Jelly, jelly so fine

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Say what?

Funny article in the New York Times today. It says that in the early 1990's a chef in Australia named Bill Granger decided to see what would happen if you spread avocado on toast? Imagine? They claim the guy invented the stuff.

That is frankly hysterical. As a kid I lived on a large, old avocado ranch in La Mesa on Fuerte Drive. We were eating them on toast when I was five years old. I now live in a community named Fallbrook that has been known for many decades as the Avocado Capitol of the World. We live off a section of the interstate known as the Avocado Highway.

I am sure that we have been supplanted along the way because of high water prices but the area is still Avocado Central. Lots of production, now unfortunately mostly hass instead of my beloved fuerte. I have lived here for forty years and have grown at least some avocados here for the entire time.

They were eating avocado toast when I came here and probably at least seventy years before that. Mike Port and Marion Clemmons were probably munching on avocado toast while Teddy Roosevelt was marching up San Juan Hill. Avocado toast was standard hippie food in Encinitas in the 1970's when I lived there. With a little cheese and some Mrs. Dash Spike.You yuppie guacamole johnny come lately's need to take a deep breath and put down the crack pipe. Probably couldn't tell the difference between a Reed and a Topa topa to save your life. Journalism these days.

passing thought

Trump cares as much about possible corruption in the Ukraine as he does about pollution and water quality in California. As in, not at all.

Oh, and you have a homework assignment. Read up on and familiarize yourself with the Epoch Times. There will be a quiz later.

The Poor Side Of Town

Volcan de fuego

Honorable Mention, Landscape. Volcán De Fuego.

Jonathan Hill sent pictures over from the Nature Conservancy 2019 photo contest. I love this one. It was taken in Guatemala. Reminds me of a cell from Fantasia.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sunflower River Blues

Health update

Been a tough week. High fever, vomiting, pissing blood heavily for several days. Back pain. Muscle weakness. Nausea. Other shit. I may have a post operative infection. I called the doctor's office repeatedly yesterday, they kept sending me to voice mail, even when I got through to a live person I was sent to phone purgatory.

By the time someone actually got in touch with me, it was the end of the day and I was a hundred miles away. Fever has broken. I feel better. Will see them and run some tests Monday morning.

Never give up the fight

Stand up for what you believe in

Indian Peace Flag - 1803
With William Barr running interference like Trump's personal lawyer and Mitch McConnell at the helm of the Senate, it is doubtful that that legislative body will ever even take up impeachment, let alone remove the titular head of the Republican body. So any future benefit from the exercise will be pyrrhic at best.

Yet I think it was indeed time for it to happen, with a clear case of the President asking a foreign country to dig up dirt on his principal political opponent in exchange for a release of a bunch of money they needed in order to keep the Russian bear away from their door.

People were worried about the effect of such a push on swing state freshman democrats but they are out there in front of the issue, making their own political prospects subordinate to doing what they feel is the right thing to do.

Last Monday seven freshman democrats wrote an oped pushing for impeachment in the Washington Post. Very courageous, I applaud them.

I was listening to MSNBC yesterday, might have been Chris Matthews, he had two Republican lobbyists on and one of them was I think very prescient. In his mind, this kerfuffle will have no effect at all on the Trump base, the core supporters. They have next to no knowledge of the Ukrainian matter, because they don't read or view so called mainstream news, they get their news from Twitter, Breitbart, Fox and Sinclair, the latter three slant every story in favor of this administration.

He said it is all about the primaries and the primaries are about throwing red meat to the faithful. Don't expect a bunch of Republican congressmen or women to go against their leader on this, they would be committing instant career suicide and if there is one thing they care about more than their principles, it is getting re-elected.

So we may hear from a Romney in a rare Republican Mormon state that can't stand the immoral Trump or maybe a few GOP governors, the rest of them will be silent and all in. Because he goes down, they might go down too. Again, pointless as the impeachment might be, it is nice for people to stand up and be counted. On both sides. People will remember.

Lee Michaels

Donnie Diva

Every human being will age, it is inevitable. With Presidents of the United States, it seems like it is even more noticeable and the whole world gets to see it in real time.  Saw it with Reagan, too. Obama went gray very quickly, the stress of the job on any man or woman would be excruciating, regardless of party.

