, California. Their work is reported in the magazine Nature.
I have misgivings about opening the pandora's box of gene splicing. I believe that it is beyond our skill set and the limits of our wise judgement. Soon we will be manufacturing nordic barbies right out of the tube. There does not appear to be a regulatory body that can examine the tertiary effects of our genetic experiments. I remember reading about an agricultural experiment with gene splicing that ended up killing a native moth population. We aren't smart enough to foresee the consequences of our promethean actions in this field.

When I have broached this with the geneticists I am told that species have always suffered mass extinctions and that this is nothing new. I just don't trust us and can foresee a world that may soon be relieved of our and many other species.

In other news, researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia have released findings that Bisphenol P (BPA), a common additive found in packaging, makes male deer mice less physically attractive to females. Their behavior suggested a de-masculinization of the rodents.

“The BPA-exposed deer mice in our study look normal; there is nothing obviously wrong with them. Yet, they are clearly different,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor in biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center. “Females do not want to mate with BPA-exposed male deer mice, and BPA-exposed males perform worse on spatial navigation tasks that assess their ability to find female partners in the wild. This study sets the stage for BPA researchers to examine how BPA might differentially impact the behavioral and cognitive patterns of boys versus girls. Investigators looking for obvious BPA-induced differences, such as chromosome deletions or DNA mutations, could be missing subtle behavioral differences that eventually lead to long-term adverse outcomes, including demasculinization of male behaviors with ensuing decreased reproductive fitness.”
In the study, female deer mice were fed BPA-supplemented diets two weeks prior to breeding and throughout lactation. The mothers were given a dosage equivalent to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers a non-toxic dose and safe for mothers to ingest. At weaning (25 days of age), the deer mice offspring were placed on a non-supplemented BPA diet and their behavior tested when they matured into adults.
When sexually mature, researchers tested each mouse’s ability to navigate a maze to safety. This enhanced spatial navigational ability of male deer mice is important because it allows them to find mates that are dispersed throughout the environment. Females do not have to search to find mates and thus their navigational abilities have not been enhanced by evolution. It was these navigational skills, among others, that were tested in the laboratory setting. Each animal had two five-minute opportunities per day, for seven days, to try to find its way into a home cage through one of several holes placed around the edge of an open maze which was marked with a set of visible navigational cues. Many male mice that had been exposed to BPA early in their development never found the correct exit. By comparison, male mice that had not been exposed to BPA consistently found the hole leading to their home cage within the time limit, some on the first day. In addition, the untreated mice quickly learned the most direct approach to finding the correct hole, while the exposed males appeared to employ a random, inefficient trial and error strategy, Rosenfeld said.
In addition, male deer mice exposed to BPA were less desirable to female deer mice. Females primed to breed were tested in a so-called mate choice experiment. The females’ level of interest in a stranger male was measured by observing specific preferential behaviors, such as nose-to-nose sniffing and the amount of time the female spent evaluating her potential partner. These behaviors assess a potential mate’s genetic fitness. Rosenfeld said that both non-exposed and BPA-exposed females favored control males over BPA-exposed males on a two-to-one basis.
“These findings presumably have broad implications to other species, including humans, where there are also innate differences between males and females in cognitive and behavioral patterns,” Rosenfeld said. “In the wide scheme of things, these behavioral deficits could, in the long term, undermine the ability of a species such as the deer mouse to reproduce in the wild. Whether there are comparable health threats to humans remains unclear, but there clearly must be a concern.”
“We can use this evolutionary approach to the study of BPA to determine the best way to assess differences in the risks to boys and girls to early exposure to this chemical,” said David Geary MU Curators’ Professor of Psychological Sciences.
You can read the study abstract here. BPA has been banned in Canada and eliminated by many American manufacturers but has still not been regulated by the EPA. We wait to see if a nexus can be established between sissy mice and sissy men.


The Huffington Post had an interesting article last week about Monsanto's chemical Roundup being linked to birth defects. In a new review by the group Earth Open Source, it is suggested that industry regulators  have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

Read the actual study here.

Roundup was found to cause abnormalities such as heart dilation in studies as far back as 1993. In a 2002 study, glyphosphate was found to cause developmental malformations in laboratory animals. A 2007 study showed that Roundup induces adverse reproductive effects in the male offspring of a certain kind of rat.

