Apex point - © Robert Sommers 2024

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Funny How Time Slips Away

Watchful eyes


The robot can see you now. UCSD study shows that people preferred the advice of AI chatbot to doctors.

And they're more empathetic. The article here

new study led by researchers at UC San Diego explores how artificial intelligence compares to human expertise in the workaday task of dashing off quick responses to routine medical questions.

Published Friday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the paper finds that ChatGPT, the world-upending chatbot with a seemingly-infinite breadth of training, was able to more than hold its own when its responses were judged by a panel of experts against those made by flesh-and-blood physicians.

Evaluators found they “preferred the chatbot responses to the physician responses,” in 78 percent of evaluations made. What’s more, chatbot responses were found to be of a “significantly higher quality” than those from humans. And, in terms of empathy, an area where people would intuitively seem to have an edge, silicon again excelled.

“Chatbot responses were rated significantly more empathetic than physician responses,” the paper states.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Chopin: Etude Op. 10 No. 5 in G flat major

This beautiful piece of music was written by Chopin in 1833 at the age of 23. It is now known as the "Black Keys" etude as the right hand solely strikes black keys. The Polish composer Frederic Chopin wrote 27 etudes overall.
I was listening to the piece on public radio this morning and the host said that when a child is introduced to the piano they instinctively reach for the black keys. I wonder why that is?

Beautifully played here by Bruce Liu, Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris.

In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, Charlie Brown asks Schroeder how he’s able to play such complicated pieces on his toy piano when the black keys are just painted on? 
His answer was that he "practiced a lot."

Red tailed eyass


The baby red tailed hawks are growing quickly.

It is interesting to see how fast they develop their musculature.

Physiology advances quickly with raptors. Note the food in the nest that mother has left for them. She is leaving the nest for longer and longer periods now.

One of my true yearly joys watching this take place.

Curry Time

It is two o'clock in the morning but my sleep cycle is out of whack so I think I will try to stay up and write for a while, can always finish in the real morning, that time of day when the sun is up and not just a slivered moon.

It has been a hell of a week. Amazing what you can pack in when you don't really have another choice. I drove back from San Francisco on Monday, unpacked the van and put some money in the very depleted bank account on Tuesday, had surgery Wednesday, tried to chill out Thursday and then went back to see another specialist down in Hillcrest yesterday.

Sort of a whirlwind.

This procedure was easier to take than the one two weeks ago, less bleeding and no complications so far. I did wonder if I had developed a hernia, had a lot of pain in my right groin and abdomen. But I ran into my cancer doctor at the elevator yesterday and she told me that the tumor was in a really difficult position, high up in the bladder and an immediate right turn. 

She told me that she really had to press and bang around hard down there in order to do whatever she did and wondered if I was hurting? So now I know why I hurt, would not have had a clue. By the way, I am really lucky and fortunate to have this doctor, she has bought me at least two years and saved my bladder and prostate, while everyone else had counted me out. Found me the BCG too, which is very hard to get.

Many people in San Diego owe a lot to Carol Salem and I am in awe of this hard working doctor. I am not out of the woods but she has given me a chance and I appreciate it very greatly.


After a lunch with Ron and Lena, post doctor visit today I went home and embarked on one of my more complicated culinary explorations.

I have been doing a lot of roasts, chops, shanks and the like and my wife told me she was ready for a bit more ethnic cooking. She loves Indian food and asked me to make her an Indian curry. I based my recipe on this one I found on YouTube with some minor tweaks. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this took over six or seven hours to prepare.

I tell people that I have never been a cook in our over thirty year marriage and there is a story there. Over thirty years ago I attempted to make a very complicated Chinese velvet chicken dish from Claiborne or the Joy of Cooking.

It was a disaster. The dish didn't turn out and there was oil literally splattered on the ceiling of the kitchen. And everywhere else. It all got away from me and I was effectively banished from the kitchen forever and rightly so. Total implosion.