Alex Wong - Getty Images
Yuri Gripas - Reuters
It looks to me like Donald Trump, a man most fastidious about his appearance, image and looks, has hit the tipping point.

Saul Loeb - Getty
The stress lines and wrinkles are much more visible of late. The eyes are baggier, the lighter color a serious point of contrast with the orange airbrush surround.

It gives him a real reverse raccoon look. The skin looks ruddy and terrible, perhaps all the fast food intake has finally caught up? Getting heavier too.

Hey, he is seventy three years old, he's no spring chicken. Guy looks plainly beaten up. The combover, surprisingly, is a bright spot, looks impervious to father time, but I understand it takes hours to construct and I believe that the position of the actual true hairline will be a mystery for the ages like the sphinx or pyramids.

He is definitely wearing his age and showing the stress. That's what happens to people who "have to swing at every pitch" as Chris Christie described him last week. And it is only going to get worse. Might be time for him to retire. Looks like Dorian Gray has seen his portrait. Not going to be pretty.

Song for Judith

Princess of the night

Many years ago, Leslie and I placed sections of hylocereus undatus, the epiphytic cactus that bears the pitahaya or dragon fruit, in the crooks of our pindo palm, butia capitata. Now it completely covers the entire trunk. The stout tree doesn't seem to mind a bit.

In August and September we are treated to magnificent, near continuous displays of its foot wide blossoms, like this picture that I share with you. By the way, if you have a butia palm, try the fruit, one of the most delicious tastes of my garden, that is why the tree is also called a jelly palm. High in carotene and vitamin A.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Another time and place


My niece sent this picture of her two children, my great nieces, over today.

They were running for Uncle Robert in the Toronto Annual Run for Cancer.

So sweet! Thank you girls.

Go fund him

Feeling patriotic? Want to do something important and tangible for your country? Why not throw a few bucks towards the anonymous CIA whistleblower so that he can get adequate legal representation? I did.

Here is the link to the page at GoFundMe. For the price of a cheap dinner you can help support democracy and the rule of law in our time.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

T.B. sheets

Why Your Brain Thinks These Strawberries Are Red

Astronomer's Tower, Griffith Park w/ mammatus cloud formation


A lot of websites have multiple trolls, I fortunately only have one. A lot of my readers don't agree with my politics but we try to give each other room. But my troll is the most contemptuous piece of shit one could ever imagine. Hangs around merely to be nasty. Been lurking in the shadows for a while. I try not to feed him, have asked him repeatedly to get lost and delete pretty much all of his bilious offerings with regularity, but I thought I should share today's comment with you just to show you what a demented heap of offal this anonymous coward is.

Can you imagine a decent human being saying something like this to a person who is ill? And not having the guts to sign his name, the lowlife, coward motherfucker. I tell you what Troll, come on by and even in the shape I am in, I will rearrange your fucking face. This is definitely your last salvo I will publish, go back to torturing small animals, widows and orphans or whatever it is that you do. Your presence on this earth is an insult to humanity. What a boring, wasted life you must live to have to exist as an unwanted, friendless, party crasher. Find a new fetish. Next time you get the urge to write me, I suggest that you gargle with razor blades instead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Promontory Rider

Robert Hunter - 3/1/80 Capitol Theater

Burn the paper

I talked to the mortgage company today. One more check this week and I finally pay off my first. Thirty years, wow, it went by in a flash of a second. My home is looking really beautiful right now, thanks to Leslie and our neighbor Todd, who has been spiffing out my palms.

I took out a second for funds to buy the commercial building so I'm not completely free and out of the woods but it sure feels good to get at least one payment out of the way.

I love my humble country home, my garden, my river, the peaceful Santa Margarita valley, the hawks and hummers, the views of Gavilan mountain in front of me. Once you taste this type of secluded privacy and freedom it is awfully hard to go back to compression, in any form. A slice of the wonderful old California that has now mostly been destroyed. I really don't think we could replace its particular brand of magic anywhere. I have been very lucky and we've somehow made it this far.

Angel From Montgomery

Double dealer

I don't want to go off too deeply about politics, there are plenty of places you can find it if you choose. But I would like to point you to this article in today's National Review by Jonah Goldberg.