A laboratory study done in France in 2005 found that Roundup and glyphosate caused the death of human placental cells. Another study, conducted in 2009, found that Roundup caused total cell death in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells within 24 hours.

From HuffPo:
An Argentine government scientist, Andres Carrasco conducted a study, "Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling" in 2009.
The study, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. It also found that malformations caused in frog and chicken embryos by Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate were similar to human birth defects found in genetically modified soy-producing regions.
"The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy," wrote Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires. "I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low.”
“In some cases this can be a powerful poison," he concluded.
Argentina has not made any federal reforms based on this research and has not discussed the research publicly, Carrasco told HuffPost, except to mount a "close defense of Monsanto and it partners."
The chemical industry and the defenders of poison like to point out that mice are small and people large, that a nexus can not be made between rodents and humans as if scale is a defense against chemicals that destroy cells and tissue on a microscopic and cellular level. Or they blame farm workers for their faulty application of the products. Or regulators for not watching them closely enough.

Try to fight a beast like Monsanto and see how fast you get squished. A researcher is likely to end up forced to live on some lonely atoll in the middle of nowhere with his or her funding permanently cut off.


While plastics are sending us into a male to female gender bender, the Indians are turning girls into boys.


In other environmental news, a Pacific gray whale was seen off of Herziliya, Israel last year, an event not seen for centuries since atlantic whales were hunted to extinction in the 1700's. Scientists conclude that global warming has melted a channel through the canadian icecap. Scientists have also found a plankton species that has not existed in the waters in approximately 800,000 years.
"The implications are enormous. It's a threshold that has been crossed," said Philip Reid of the Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.
"It's an indication of the speed of change that is taking place in our world in the present day because of climate change," he said.
Reid said the last time the world witnessed such a major incursion from the Pacific was 2 million years ago, which had "a huge impact on the North Atlantic," driving some species to extinction as the newcomers dominated the competition for food.
Some christians are pointing to the appearance of the whale as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and an indicator of pending end times.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Turbulent Indigo

Womb Service

There are obviously many well meaning people on either side of the abortion debate. Right to Lifers believe that life begins at conception, that abortion is murder and that they are the lone advocates for an unborn population that has no one to speak for them.

I am pro choice, believing that a woman herself knows best if she is personally able to bear and raise a child and give it a decent life.

This week a federal judge in Indiana, Tanya Pratt, ruled that Indiana can not cut off funding to Planned Parenthood with their new law and blocked a portion of the law requiring abortion practitioners to tell women considering an abortion that their unborn child will feel pain as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy. She rejected Planned Parenthood’s request that a part of the law be blocked that women be told before an abortion that “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.”

Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter issued the following statement after the ruling:
“We are deeply disappointed that today’s ruling brushes aside the will of the Indiana legislature.  This ruling opens the pipeline for our tax dollars to flow back into the hands of Indiana’s largest abortion provider and denies women seeking abortions the right to know about an unborn child’s ability to feel pain.” Fichter said. “We are confident that Indiana’s right to defund Planned Parenthood and to inform women about the facts of fetal pain will eventually be upheld in the courts, but it is troubling to know that in the meantime, Indiana is being forced to subsidize a business that profits from over 5,500 abortions every year and women are being denied key information they deserve.”
This is a part of the anti abortion argument that I find troubling.  The woman may have a personal duty to know about a child's feeling pain but does she have a right to know that is presently being denied her? This is a very strange part of their narrative. If a woman wants to find out about an unborn child's ability to feel pain she has every right to do so but we have no right to force her to do so. In the pro life world, none of these women are capable of making an informed choice by their self. Women are always victims of unscrupulous abortion merchants, bent on making obscene profits by killing babies and are being cowed by evil men to have abortions because none of them would ever have one if they were confronted by a particular set of facts. An argument that is absurd on its face and degrades women and turns them into unwitting victims.

This argument also unfairly denigrates and impugns groups like Planned Parenthood, an organization that unfortunately operates as the sole access to health care for many I women that I know.