As you know, for the last three or four months I have been slowly cooking my way back in, developing chops and confidence, not to mention better basic kitchen skills and habits, like clean as you go.

So back to my curry. I have never been a huge fan of Indian cuisine because so much of the food you find here is poorly made and I have had bad reactions to too much garam masala, the spice composite that is featured in so much of the fare. Fine, I would make it myself.

I bought organic thighs and drumsticks, washed them and patted them dry. I pulled out the ancient cuisinart and added half an onion, six cloves of garlic and ginger. I microplaned fresh turmeric root and added it to the mix and finally added a cup of whole plain yogurt. I boiled some raw cashews and added them to my processor.

I pureed it as fine as I could and made a paste.

I pulled out my stainless marinade bowl and poured the paste over the chicken. I then added the kasmiri chili powder, garam masala, curry powder and smoky turmeric. 

Added oil, salt, pepper and some sugar to balance the heat. 

Took my rings off, washed my hands and mixed it all together by hand.

Beautiful colors in this dish, satisfies my inner artist.

I added a serrano chile which I de-seeded, two bay leaves, cardamom, coriander, tomato paste and I forget what else and put it all in a bag to marinade in the fridge for two hours or so.

I pulled the ziplock out at the appointed time and placed the contents in my dutch oven on the stovetop, let it sit for about an hour at room temp.

I peeled potatoes and purple carrots to the pot and pre heated the oven.

I never exactly found a dutch oven curry recipe that went into the oven so I sort of improvised. 

Stuck it in a 400 degree oven for fifty minutes covered and then another fifty with the top off, ladling over the spicy concoction every fifteen minutes or so.

Leslie came home with naan and made a beautiful raita dish with fresh cucumber, yogurt and serrano chile.

Chopped up some cilantro and sprinkled it on top.

We had a very nice dinner, she gave it top mark. I could have cut the potatoes smaller and omitted the carrots altogether. Agreed.

Next time I will try a 24 hour marinade but the chicken was absolutely delicious and not overpowering in any sense.

I am proud of my meal.

Piquant and flavorful but easy on the sore tummy. Curried potatoes were delightful.

She said that she has cooked for thirty two years and that now it is my turn.

Cool thing is that now that the tables are turned, she gets to do the dishes!

My next curry will be a Thai or Malaysian curry with coconut milk I think. 

I have about ten meals planned ahead in my mind.  

A beautiful pork fennel lemon ragu I found comes immediately to the fore. Have another moose roast to cook as well. Need to keep the bread going and the sourdough pizza dough.

Yesterday I bought aji amillo paste at Northgate. Hard to find. Soon I will attempt my favorite Peruvian dish, aji de gallina.

Bon appetito!

Friday, April 28, 2023


The wisdom of Marjorie Taylor Greene

“People are not affecting climate change. You’re not going to tell me that back in the ice age, how much (sic) taxes did people pay, and how many changes did governments make to melt the ice? The climate is going to continue to change.”

“How much taxes and how much money did the people back in the ice age spend to warm up the Earth? Maybe, perhaps, we live on a ball that rotates around the sun, that flies through the universe, and maybe our climate just changes.” Marjorie Taylor Greene

[Ed. note: a learned person will understand that the last age started approximately 100,000 years ago and ended about 25,000 years ago. There was a brief period in the 1700's called the little ice age where there was widespread glacialization but somehow I doubt that is what she was referring to. There were no governments 25kya, to the best of our knowledge anyway and the concept of taxes was as yet, unknown. Governments were not paying to "melt the ice." Thankfully, she got the part about the earth revolving around the sun correctly.]

Hawk babies

I took the first pictures of the young red tailed hawk chicks in the nest yesterday afternoon. It wasn't optimal light but I expect that there will be many more opportunities and I will eventually drag the prime lens and tripod out.

As you can see, there are two of them. As usual, one had been hiding.

This morning in the lovely cold and dewey dawn, the mother was back on top and keeping them nice and warm.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Conservative compassion

Back at the Senate hearings... 