He points out the most inane facet of the Trump spin on Ukraine, the supposed desire to ferret out corruption in foreign countries.
We’re supposed to believe a president who has never shown an iota of real concern over corruption in China, Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, North Korea, and elsewhere is upset about the one corruption story that coincidentally touches on the potential Democratic opponent who’s crushing him in the polls?
I thought the same thing, oh now Trump cares about corruption. Since when?

It is easy to see how the pressure was applied to Ukraine, the smoking gun is still sitting there, smoking on the memorandum. But not according to Lindsey Graham or Doug Collins or Jim Jordan, there can't be a quid pro quo because the squeeze was performed so artfully and he never overtly said "You want your cash you will play ball." Most mob bosses are too smart to do that. Trump certainly is. And of course, this is all redacted summaries from third parties. Have to wonder if the phone call is on tape and what was really said.

A letter from the Pentagon surfaced today that is interesting:
A newly uncovered letter from the Pentagon debunks one of President Donald Trump’s excuses for delaying aid to Ukraine in late July.

On Monday, Trump suggested he had withheld the aid to Ukraine only because he wanted to make sure the funds weren’t going to a corrupt government.
“If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” Trump said.
But a letter from the Defense Department sent to Congress in May, first obtained by NPR, shows that the Pentagon had “certified” that Ukraine had taken sufficient measures to combat corruption and was therefore was eligible for aid–before Trump’s call.
“On behalf of the Secretary of Defense, and in coordination with the Secretary of State, I have certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by U.S. assistance,” wrote John Rood, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
On Tuesday, Trump had changed his excuse for delaying the aid, telling reporters he had done so because he wanted “other countries to put up money.”
Guy can pivot on a dime. So he told the Ukrainians he needed to root out a corruption problem in their country that had been cleared by our experts back in May and in the Ukraine two years ago after an investigation. Then he conveniently changed his story when things got a little hot and said the money was being held up so other countries could contribute. And Republicans still believe him?

I like National Review because although it is a purely conservative magazine, most of the contributors have enough integrity to call a spade a spade and not bullshit around with the spin. All of them except for Rich Lowry anyway. And I may rarely agree with David French or Williamson, but they always make a coherent intellectual argument. It is one of the few right wing websites that doesn't march in constant lockstep with Trump. Jim Geraghty also had an interesting column today.

You just know that there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who loathe our unprincipled President but won't say anything because he is mostly following their agenda and if you speak up you might get your head chopped off and sent to Siberia. They are all in for this guy.

Who will speak out against the orange one now that he has taken over the G.O.P. besides Romney on occasion and John McCain's widow? Sasse has been shut down, Susan Collins is basically worthless, Flake is gone. Graham likes to plant fat kisses on his behind.

And campaign flack Brad Parscale is in a frothy wet dream about a continuing Trump dynasty, hope it's one of the younger kids they're grooming and not Ivanka, Eric or Junior. Tiffany seems cool.

Anyway, one day this bad dream will be over and like rats scurrying off a fiery barge, Trumps' sycophants and enablers will crete as much space as they can, disavow any political connection to him and try to pretend that everything can now return to normal order.

And they will agree that deficits are bad, and clean air and water are important, that America is a land for every color and creed, that you don't cozy up to foreign dictators, that there needs to be legislative oversight, don't believe foreign powers should interfere in our elections, don't think Presidents should have the right to elicit aid from foreign countries in order to dig up dirt on their political opponents and that we need to impose some limits on executive power, well, if a Democrat is elected anyway. And pretend that they still have moral values and principals and that we the American public won't remember their names, their perfidy or their treason or really are just too stupid to care.

Dodged a bullet, hit by the ricochet

What a couple weeks we have had. Me, the country, my world seems to have slipped off its axis and entered free fall insanity.

I was so worried about my kidney, I really didn't think that much about the bladder tumors, had licked them so many times before. Then the MRI came back and it turns out that the kidney anomaly is inconclusive and maybe nothing to worry about. Whoopee, out of the clear! Only now it turns out the bladder is serious business indeed. Two nasty carcinomas of the worst type resected, implanted firmly in the lamina wall. One other tumor of lesser import.

Doctor said it was not a question of if they come back, but when? And all that fancy stuff I used on them last time, well, it doesn't work on these bad boys. And if that isn't rotten enough, one of them is only a centimeter away from the ureter, a transportation pipeline to the rest of my innards. Very nasty, very aggressive creature, and all it takes is one cell for it to travel and spread. The doctor was worried about what he might have already stirred up during the resection.