Some of the pro life women say that they look back and regret their abortions. Does that give them the right to take away another woman's ability to make their own informed decision? Or they create  the simplistic narrative that women are getting abortions with all the emotional gravitas that they would get from a teeth cleaning. The reality is, at least for the women I know that have been faced with the choice, is that abortion is a tumultuous decision that is never made casually.

The right to lifers try  to intimidate women by forcing them by law to watch sonograms and force doctors to describe the fetal parts in the most intimate detail and pretty much terrorize them during the proceedings.

If there is a percentage of women who do not know what they are doing when having an abortion, the ethical implications of the act itself and have not weighed the pluses or minuses of the termination, my guess is that it is infinitesimally small. If they choose to educate themselves into the deeper consequences of their actions, that is certainly their privilege but in my opinion we as a society have no right to badger them and hit them over the head with the information, especially during a time of deep emotional stress.

It must surely be a tough decision but I would hope that it remains a woman's decision to be made in consultation with her doctor and not the province of the state or the federal government.

Wag The Dog

A couple scenes from a great movie.

Across the great divide

It should be evident to anyone with half a brain that our fracture is less about ideology these days and more about whose team or ox is getting gored. It is the Republican's turn to cry about U.S. interventionism, in Libya this time. Of course, only a few years ago they were castigating liberals for not standing with their President. You need a scorecard these days to keep it all straight.

Having said that, there has been some refreshing candor on the part of a few Republicans lately in explaining their positions. We are for it because they are against it, let's put ideology aside. Just an old fashioned partisan pissing contest.

A few examples. Senator Mitch McConnell last week on the Libya issue:
From Think Progress:
Speaking with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) acknowledged that there are “clearly divisions” in the GOP over the “constitutionality” and “cost” of the Libyan campaign. However, in a moment of rare candor, McConnell noted that his colleagues might not be so quick to denounce the president if he were a Republican. Asked if he was concerned about “the isolationist streak of some in the Republican Party,” McConnell said, “There is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side”:
MCCONNELL: The only thing I can tell you at this point is that there are differences. I’m not sure that these kind of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president. But I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side. So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to mute them. So yeah, I think there are clearly differences and I think a lot of our members, not having a Republican in the White House, feel more free to express their reservations which might have been somewhat muted during the previous administration.
Translation: We are unprincipled hypocrites but what an opportunity to get a jab in.

And there was Texas Representative Lamar Smith, who is upset with Obama. So upset that he wants to pass a bill that will hamstring the president, but only this president. His bill will forestall the administration from blocking deportation for families of U.S. citizens who are being sent to dangerous countries. Of course this is a power that he pushed for previous Republican Presidents. He sent a letter to Janet Reno in 1999, seeking the exact same authority and leniency.

According to HuffPo, Smith's bill would prevent administrative officials from granting work authorization on a discretionary basis or granting parole or issuing deferred action, except under narrow circumstances. It would also prevent Obama from canceling orders of deportation entirely and from waiving the three- and 10-year barriers to entry for men and women who have been caught illegally present in the United States.

Smith is still supportive of the White House's discretion -- so long as it's another president is living there. The HALT Act provisions would not apply "to the next president whom the American people elect."
Maybe it's just me but I don't remember a time when laws were passed that were solely intended to punish one particular President. This sort of behavior is short sighted and parochial. Naked bullshit politics.

The other day I saw a list of the military incursions by Bush, Reagan, Bush II that never received the approval of congress and appeared to be in contravention of the War Powers Act. It was extensive. And Democrats howled at the time.  So Obama now decides to play the same game, the imperial executive. And it is just as contemptible now as it was then. Tit for tat. He might as well hire John Yoo.

Part of me is really rooting for Michelle Bachmann. We need a Chief Executive who talks to god on a near daily basis. Plus there is a ne'erending stream of great fodder coming out of her piehole. Today she invoked the spirit of John Wayne, a native son from Waterloo, Iowa. Except for one little problem. The John Wayne from Waterloo was in reality clown/serial killer John Wayne Gacy, convicted and executed for murdering 33 young boys in 1994. John Wayne the actor, born Marion Morrison, was from Winterset. Oops!