One of the Democrats’ witnesses, Amanda Zurawski, told senators how during her second trimester, her water prematurely broke, meaning that there was no way that her daughter, named Willow, would survive, and if she did not get access to an abortion she could die due to septic shock.

Because of Texas’ law, her doctors could only perform an abortion if there was no fetal heartbeat or unless her life was in danger. 

Septic shock, known as blood poisoning, can kill a person within hours. Zurawski said the closest medical center that could have performed an abortion was eight hours away, and she and her husband didn’t want to risk her going into septic shock in a car ride or in an airplane. 

“I cannot adequately put into words the trauma and despair that comes with waiting to either lose your own life, your child’s, or both,” she said. “Would Willow’s heart stop, or would I deteriorate to the brink of death?”

She said three days later she went into septic shock. Zurawski said she was briefly stable and gave birth to her daughter, who was stillborn. She then spent several days in the ICU.
Pretty heartbreaking story at Salon. Amanda Zurawski had a pregnancy complication with her cervix that could have proved fatal for both her and her fetus and needed an abortion in Texas. 

Fearing the draconian laws there that could lead to her doctors being prosecuted for murder, the doctors refused to help her and she went septic and almost died. 

She may not be able to give birth again.

"We've heard a lot today about the mental trauma and the negative harmful effects on a person's psychological well-being after they have an abortion, supposedly, and I'm curious why that's not relevant for me as well," Zurawski said.

"Because I wasn't permitted to have an abortion and the trauma and the PTSD and the depression that I have dealt with in the eight months since this happened to me is paralyzing," she added. "On top of that, I am still struggling to have children."

She spoke at a Senate hearing yesterday. Neither Senators Cruz or Cornyn attended the hearing although they were in Washington. Cornyn says she has a good medical malpractice case, showing no compassion whatsoever to her physical and emotional trauma. The little weasel Cruz said nothing at all.

It is no wonder that obstetricians and maternal health professionals are leaving the red states in droves. Like this woman in Idaho.

Pamela Parker, an OB/GYN who worked for years in Texas along the Rio Grande, said she left the state following the enactment of its six-week abortion ban because she could no longer work in such a restrictive climate.

“As I seek jobs, I keep the Guttmacher map on my desktop,” Parker said, referring to the reproductive rights research organization that tracks state restrictions on abortion. “I get a lot of requests for temporary or permanent jobs from states with bans, and I let them know why I would not ever practice in their state.”

Not for astronauts

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

(There's a) Hole In the Bucket

Sleeping Sprite

But I'll still sing you love songs, written in the letter of your name.The rain is gonna come, oh it surely looks like rain. Bob Weir/John Barlow

It was almost a year before I saw the forest sprite hidden in the rocks of this picture I took of Jemez Falls.

There were other curious things found in this picture, perhaps we will revisit them another day.

I needed to be at the hospital in Hillcrest at 8:30 a.m. for my surgery this morning.

Traffic was horrible, thank god for Leslie and the carpool lane. Got there in the nick of time.

She dropped me off in front of Scripps and I made my way to the now very familiar Surgery Center on the second floor.

Can do it with my eyes closed.

They had initially thought I could be there for six hours, ended up taking a little more than four.

I met my cancer doctor for a brief instant and then the anesthesiologist, who was a pretty chill dude.

We went over my allergies and contraindication history and decided on the cocktail to put me out. I had only one request, I needed to go to sleep listening to the Grateful Dead. He said not a problem.

My i.v in place in my left arm (the veins in the right elbow now full of scar tissue from too many pokes,) I was wheeled to the operating room. I talked a bit about Asian food with my nurse, who was of Chinese extraction but grew up in Arlington Heights. She went to Loyola. The anesthesiologist chimed in that he went to Northwestern.

This was a good sign, I have always got along exceedingly well with Chicago people. They found my station, channel 23 and soon I heard Bob Weir letting me know that it looks like rain. I was hoping for a Jerry song but it would do and soon I was entering my torpor accompanied by the dulcet guitar licks of Mr. Garcia. It is a long time habit of mine and all of my doctors to date have played along.