I looked at the cancer on the initial cystoscope. Very ugly stuff. Like a many headed asymmetric crystal form, with spiked and chamfered terminal points. The hydra. An invader from within, a devious opponent who literally might be the death of me. I stared at this evil beast who is bent on my destruction. You won't beat me, you ruthless bastard.

Doctor sort of washed his hands of me, after the pathology reports I was apparently beyond his ability to cure. See you later, good luck. Next patient. He told me that there are very few people around who are indeed capable of dealing with my specific problem, a guy at USC and a man at UCSD. I called the latter, he was closest. Can't see me for another three weeks unfortunately, he's booked and time is of the essence for me. I am on a cancellation list and am hoping I get a chance to see him sooner than that.

I was hoping for a gradual, incremental approach but there is a good chance that I lose the entire organ and get a stoma port or an artificial bladder of some kind. I don't know, I really don't. The operation is an all day affair and a week in the hospital. I was cautioned that the port is an entrance point to the body for all sorts of infections and that I would need to exercise serious caution, my lifestyle would certainly be be seriously impacted if I was to undergo such a draconian cure.

My friends, family and clients have been beyond wonderful, you sometimes forget how many people love you.

Thank you everybody for being in my corner.

It is going to be a very interesting ride.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Ray Price

Best shots are the ones you never took...

In case that you have not noticed, I am a rather visual guy. Been painting and drawing and shooting photographs since I was a wee lad. I have lived a life rich in peak visual experiences. And being a chronicler, and prone to compare, at times I indulge in thinking about the most beautiful things and places I have ever seen. Besides staring into Leslie's eyes, of course.

And funny enough, I have no visual record of any of the peak moments. It is almost like that they were so sublime that they could not risk being captured, less they fail in some way, which they surely would in contrast to the original.

But here is my top list of sights.

1. When I was seventeen or eighteen I was on a beach on the Red Sea called Nuweba. It was given back to Egypt when Israel relinquished the Sinai. Visualize a desert oasis, the most gorgeously purple scalloped Saudi Arabian peaks just across the water way. Incredibly hot, Bedouins squatted near their date palms and camels casually sauntered by. I used to be a diver and the undersea fauna was more vibrant than anything I have ever see in the Caribbean or elsewhere. Unparalleled beauty and sunset, my peak experience.

2. A double rainbow goodbye in Banff as I was leaving British Columbia on my great hitchhiking year off from high school in 1974. So beautiful it stopped my breath, the arced rays hanging between two misty mountains.

3. Walking with Leslie in Haleakala Crater, Maui as the colors shifted beneath us like a Matisse painting. Sublime.

4. A crested eagle sitting on a fence post in Northern Kenya, its tuft falling forward over his or her face.

5.  One hundred and twenty feet down on an uncharted dive spot on the north wall of Grand Cayman. Looking up at the beautiful sun refracted in the water above me. Incredible feelings of happiness and elation coursed through my body.

6. Driving through the beautiful postcard like snowy vignettes of Tierra Amarilla one New Mexico winter.

7. Les and I drove through the Olympic Peninsula in the dead of winter, towards Hoodsport on the 101. Our northern most rain forest, its tinkly crystalline beauty was beyond exquisite.

8. Snorkeling in the beautiful lagoon of Xelha in the Mayan Riviera near Tulum. I swam with a huge leopard ray, indescribably beautiful.

Attics of My Life

"When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me..."

Tuesday Mail Call

It has mostly been well wishers, your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated. But a few other things have come in from the Blast's G Mailtrain.

Like this bull snake the dang fool Steve Saylor almost stepped on hiking in New Mexico. Said he ended up dancing quite a jig. Steve, not the snake.

Steve also had the pleasure of a visit from this young bobcat on his Santa Fe garden wall. I have never shot a cat in the wild, outside of Africa anyway, it's on my bucket list.

Warmboe sent me this picture of a bunch of circling buzzards and asked me if I thought it was a good omen? Perhaps I watched too many cartoons as a kid Bill, but I would have to say no, not so great... But hey, I could be wrong.