Ed's picks

an easy and a hard one from Hare brain, tortoise mind.
Ed, the man who supposedly had no interest in art or music, must have been fibbing a little bit. He is originally from Chile and sends me a whole bunch of stuff that I am not familiar with, including this one by Mexican social commentator Astrid Hadad. Don't necessarily understand it but I like it. He also loves Leon Redbone, as does Bill L. I will post some more of his unusual and disparate selections later.

The gorgeous sounds of ladino singer Yasmin Levy. The horn sounds an awful lot like a sheep's bladder.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Junior Brown - My Wife Thinks You're Dead

San Diego de Alcala.

Zorro Garden Nudist Colony - Balboa Park 1935
As a person born in San Diego, and one who has spent the majority of his life here, one would expect that I would know what the words San Diego mean. Until a very short time ago, a person that made that supposition would be dead wrong.

I always supposed that San Diego, first visited by the Portuguese born Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and claimed for Spain under the flag of Castile in 1542, was a diminution of Saint Don. (Now Cabrillo actually named the place San Miguel, after the smallest boat in his fleet but he was suffering from a case of gangrene that he picked up on San Miguel Island and died. It was named San Diego by Sebastian Vizcaino some sixty years later.) Anyway the don appellation would be incorrect. Don translates into Donaldo. Diego is actually a spanish translation for James. Now how do we get Diego from James, you ask?

The answer to our linguistics lesson actually lies in the bible. Ya'akov יעקב was a name given to the grandson of Abraham. It has a loose translation of "he who protects" and is a derivation of the Hebrew word for heel, since he held his twin brother Esau's heel in the story of Genesis.

Ya'akov morphed into the greek word  Ἰάκωβος, Iakobos. In turn Iakobus turned into the latin Iacomus. That in turn changed to Gemmes in French and it was a short stone's throw to James in English. Now it starts to get tricky.

Here the scholars start to differ. Iacomas was also imported into spanish and shortened to Iaco and then Iago. It was either lengthened to Tiago or shortened from Saint Iago into its present construction. Other experts discount this whole line and say that it is merely a construct of the latin term didacus, to be instructed. I have seen this latter line of reasoning completely refuted and tend to agree with the critics.

From Wiki: This form, and its Spanish equivalent "Didaco", were most likely created in retrospect (that is, to translate Diego into Latin, as opposed to being the source of the name Diego). There are no mentions of Spanish people named Didacus during the Middle Ages. During those times, it was common practice to Latinize existing names, as in Ludovicus for Ludwig (Luis in Spanish).

Here is the etymological translation from the Online Etymology Dictionary: Jamesmasc. proper name, name of two of Christ's disciples, late 12c. M.E. vernacular form of L.L. Jacomus (cf. O.Fr. James, Sp. Jaime, It. Giacomo), altered from L. Jacobus (see Jacob). The Welsh form was Iago, the Cornish Jago.

The Hotel St. James was San Diego's first grand building. Bit edwardian looking mansards. Built in 1885, it was once the tallest building in the city. I bought this old tin sign in San Francisco earlier this year, never realizing that the Hotel was actually named for the city I was born in. The hotel was torn down in 1912, and rebuilt the next year. Now a Ramada stands in its place.

Speaking of San Diego, I share with you a picture I  had reproduced at the photo archives of the San Diego Historical Society many years ago. Cabrillo Bridge in 1928, and the lily pond that lay underneath it. I would have loved to see Balboa Park in its infancy.

The Photo Archives in the Park are a great way to spend a rainy day, they have a vast collection of old photographs. Only costs a few bits to research and browse. My favorites are the volumes on the missions and the early photos of the 1915 and 1935 Expositions.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Iron Crotch

You thought you had a bad day at the office? Try perfecting this trick...

China Max

About a month ago a Chinese guy walked into my gallery and wanted to take a look around. He was connected in some tangential way to the San Diego Asian Film Festival and as luck would have it only the Fallbrook Blockbuster had a film in stock that he was  supposed to see. We started chatting and really hit it off.

He told me that his name was Calvin and that he was part of the history department at UCSD, specifically near east studies. I believe that he was studying for his doctorate.