I told them that they could switch to polka for all I care while I was out.

I came to and felt pretty good considering. Made small talk with a burka'd Somali woman in the recovery room. Took a couple tylenol for discomfort and Leslie showed up right on time. A lot of people have balance issues waking up but I am an old hand and instantly had my sea legs.

I hadn't eaten or drank since the night before and we decided to go get some noodles, my de rigueur method of recuperation. 

We hightailed it to my current fave, Shan Xi Magic Kitchen on Balboa.

It is my ultimate comfort food, beef brisket and fat hand ripped noodles. 

Gets no better.

Chased it down with their excellent salted and vinegar-ed cucumbers.

Not as good as Spicy City but close.

Afterwards we went next door to the great and super clean Chinese Bakery, Tastee for some sweet treats including an excellent eclair.

We drove home and I started to feel the surgery. I laid down and chilled for most of the afternoon. 

It was miserable two weeks ago and I hope that I don't repeat that.

Doesn't feel good but I have felt worse.

I am not sure when I will get my biopsy results but will let those of you interested know. 

It is the waiting stage right now, whatever will be, will be. If I can get through the next ten days without a UTI or complication I will feel very blessed.

I have an appointment with a different doctor down there on Friday but will cancel unless I feel a whole lot better. Need to chill.

I appreciate all your good wishes and the beautiful flowers from Blake, Kim and John.


The only real bummer, short of having my penis ported with a hard tubular object and my bladder scraped and burned like a piece of charred salmon skin stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan, is that I saw what I weighed on the scale today. 

My habit is not to look but I stupidly did today. Turns out that all this cooking I have been doing has pushed my payload up twelve lbs., now past the eighth of a ton mark. Jesus

Will definitely leave this mortal coil with a gluttonous smile, if that is what is in the cards. 

Thanks for following along at home.

Fingers still crossed.

daily dose

Indiana kids must climb under or over a train to get to school - ProPublica

Boomers, don't expect a lot of affection from the millennials.

Race wokeness and organ transplants - Reason

Hamilton's Pharmacopeia

Kentucky set to auction off AR - 15 used in Louisville mass shooting.

New Mexico races to save its acequias.

Third grade teacher in Texas reprimanded for teaching children about constitutional rights.

Kyrsten Sinema has a net favorability rating in her state of -23. As in minus. And boy does she have expensive tastes.

WaPoOne hundred years ago, the Mississippi state Senate voted to evict the state’s Black residents — the majority of its total population — not just out of Mississippi, but out of the country.

Tucker Carlson's mother left him one dollar in her will.

Bring itA federal appeals court Wednesday rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying before a federal grand jury that’s investigating the former president’s role in the Jan. 6 riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Big troubleFulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking to remove a lawyer from representing 10 Georgia Republicans who served as fake 2020 electors for Donald Trump after several of them allegedly accused a fellow elector of breaking state law last week.

Tuesday's filing also alleged that attorney Kimberly Burroughs Debrow also failed to notify her clients of potential immunity deals that prosecutors offered last summer. The court filing also asked to have Debrow removed from the case after she and her co-counsel at the time, Holly Pierson, appeared to have ignored a July 2022 order from the judge overseeing the investigation to make clear to the fake electors that they could take immunity deals. But when prosecutors interviewed some of the fake electors last week, they were surprised to hear that no potential offer of immunity had ever been discussed with them, the court filing said.

More here.

Gun death rates are consistently higher in rural areas than in big cities, two decades of data show.

From 2011 to 2020, the most rural counties in the U.S. had a 37% higher rate of gun deaths per capita than the most urban counties, according to research published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery. That's up from a 25% difference from 2000 to 2010.

America First Legal is suing the Mars Corporation for trying to bring more women into the workplace and leadership teams.