J.B. lives in Alaska half the year. He doesn't kill for the sake of killing or trophies, he feeds his family. Dispatched this big moose this week, food for the next six months.

One of the greatest and most powerful lyricists and poets of my or any other generation has passed away, Robert Hunter. Godspeed Bob. Your contributions were inestimably big.

My great pal Lena took some nice closeup shots at the Woodie show in Encinitas.

Melissa loves this new Robbie Robertson version of the Weight.

My first love Abby sends me this pic. Thanks Abby! Love you forever.


An old man was on his deathbed at home.

Suddenly, the aroma of his favorite cookies baking in the oven wafted up to him. My wife, still a doll! With all his might he pulled himself out of bed and walked shakily down the stairs. Wavering down the hallway and into the kitchen, he sees the first batch cooling on the counter.

He slowly reaches for one when the spatula crashes across his hand.

"Keep your hands off. They're for the funeral!"

Young peregrine falcon soaring

Monday, September 23, 2019

Coming back to me

September 23

The day started out bad and it only got worse. I will not share all the gory details of the events of the morning but will let you know that the pathology reports came in; the cancer that has returned to my bladder is very aggressive and very dangerous, really like nothing I have ever fought before.

Lots of potential complications.

If I get through this it will require some painful decisions and sacrifices that I am not really emotionally prepared for at this moment. But I will be.

Moving forward.

If this sort of real life vérité is too painful and difficult for you to process, I would pass on it for a while. I understand completely and my love for you is not diminished. The rest of you stay tuned.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

One for my baby

Touching base

I will be the first to admit that this is not always the most pleasant blog to follow. I have never been exactly shy about letting you now how I really feel. Emotionally and physically. And having had my share of medical issues over the years, many of you have been along for the entire ride and it's not always a lot of fun. Gets gritty at times. Whiny? Sorry.

Got a note the other day that I should turn down the volume on the doomsday device. Fair enough. Just permit me one last slog through the muck.

This week has been a bit of a bitch. I don't react well with narcotics and pain meds and I didn't get to sleep for two days after the surgery, at least not until four in the morning. It completely destroyed my sleep cycle, I am extremely sensitive to opiates. I couldn't crap either. I have a catheter on the end of my penis. It pinches and hurts. It is an engineering problem that half of you will never experience and the other half should hope and pray to the deity of your choice that you never do experience. Sitting is problematic. Urine bags must be changed with regularity or the pressure intensifies the pain.

It gets removed tomorrow, hopefully without complication. I frankly can't wait. Last time out, when the kidney was removed, I developed prostatitis when I removed the catheter and I am crossing my fingers, wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

So what have I been doing? Mostly been on the computer, wasting time, fighting dopey boredom. Have watched practically every Efren Reyes billiard's competition, starting with his 1994 U.S. Open nine ball win over Nick Varner. Pimple popping videos. Mike Tyson's complete first round knockout tapes. Sparred with some crackers on the Orange County Register. Napped. Been eating like a pig. Trying to stay off the phone. And out of the fridge.

Can't really move too much, my muscles are crying out for movement and exercise. Actually did drive yesterday, to look at some stuff and hope to get more back in the normal groove this week.

All in all, I am still elated that the worst did not occur and that I somehow grabbed another lifeline. I am looking forward to hearing from my doctor on my prognosis tomorrow. Best to all. Looking forward to some very good things.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Strike for survival

I take my hat off and applaud the young people engaging in the Global Climate Strike.

Some reports estimate the number of marchers worldwide at over four million. This makes it likely the largest climate protest in history. Good for them. 

The young people understand what is at stake here. The older fossils are a bit too ossified and co-opted to do anything to right our collective ship.

Of course the nasty right wing media believes that these young people have been totally manipulated and brainwashed, not smart enough to think for themselves.  I personally think that they sell them short. Time to lead or get out of the way.

Foggy Notion

Friday, September 20, 2019

A theosophist meets this eccentric...

I'm not qualified to tell you exactly what ImageNet Roulette is. It describes itself as a provocation, as a warning system against classification, a Cassandra like clarion pointing to the dangers of relying on artificial intelligence and machine learning datasets.

What is ImageNet? It is a huge image database, organized and classified according to the Princeton English language database WordNet.

You have exactly one week to figure it out for yourself, then it is coming down.