I was the Chief Judge for the Fallbrook Film Festival for the first three years of its life and so we got to talking about movies, we both love samurai flicks and comics, we both read Usagi Yojimbo. We both practiced Kung Fu; he was a student of Wing Chun, I studied Hung Gar and a bit of Wing Chun. We also talked about food, me always on the lookout for a new chinese restaurant.

Yip Man with Bruce Lee 

Calvin asked me for recommendations in Fallbrook and I steered him over to Rosa's. I asked him about chinese food and he sent me this letter.

 Hi Robert,

It was really nice meeting you today.  And, thanks for the Camarones garlic shrimp suggestion at Rosa's.  It was great!

I just recalled that the great samurai movie that I just watched again was Masaki Kobayahi's "Samurai Rebellion" (1967) with Toshiro Mifune.

My favorite place for dim sum in San Diego is China Max, 4698 Convoy St, #101.  They're a little pricey, but the most authentic Hong Kong-style Cantonese dim sum.  At Jasmine and Emerald, they often have over-priced new, fancy dim sum that's not traditional.  My other favorite place because it is good and very cheap is Yum Cha Cafe, 6933 Linda Vista Road.  It's kind of like fast food, you order from the counter, and it's great and cheap.  Pearl Chinese Cuisine in Rancho Bernardo, 11666 Avena Place is also good, authentic, and a little pricey.

I'll stop by to see you again the next time I'm in Fallbrook.



Yesterday Leslie and I decided to try out China Max for lunch. San Diego Magazine recently anointed China Max as best in San Diego. In case you are not aware, Clairemont Mesa is mecca for ethnic food in San Diego, specifically Convoy between Balboa and Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

You can find everything from Afghani to Korean, Vietnamese, crab houses, tofu, noodles, Japanese, Thai, and an incredible array of Chinese restaurants. Lots of great markets, Korean, Japanese and Ranch 99.

My posse normally eats at Jasmine. We pulled into the parking lot at China Max and looked longingly at the Sichuan restaurant on the other side of the parking lot. My allergies are acting up and some industrial strength chili paste would really cut through the muck. But we kept our focus and on Calvin's recommendation entered the two story China Max.

China Max is the kind of Dim Sum restaurant where you order off a menu and they then bring you what you have ordered on carts, We were practically the only caucasians in the restaurant. We filled out our order cards and then waited. Not an interminable wait but a wait nonetheless. Now what is cool about Jasmine is that you sit down, you are rock and rolling. Food is flying at you left and right, like jumping into a shark tank. You look, you like, you eat. Simple.

China Max is more of a traditional stoic affair. Bit more reserved. You order and then wait. No ordering on the fly. We started off with pan grilled crab cakes, which were excellent. Out came a delicious order of shrimp shumai. Out of this world. Nice little bowl of chili paste working, we were set.

Then came barbecued pork in rice noodle, frankly kind of lame. Way too much noodle. Not enough pork. If we had seen it rolling by we would never have ordered it. You quickly learn at Jasmine to forego the slimy rice noodle dishes, there's too much other great food. We both ordered the rice cake treats wrapped in lotus leaf, really tasty but smaller than those we are used to across the street.

We tossed back an order of crab claws and then deep fried shrimp balls and maybe something else and we were toast. Both of us missed our customary salted prawns from Jasmine or the whole barbecued duck we normally get. And the gluttonous frenzy, the orgy of food, especially when accompanied by Brigitte and Morgan.

China Max was good, I will give it another shot but I think I still have to vote for Jasmine. But I also can't wait to try Yum Cha.

By the way this is a picture of my Kung Fu instructor Sifu John Vihilidal's teacher, Sifu John Leong of the Seattle Kung Fu Club, one of the oldest Kung Fu schools in the nation. He helped bring the southern five animal style Hung Gar to America.

Melissa sends this over. A chinese blogger is thrown in jail for a bad review, calling the food too salty. The Taiwanese court said that it was an unfair evaluation after only one meal. Think it can't happen here?

We are NOT the Incredible String Band - 1968

This is a video of The Incredible String Band's reunion at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer. That is old friend, ace photographer and blast contributor Stan Schnier (New York Stan) on lap steel. You and the band sound incredible, Stan!