Citing Mars' stated goal to "achieve gender balance across one hundred percent of its leadership teams" as well to ensure "leadership teams and Associate representation... reflect the race and ethnicities of the labor force in the markets in which it operates," AFL argued the company is effectively establishing quotas based on immutable characteristics in violation of Title VII.AFL also claimed the company's "Commitment to Inclusion & Diversity" statement "demonstrates how deeply unlawful discrimination is embedded in Mars’s employment and contracting practices."


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Tool - Chocolate Chip Trip


I am back from my week working up in San Francisco. The show went fairly well although my one large sale imploded unfortunately and came back. Man said the painting was too small.

I grinded it out all week, made a little money here, sold a few things for a loss, but stayed very focused and did what I had to do all in all, so I feel pretty good about my effort. Kept the dogs from the door for a month or two.


The first night up I stayed with one of my oldest and closest friends in Oakland, the best cook Leslie and I know, Melissa.

She made me a feast, lemon lime risotto, pea shoots, scape and pork ribs with her own phenomenal proprietary dry coffee rub.

I had never heard of scapes before. It turns out that it is a type of edible garlic stalk. 

One lady comes up from Santa Cruz with them and Melissa had bought them at the Farmer's Market earlier that day.

Absolutely delicious meal.

Later she turned me on to a great selection of specialty spices that she had bought in New York.

I can't wait to try them in my own cooking, aji gallina, coming right up!


I had an unfortunate fall at my hotel, a sidewalk that was about three inches too high. I caught it with my toe and flew about eight feet.

Scraped myself up pretty good. Wrist, hands and shoulders sprained.

It took a day for the manager at the Bay Landing to return my call. He breathed a sigh of relief when I told him that I was not litigious but that I wanted him to get the sidewalk fixed.

That afternoon it was painted. I asked for a free room for Sunday night but received nothing from them whatsoever but an offer to upgrade to a suite for free, something I had no interest in.

I guess that is the way the cookie (or Robbie) crumbles. Nice hotel really, with the exception of the bad sidewalks.


Dave, Melissa and I ate at the HL Peninsula Pearl one night next door. 

I thought the meal was fantastic; the best sweet and sour pork I have ever had, vermicelli with clams, short ribs and braised duck with ginger and scallions.

I have read reviews that the service is bad, they were wonderful with us. We were practically the only non asians there. I had eaten at their sister hot pot place next door last time.

The manage said that if we were to ever return, he would stand outside and hold the door open for us. 


It was a great experience. They gave us cool little mango piggies for dessert.


Everything else about the trip is sort of melting together.

Sunday I worked until four, then packed out for three hours and finally drove two hours to a "safe" hotel in the Central Valley to stay for the night. 

I was worried about the East Bay, way too many break ins to press my luck another night with the truck on the street.

There were homeless people congregating around the front of my sanctuary hotel when I got there. Oh shit. This was my third night there and I was worried all night. Cops and screaming throughout my stay but I still had a van and a catalytic converter in the morning. Yippee!


I met up with Renee at Harris Ranch for breakfast. She was driving up to be with her grandkids. and we were pretty close to passing on the freeway. Prime rib and eggs for me. Good to see my bud.

I got home around five, after awful traffic on the 71.

Unloaded the van today. Felt good, body feels good.


I get my bladder biopsy tomorrow morning. 

It usually makes me feel like hell for about five days, hope it is not as bad as two weeks ago where I had some unusual bleeding for about ten days.

Not a lot of rest for the wicked. Pushin' too hard as the Seeds song goes but really no alternative.

We will see how it all shakes out.

I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Happy 4-20!


Enjoy your special day, my cannabis toking comrades.

And remember to leave no turn unstoned!


I am staying at a nice hotel on the San Francisco Bay. When I checked in yesterday they gave me room 421. 

I asked the guy if he could switch me next door  to room 420 but it was occupied. 

Would have been fun to celebrate 420 in room 420 but I was just a little bit off.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Curtains for McCurtain

The McCurtain County, Oklahoma story is flying under the national radar. Pretty sickening. Check it out. The FBI is now investigating. Sheriff and council members are secretly recording discussing how to murder an investigative reporter.