The ImageNet Roulette project has achieved its aims.
Starting Friday, September 27th this application will no longer be available online.
ImageNet Roulette was launched earlier this year as part of a broader project to draw attention to the things that can – and regularly do – go wrong when artificial intelligence models are trained on problematic training data.

ImageNet Roulette is trained on the “person” categories from a dataset called ImageNet (developed at Princeton and Stanford Universities in 2009), one of the most widely used training sets in machine learning research and development.

We created ImageNet Roulette as a provocation: it acts as a window into some of the racist, misogynistic, cruel, and simply absurd categorizations embedded within ImageNet. It lets the training set “speak for itself,” and in doing so, highlights why classifying people in this way is unscientific at best, and deeply harmful at worst.

One of the things we struggled with was that if we wanted to show how problematic these ImageNet classes are, it meant showing all the offensive and stereotypical terms they contain. We object deeply to these classifications, yet we think it is important that they are seen, rather than ignored and tacitly accepted. Our hope was that we could spark in others the same sense of shock and dismay that we felt as we studied ImageNet and other benchmark datasets over the last two years.

“Excavating AI” is our investigative article about ImageNet and other problematic training sets. It’s available at https://www.excavating.ai/

A few days ago, the research team responsible for ImageNet announced that after ten years of leaving ImageNet as it was, they will now remove half of the 1.5 million images in the “person” categories. While we may disagree on the extent to which this kind of “technical debiasing” of training data will resolve the deep issues at work, we welcome their recognition of the problem. There needs to be a substantial reassessment of the ethics of how AI is trained, who it harms, and the inbuilt politics of these ‘ways of seeing.’ So we applaud the ImageNet team for taking the first step.

ImageNet Roulette has made its point - it has inspired a long-overdue public conversation about the politics of training data, and we hope it acts as a call to action for the AI community to contend with the potential harms of classifying people.

So, as the Monkees once sang, apparently I am a believer. Only I'm not, not even a closeted worshipper. And my wife is mildly eccentric at times yes, but she is no flake. In fact, she is solid as a rock. I think you are better off with a random fortune cookie than sampling this sort of AI swill but I guess that that is their point.

But you should still amuse us and enter your picture and let me have a looksee.

Reading the linked article is interesting. Computers and machines are not really very good at describing what they see. The newest mirrorless cameras are using ai to fill in the blanks of your photography, supposedly improve autofocus and make what are supposed to be some very educated guesses based on huge databases of other people's pictures of similar subjects. They are largely terrible at it. Adobe tried something similar last year with Sensei and I tried it, it is frankly awful and mostly useless to anyone with their own set of eyes and a brain. How boring.

I read a scientist say something last week that gave me pause. People kill themselves or each other on the roads and freeways all the time. But a psychological maginot line will be crossed when machines or autonomous cars start inadvertently killing us based on algorithms and faulty data collection. How will we react to that and will we ultimately accept it as breaking a few eggs for the greater good?

Tesla kills. Self driving Uber kills. When Robots kill: Artificial intelligence under criminal law.

So am I a theosophist or a microeconomist, which is it?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Ventures - Wipeout

I did not know until recently that the Ventures' amazing late drummer Mel Taylor was the older brother of Canned Heat bass player Larry Taylor. Mel was from Brooklyn. Buddy Rich was too. Billy Cobham grew up there. So did Marky Ramone. How does Brooklyn grow such great drummers?

Google, are you listening?

I was talking to my friend Larry today on my android phone and he mentioned that he and his wife were flying to Canada to visit Jasper National Park next week. They were scheduled to go a few months ago but she fell ill so this is a makeup trip.

I turned my computer on after I hung up a few minutes later. Bang, there was an advertisement from Google for cut rate accommodations to Jasper National Park. This is the second time in a week that it strongly appears that Google is straining my phone conversations for information. Both incidents were very specific and outside the realm of coincidence.