Sign, Fallbrook Hospital
I have been wracking my brain trying to come with a word that expresses the new technological dread that I (and I imagine we) find ourselves beset with. Until I come up with something better I am going to use a moniker that I coined in the wee hours of the morning, cybermaw.

Cybermaw is what happens when you have been phished, slammed, hacked, spywared, identity stolen, find yourself talking to a recorded announcement (or screaming at a recorded announcement), had your password stolen, lost your password, facebooked, crashed your hard drive, been social networked to death, linked in, have had your pin stolen, bounced back, been unlocked, had all the money pulled out of your account, trojan horsed, darpa'd, credit cards jacked, been data mined, had your emails read by the government, falsely relegated as a spammer, had your picture subjected to facial recognition software, are under government surveillance, forgot about some automatic payments that have been deducted from your account for years after you have stopped using god knows what service, have been falsely branded as an enemy of the state and otherwise scammed by some similar perversion.

I lost the good function of my primary email account over a year ago. Pacbell.net is a very early suffix and doesn't work quite right in the machines anymore. Some of my email gets to me. Some of it bounces back to sender and oblivion. Yahoo points at Apple, Apple points at ATT but the reality is I am caught up in the dance and it is now not trustworthy and I am forced to use Gmail instead of my favored Macmail. Because some level 3 tech isn't capable of rational thought or is too lazy to care, I have lost the utility and function of my primary cyber address.

In any case I have a pervading sense of doom about many things digital in our new age. I feel strangled when I hear about waitresses in restaurants surreptitiously running your card through that special card reader in the other pocket or the gas station operator whose skimming machine is actually in the pump itself. Or the scanning systems that get all your information by just driving by within 15' of your card or person. I feel sick to my stomach with the whole wave. And its only going to get worse.

I have never felt comfortable about banking online and use a lot of precaution putting account numbers on line but hey, who can really be protected? There are news of large data thefts every day. The bank that took over the mortgage on my building let me know that the flash drive that had all of my information was lost or stolen last year and I was going to get a year's free Equifax account for my trouble. Paypal, Ebay, Amazon, all vulnerable, we are all basically sitting ducks.

Am I alone in my cyberparanoia?


On an entirely different topic, I have a question. I have been batting this around for a few years and would like some insight from my learned readers. Out of left field, really.

The spanish word for right as in right turn is derecho. The spanish word for right as in personal right or is also derecho. My question is why? Why does a word for a direction and a word for a liberty have the exact same translation in two languages, english and spanish? It can't be a coincidence but it is a definite non sequitur. The two terms have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Spanish is part of a language sub tree called the romanic or vulgar latin languages. At one time there were many of these indo-european languages. The principal surviving ones are Spanish, French, Portugese, Catalan, Italian and Romanian. Others are Aragonese, Aromanian, Arpitan, Asturian, Corsican, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Friulian, Galician, Ladino, Leonese, Lombard, Mirandese, Neapolitan, Occitan, Piedmontese, Romansh, Sardinian, Sicilian, Venetian and Walloon.

The English language belongs to the Anglo-Frisian sub-group of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic family. Other sister tongues are german and anglic. It originated in England in the fifth century after Britain was settled by Anglo Saxons from Germany and further influenced by the Norse.

I looked into this linguistic aberration a little bit this morning. The english word right comes from the old english word riht meaning "to lead straight; to guide; to rule." Left evolved from Old English lyft, which meant "weak". A question is in order. How did going straight ahead come to mean the same thing as facing starboard?

The latin word for right is dexter, or skillful. Left is sinistro or wrong. The left handed were thought to be tools of the devil. Left is translated as gauche in French, which means lacking in grace.

I still can not see a connection that will account for the non latin origin of the use of the same word with two different meanings in English and Spanish, two languages with such different etymology. Smart people, please comment.


Saturday afternoon in Fallbrook means that I get to hear the drum circle pounding for three hours or so. I call it the natives are getting restless. I walked down with my wife after brunch the other day and wanted to see how much I could stand. Not much.

White people in a drum circle, especially when you get a whole bunch of them, is a painful affair, at least to my ears. I am no great musician but have played guitar and cello in my lifetime. Noise is filling every little space in every measure, in music we need to occasionally leave notes out and let the music be free. And to occasionally listen.