The FBI has launched an investigation in McCurtain County following a disturbing recording obtained by News 9. The recording, captured by Gazette reporter Bruce Willingham, revealed county officials discussing plans to beat, kill and bury two newspaper reporters in Idabel, including Willingham's son, Chris."I was completely appalled and frightened, quite frankly," said Willingham upon discovering the recording.

He says he left his recording device inside a McCurtain County commissioners' meeting, where he intended to prove the officials were holding secret meetings.

However, he ended up getting much more than he bargained for.The more than three hours of audio recordings include discussions about hiring hitmen to carry out the murders.

"I've known two or three hit men, they're very quiet guys, yeah, who would cut no f*** mercy, yeah, in Louisiana, cause it's all mafia around here," said one of the county officials.

The recordings also include discussions about where the reporters' bodies could be buried. Willingham identified Sheriff Kevin Clardy, commissioners Mark Jennings and Robert Beck, and Alecia Manning with the sheriff's department as some of the people heard in the recording. 

In the recording, Jennings also appears to complain about not being able to hang Black people, saying: “They got more rights than we got.”
The conversation also included complaints about District Attorney Mark Matloff, district judges and Black people. One of those present, reportedly Jennings', says he longed for the day when law officers could knock Blacks around, throw them jail and "take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a rope."

"I can see where they might try to spend that as being a joke that part, but then Alecia comes back later on and starts talking about my daughter-in-law and she starts getting worried about who would get the blame. I don't see how you spin that as a joke," Willingham said. Willingham has turned the full audio over to the FBI and the Oklahoma Attorney General's office. The investigation is ongoing.

The Governor has called for all of the officials to resign. More here

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings

Taquito Time


There was a good article online the other day about El Indio in San Diego. They claim that they invented the taquito and they very well may have. 

El Indio was founded in 1940 on the corner of India and Grape Streets by a man named Ralph Pesqueira Sr. A worker at one of the local airplane factories at the time, he started El Indio as a tortilla factory alongside his parents.

“It was like a little tortilla factory where they were making tortillas by hand,” his granddaughter and third-generation owner of El Indio, Jennifer Pesqueira, said to FOX5SanDiego.com. “He worked in the local factory making airplanes during the night and then worked in El Indio during the day with his parents.”

El Indio has been a part of the San Diego landscape for a long time. My friend Tom did a lot of concrete work there for them. Amazing that they are responsible for something a ubiquitous as the taquito, or at least they brought it up from Sonora.

I am a San Diego native but must confess to never have been a huge fan of the place. It was good but there were other places I liked better.  I thought their tortilla conveyor was cool.

When I ran a construction crew we used to go to a place on Imperial Avenue that sold ten taquitos for a dollar and we would literally order hundreds of them to go for lunch. Can't remember the name, might have been Chueys.

The first Mexican restaurant I remember going to as a kid was Don Jose's, maybe the Sombrero. Consuelos. There is a good rundown on historic Mexican food in San Diego here

Two places that are not mentioned on the list are Bea's Rancho Chico and the first fast food Mexican restaurant I can ever remember, Azteca Taco on Rosecrans.

Bea's was owned by a friend of my boss. Azteca was seemingly there forever but I don't believe exists any more. They were there late fifties or early sixties and up. That was the place we usually stopped. 

Later Eden Gardens became the destination for Mex. Tony's Jacal, The Bluebird and Fidel's. Everybody had their favorite, mine was probably Tony's with their turkey offerings. Robertito's showed up finally and basically changed the taco landscape forever with its stores and their imitators.

Any of you long time San Diegans ever yearn for their old taco shop? Which one?

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Fat Man in the Bathtub



I left very early this morning and shot this picture in near darkness, 12,800 iso. 

I think the mother was protecting a chick at her chest but can't be sure. But I believe so, in fact there might be two in front of her...