I did a search on "Is google listening to my phone calls?" and got this: Google Is Absolutely Listening to Your Conversations, and It Confirms Why People Don't Trust Big Tech

Every time you say "Hey Google," or physically access the Google Assistant feature on your smartphone or Google Home, your interactions are recorded and those recordings are then potentially reviewed by contractors that Google says are used to improve its products.However, in addition to listening when you give a command, sometimes your device will experience what Google calls a "false accept," which means that your conversation is recorded even though you're not directly engaging with Google Assistant, and haven't given the wake command.That means it's possible for Google's contractors to listen to audio recorded when you're talking to your spouse or on the phone, even when you're not interacting with a Google device.As for your personal information captured, Google says that just 0.2 percent of all audio snippets end up being listened to by the company's language reviewers. And the company does allow you to delete those snippets manually, or automatically after a period of time. 
I'm not sure I still trust the company whose motto was once Don't be evil. Of course that clause was removed from their charter a year ago. So twentieth century...

Maria Callas Live: Bizet's Carmen Habanera, Hamburg 1962

An American of Greek extraction singing in French to a German audience.


I read the other day that the great swath of people who characterize themselves as politically independent is vastly exaggerated. The number of people who don't lean one way or another is down to about seven percent.

So if you harbor the impression that things are getting increasingly nasty and vituperative politically, you are probably right. The partisan split has never felt wider in my lifetime. The left views the right as a bunch of tree hating nazi racists and the right sees the left as a cadre of gun grabbing communists who want everything handed to them for free.

There are many reasons for the division, you are smart enough to figure them out, the current president is not the necessary cause of the disease but merely a symptom. Both sides feel victimized, both are comfortably ensconced in their own private social media and national media echo chambers and the rocks and arrows are flying left and right at a fever pitch.

Our political system certainly contributes its share to the problem. Centrists and moderates from both sides get primaried out, the louder voices from the wings demanding ideological purity and having an unwillingness to compromise. The middle is not a safe and happy place to be anymore. The electoral college was created to keep the majority from dictating to the minority, but I wonder if the founders ever conceived that instead the reverse could happen? Why does a single vote from New York or California have such a small political impact relative to a vote from Wyoming?

This unfair demonization of bi-coastal urban areas is, I believe, feeding the inherent racial animus we now see emerging in our country, the rural white red states are not going to let a bunch of liberal city minority types tell them what they can or not do, socially or in any other way. With an increasing minority demographic projected, rural folks are scared and you see more and more GOP states working to dilute the voting rights and power of hispanic and black voters, through a host of deceptive chicanery and sleight of hand to make voting more difficult and purge the voting rolls.

Try as they might, they just can't find even hundreds of illegal voters, let alone millions. But no matter, it is about framing and perception and fear. I have a lot I want to spill on this and many other subjects but I think I will wait a day and stay chill.


Blood on the skyline

Nashville Skyline is my favorite Dylan album after Blood on the Tracks. Dylan and Johnny Cash's 1969 collaborations made it onto both Skyline and outtakes from John Wesley Harding. Much of the recorded session material was reportedly unfortunately lost forever. Nashville Skyline probably had the most beautiful band musicianship and definitely the best Dylan vocals of any of his albums. Who said he couldn't sing like a canary when he wanted to? Listen to Lay Lady Lay. I guess he didn't care so much afterwards, been there done that. They are releasing a bunch of the unheard Cash/Dylan material. Can't wait.


Sword of Damocles - Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)
Yesterday went very well. Not out of the woods entirely but got extremely good news on the kidney front, the fourth diagnostic test, the MRI with i.v., did not show the anomalies present in the prior catscans and renal ultrasound.

Maybe I dodged a bullet? We, or should I say my doctor, still need to do a lot more analyzation and comparison to be sure of what is going on there but I will take any hope I can get at this point.

The bladder tumors were removed without too much incident. They still need to go through pathology. It is apparently very difficult to gauge their depth because the bladder morphs during their removal. But no matter what, I still have my bladder and that is what was most freaking me out, that and the kidney.

The Doctor agrees with me that going back on B.C.G. would be our best course of effort. I was part of the first study when I first developed bladder cancer thirty four years ago and it seemed to really help me. Unfortunately there is a worldwide shortage and it is in very short supply. Bacille Calmette - Guerin is a tuberculin vaccine and an excellent immunotherapy agent.

I was given a couple oxycodone before my discharge. I hate pain medication but didn't feel like arguing. Was up for a big block of the night, narcotics really interfere with my sleep cycle. Can't drive for twenty four hours, sporting a catheter for five days, need to start my antibiotics but CVS never got the order. I developed prostatitis during my nephrectomy and it was one of the most painful episodes of my life. Need those antibiotics.