Drum circles are like a lumbering barge that can only turn very slowly. I don't care if we are talking about hippie drums or native american drums, they are both musically quite primitive.

I was listening the other day and the plodding beat cried out for some dominant instrument to pull it out of its slumber and just cut across the grain. A violin, a horn, something that can tear through the horrible, thick texture. It never occurred. And the more players, the worse it gets. And there were plenty. There were a congalero or two that knew what they were doing but they were lost in the din, amongst the native flutes and the aging hippie noisemakers. Perhaps I would be more tolerant after an ayahuasca or peyote session but I sort of gave that stuff up in college. Now it's just an exedrin headache every other saturday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So What?

Tuesday Musing

Some of you may remember the post. A guy wrote in from Georgia, asking if he could post a guest blog on  the health condition mesothelioma. I corrected his spelling and he got grouchy. Do a guy a favor... I got this letter today from these guys in Florida which I provide as a screenshot along with my reply. You will have to click on the box to see it.


I was killing time in the hospital and I pulled the blog up on the courtesy computer in the ICU lounge. Boy, was I in for a shock! The blog looks like absolute shit in Internet Explorer. The type wasn't right, the thing didn't scale properly, it was all such a sorry, shoddy affair. I gave my PC away last year, I only turned it on during eclipses, preferring the MAC platform. The majority of you, according to my stat analysis, are using IE on Windows.

I humbly suggest you consider using Firefox or Chrome or some alternative browser on your PC if you want to see things as they were intended to be viewed.


My neighbor is a driller. He drills for perc tests and things like that. He gave me one of his coveted business t-shirts the other day and I decided to wear it today. The message can be construed as having negative racial and sexual connotations, if that is the spirit you wish to perceive it.

It's funny how things happen. I had to go to the ATM and a lovely black woman pulled in next to me in her Lexus. I gulped and did my business at the machine. She never saw it. Looked up and the black box boy from Fresh and Easy gave me a broad smile. He never saw it but I was acutely aware of it. Wearing this shirt is definitely an interesting sociological experiment. I wonder how I would feel if somebody showed up in my shop with a t-shirt emblazoned with a hooked nose money lender?


Regarding masks, I saw an interesting one the other day. A short man with what was once a baby face, but now hidden under a very hard body emblazoned with prison tats. I looked at him and had a minor epiphany. Beneath every tough caricature like this lies a scared little boy who has once been deeply wounded. The brittle adornment is compensation, a psyche's attempt to say back off, do not enter. I am not a psychologist, I only play one on the internet, but next time you see a hard bitten vato with ink scribbles on his neck, do a quick psychic assessment for evidence of childhood scarring.


President Obama's aides have announced that his views on gay marriage are evolving and that it should now be best left to the states. Which is interesting because he also  joined forces with the power companies against those same states when it comes to energy policy and regulation in regards to power plant emissions, arguing that it is the sole province of the EPA.

With every passing week, I find that this is a man without intellectual integrity or deeply held values. I can honestly see myself sitting out the next election. I had hope but it was quickly squashed when it became apparent that the incrementalist in chief was just another lousy politician.


Speaking of politics, it would be a shame if, as is being reported, huge numbers of republicans would refuse to support Huntsman or Romney because they were mormons and not christians. We are not electing a pope. Another great example illustrating the importance of separating church and state.


The little love affair between Hamas and Fatah sure didn't last too long, did it. What will the administration do now that their new best friends are on the outs?


Has the government instituted a full scale news lockdown on a nuclear incident in Omaha? Read this article in the Nation.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bryan Ferry --- " Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues "


Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind and the benefits of being thoughtless

I am reading an interesting book called Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind, how intelligence increases when you think less. It is not a new book, it was written by the british psychologist and buddhist scholar Dr. Guy Claxton in 1997. I haven't got all that far but the book is very intriguing.

Claxton writes about three different modes of thinking, each with its own inherent processing speed; fast, reflexive, faster than thought thinking that he calls wits, D or deliberative thinking, which is very analytical and lastly, slow knowing, a dreamy, contemplative mode of thinking. It is Claxton's postulation that this type of thinking is oft the most satisfactory and effective mode of problem solving, a process that is everything D-mode is not, a process that doesn't rush to conceptualize, leaving us with a more supple, agile mind. He talks about the brain's plasticity and how this last type of thinking might be our best cognitive bet.

One of the interesting things in the book is his use of puzzles. And I leave you with a famous one. The Luchins Jars. Answer later.

Claxton notes that researchers Abraham and Edith Luchins demonstrated the importance of shifting into slow thinking in 1942. These tests took place in their lab. Milton Rokeach discusses the tests in his "The effect of perception time upon the rigidness and concreteness of thinking" Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol 40. (1950) pp. 206-16.

Imagine that you are standing beside a lake and that you are given three empty jars of different sizes. The first holds 17 pints, the second jar holds 37 pints of water and the third 6 pints. Your job is to see whether, using these three jars, you can measure out exactly 8 pints.

Next solve the problem with 31, 61 and 4 pints and end up with 22.

Finally 23, 49 and 3 pints and finish our experiment with 20 pints.

Please email me or post the answer to comments. No fair looking it up. I finally arrived at the proper answer but typically, not in typical fashion.

Water to Wine © Rick Griffin Estate

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quotes from Sylvia Plath

 And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I've a call.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.
Kiss me and you will see how important I am.
There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.
"Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences." 
"Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted." 
"What did my arms do before they held you?" 
"I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . . . . I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world." 
"There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart -
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge,
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes."
— Sylvia Plath (Ariel: The Restored Edition: A Facsimile of Plath's Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement)

Lay down

The wonderfully throated Melanie Safka accompanied by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life moves forward

Last week is over. Every one performed their roles properly and life reached its expected and inevitable conclusion. Leslie and I want to thank you on behalf of the whole family for your tremendous support. Your calls and letters mean so much to all of us.


I have been playing a lot of guitar, my long neglected instrument.


The Citrus Label Show looks fantastic, my last show with the library. Try to see it, some of the work is simply gorgeous. This is a label from my personal collection that is not in the show.


My saturday morning photographer's coffee klatch is starting its own blog, Redneck Shutters.


We stopped at Cucina Urbana yet again, on one of the trips back from Coronado. Amazing meal once again, won't go into it at length but did have this beautiful plate of a full marrow bone with garlic crostini. Heaven. Pardon the blur, cell phone.


This is a picture looking up at the trunk of my sequoia sempervirens, or redwood tree. Redwoods belong to the tallest tree species in the world, Sequoioideae, a subfamily of Cupressaceae, or Cypress. I have two redwoods, planted by Jasper Lalli in 1970 and they are now very, very big. This one is well over 80 feet tall. The girth is ginormous.

I have never watered them, my elevation of 525' is right over a water table and the Santa Margarita River aquifer and their long roots allow a free, permanent drink.


We knew the Fukushima radiation disaster was bad, but did we know it was this bad? Shawn sends me this disturbing article from Al Jazeera. What happened to the good old days when the CEO of the Tokyo Electric and Power Company would kneel down in front of the country and disembowel himself in shame for his perfidy? Kids today just ain't got no respect.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It makes no difference

Funny Cartoon Characters Quiz

My buddy Deli Guy, who is planning to set sail soon for bluer waters with his first mate, asked me to come by and take a look at a few things he was planning to scuttle and make sure he wasn't giving away some buried treasure.

Deli Guy had a box of aluminum molds of these cute little cartoon figures. They are threaded on the bottom of the metal post. I am having a temporary cartoon character brain freeze and was wondering if anyone could help figure out who these orphans really are.

They look like they were hatched somewhere between the fifties and sixties. The rubber figures were probably produced from these very molds. About eight inches, stem to stern.

If you could be specific I would appreciate it. For the sake of conversation I will give them names but I am in the dark here; Little mouse figure, Sylvester the cat, Elsie the Cow, Bambi, a lovely one with a nice deco detail verso, a shmaltzy little bird and Dumbo.

I have duplicates of some of these as well. Maybe we can find them a new home?

Are these critters Disney, Hannah Barbera or what? I have to believe that some one in the blast universe can reveal their true identities and shed light on what we are holding. If it was Zap Comics or Your Mother's Oats I would have instant recall but unfortunately I had my coming of age in a different era. Wasn't paying attention.