So I am chilling out today, a lovely breezy morning at this point.

I like my doctor Saad Juma. He has the worst patient reviews of any doctor I have ever seen but I like and respect him. If you were to believe the online commenters who said to run and not walk away, that the guy was an arrogant prick who was always late, you would think I needed to have my head examined. There was just something about the guy I liked instantly, from one supposed prick to another. He seemed plenty nice to me.

He was my late urologist John Griesman's personal urologist and that means a lot to me and he also worked with my other urologist, Joe Schmidt, who was the teaching urologist at UCSD.  Plus he is a world renowned expert in many subfields including female reconstruction, which is not germane in my case but still impressive.

Funny, an Iraqi, he was also schooled in Canada. Coincidentally, almost all of my doctors have always been Canadian. When I started calling around for a Doctor I sheepishly asked Genesis if they had any Jewish doctors available? Strange, clannish question on my part but I am being straight with you. Anyway they said, "No, Cohen's busy, but we do have an Iraqi Arab." "Done," I said. I like him, competent, smart, direct and straight. I see why John wanted to hire him and why my Doctor Seymour Myers recommended him.

The nurse asked me if I had a religious preference. I told her that I was a follower of the most holy flying spaghetti monster. She said she had never heard of it and Leslie explained that I was a pastafarian. She thought that I had lost my noodle. Funny that this was online today.

Thanks to all of you well wishers. Not taking calls today but I really appreciate your support and am feeling extreme relief, especially with the ray of hope on the remaining kidney.



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

High Voltage Red tailed, SJWA

That's what you get for loving me

Phoenix rising

Jeff Witt, my long absent college roommate who now lives in Virginia North Carolina, sent me this old picture this morning, of the two of us holding up my stained glass window of the phoenix, created so many years ago by the amazing Lali Hough of Escondido. Still have it hanging in my home.

I believe that the bearded fellow on the left is yours truly. Hard to believe that I was ever that skinny, isn't it? The benefits of study aids and clean living (and a healthy dose of mannitol.)

Thanks Jeff.

Please don't bombard Leslie (or me) with phone calls and texts for the next two days. She or I will definitely get in touch and let you know how things are going. I do not want to wear her out. Please.

Let it rock

Home base

Yesterday was a crazy day, a day of tidying up loose ends, ends long in need of tightening.

My cousin, lawyer and great friend Stan dropped everything the other day in order to help get my legal house in order in case of a medical worst case scenario.

Ditto Deb Haydis and her wonderful team at Ameriprise. I then went to the county recorder and recorded new deeds that will protect Leslie if I were to implode or combust.

The afternoon saw me a hundred miles in the other direction, on an intravenous feed in an MRI getting more tests and forking over some serious co-pay.

Lots of deep breathing involved, had some problems getting the contrast to appear, but it finally did, the Roberts' side of the family known for its small veins.

I needed some space before what is to come. I have been through so much of this before, surgery and hospitalization is a bit like jail, you are suddenly cast into a monochromatic vortex where you have little if any control.

Submit and surrender, two things I have little aptitude for. Have to get myself mentally ready for another dip in the pool. This afternoon.

I drove up to my personal home base, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. 19,000 acres of wetlands and I never saw another soul with the exception of a lone hunter making big clouds of dust with his truck as I left. Just how I like it.

It is still pretty dry up there, few ponds are full, won't be optimal for a couple more months, but a bad day there is always better than a good day practically anywhere else.


I took a short hike, looked for the vermilion, never saw it, battled the mosquitos for my precious blood and found myself once again in my natural element.

Not a lot there right now but there were lots of white faced ibis and many egrets and I don't require much more than that. Walker Ponds were pretty dead too.

Many dragonflies around, a whole bunch of red winged blackbirds, coots, a few kestrels and red tailed.

Strange to see a couple pelicans, an uncommon visitor there, at least for me.

I went looking for burrowing owls at a secret new location my pal Larry gave me. Never saw them. Also didn't see a very large hole, bottomed out the van, feared I had done damage but the universe was very kind and merciful to me.

Will take a so-so day there over the alternative of not being there. Hope to return next month. Don't know what I would do without the place.

Monday, September 16, 2019