November 30, 2007
Will This Damn Rain Never Cease?
Okay, it's been well more than 12 hours and way more than half an inch, so okay, the rain can stop now, any time.
"best known as the former Vice President/failed presidential candidate turned Nobel Peace Prize-winning global warming campaigner"
I'm linking to this article only because I want to highlight that bit: "[Al Gore] best known as the former Vice President/failed presidential candidate turned Nobel Peace Prize-winning global warming campaigner" It just rolls off the tongue. Is there a pension connected to that title?
Pope Makes It Personal
"Pope Benedict, in a new encyclical released on Friday, said atheism was responsible for some of the 'greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice' in history." What the mutha-fuckin-christ does the pot think it's doing calling the aluminum foil black? The extraordinarily ill-informed German seems to equate Marxism with atheism. Did Pope skip out on his logic classes?
A wonderful collection of party photos from some time back. Somebody said the 60s, but it could've been the 70s in Missouri.
Last Saturday, Emrys and I went to Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek, California. This is a great place. It's a 3-acre garden of mostly succulents and other drought-tolerant plants. Ruth Bancroft started collecting succulents in the 1950s and began moving them from her greenhouses to this garden in 1972. She'll be 100 years old in October 2008, and I think she's still in the process of moving things from the greenhouses to the garden. At least she's still gardening - even getting down and dirty in it.
The place is overwatered with its own well water which, our tour guide told us, is rich in boron. That's bad for some plants, I take it, and those anti-boronic vegetables have died, clearing the way for the boron-tolerant.
As a result of all the water and being in an environment not quite as hot and dry as Our Favorite Desert, a lot of the desert plants in Bancroft Gardens have grown gi-fucking-normous. They've got yuccas as tall as redwoods and agaves with flowers so huge that to stand near them on a windy day is to risk swift death. Here's a page where they document the whole process of the flowering of a Agave marmorata.
You can see my set of photos here, and these are a few samples:
The Naked Firefighter
I guess I didn't link to the original story about a firefighter being photographed while entering his fire station naked in Johnson City, New York. It was all over the news, and I thought it more likely that he was caught while trying to get a photo of himself to share online with those who love naked firefighters. He was arraigned this week, but the interesting thing is the comments from the local townsfolk. Do they all mis-speak and use double entendres like this, or was the reporter doing some creative editing?
"He needs to be punished for it, I think he does because it's not fair to anybody who brings their kids outside," says Arvella Randolph of Johnson City.
"When somebody does something very in lewd and indecent, they should be charged with it," says Monty Jones of Johnson City.
"The firefighter just was pulling a prank, nothing big," says Courtney Holcomb of Johnson City.
"I think he was just fooling around with his fellow firefighters having a good time and it got out of hand," says Marjorie McKay of Johnson City.
Gay Visitors to Palm Springs
The Bay Area Reporter reviews resorts, bars, restaurants and more for gay visitors to the Palm Springs area. They seem to like almost everything.
These Are Good!
I spotted these Candy Cane Joe-Joe's at Trader Joe's yesterday. I suppose the incorrect apostrophe is meant only to echo the apostrophe in the store name. I'm not much of a cookie man, by which I mean that I can resist them when shopping, but put a box of cookies in front of me and I will inhale them. But these appealed to me. I do like Oreos, and these are similar to Oreos except they have peppermint candy bits mixed in, and I love peppermint. Reading the ingredients I could find nothing that would absolutely stop me from buying them (no high-fructose corn syrup, for example).
So I bought 'em, and they are wonderful! From my Googling around on the subject, they seem to be a seasonal item, and last year they sold out well before Christmas in some markets.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
On the day after Thanksgiving, rather than doing our patriotic duty of sitting in traffic to get to the malls so we could stand in lines so we could squeeze into crowded stores so we could shove aside other shoppers to grab crap we didn't need, we visited the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Real Rain Right Now!
This is wonderful! I awoke to a dark morning with actual, real, steady rain falling from the sky...and it's still falling! The Weather Channel predicts we may get half an inch today! That is almost as much rain as we've received this whole year, and flooding will result, but we really, really need this. I haven't seen rain like this here for over 2½ years.
I've got lots of plants, including half-grown trees, that have NEVER been rained on. I hope they know what to do with it. I feel like I should go out there and explain things to them, but they're probably too busy to listen.
Next week: desert flowers!
November 29, 2007
Another Divine Manifestation
They say it's the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but it looks more like ET's face to me.
Fresno Buys Asus Eee PC
Fresno Unified schools have bought 1,000 mini-laptops to be used in 16 schools. They had been looking for a computer small enough to fit on on a student's desk along with his other materials. They settled on the Asus Eee PC 4G [fixed link] which has a 7-inch wide display, an Intel CPU, Wi-Fi, built-in camera, and a 4 Gb flash-based hard drive. Most interesting is that it comes loaded with Linux (although you are supposed to be able to install Windows XP on it), and it costs only $199 [see comments], which is the same price as the One Laptop Per Child Project (whose special offer has been extended to December 31).
Scandinavian families will love it, but it will be easily lost in their clothing.
UPDATE: "Microsoft announced plans today to expand support for Windows XP on budget flash-storage computing devices with an eye towards getting Windows XP running on the OLPC." It would also help if you want to run Windows on the Asus Eee PC.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving I was called in for jury duty in Indio. The particular case I almost sat on was a man accused of "annoying" [a misdemeanor] a 13-year old girl last August. While I was curious to find out what the legal definition of "annoying" might be, I didn't want to be detained in Indio for three days (as the judge promised). My passage to freedom came when the prosecuting attorney got up to explain a few things and ask us questions. She was so bad that the judge had to interrupt her several times to correct or clarify what she was stumbling through. I let my exasperation show in my usual way with eye-rolling and grimaces and telling her once that I simply couldn't understand her question. I was getting angry that while the accused might really have "annoyed" some girl, we were going to waste time and money in a trial that the prosecution couldn't win simply due to its own incompetence. Apparently, the prosecutor was good at mind-reading and I was one of the first jurors she "thanked and excused."
The up side of this is that during our 90-minute lunch break (ah, memories of government employment!) I got to walk around downtown Indio and it was a great little walk. In central Indio there are sidewalks almost everywhere on both sides of all streets, and ALL the dogs are properly restrained. Do I need to say it? This is in marked contrast with Desert Hot Springs. I got a few photos:
Megan, in her The Kiwi Travel Blog, tells us that she visited Desert Hot Springs, staying at Miracle Springs Resort and seems to have enjoyed it. We learn the surprising fact that DHS is "one of the 8 'towns' that make up greater Palm Springs."
She also visited Joshua Tree National Park which she compares to a Dr. Seuss book.
And speaking of Joshua Tree, here is a site with fourteen 5-Star reviews of the national park. Doesn't get any better than that.
New Google Maps Feature
Google has added a "Terrain" button to its maps and taken away the "Hybrid" button. If you click on the "Satellite" button a checkbox appears underneath it that allows you turn labels on or off. With labels turned on you get the same old view you would get with hybrid view.
Terrain view is not a photograph, like satellite view, but shows topographical features much better than the plain map view. Here are three screen grabs illustrating, respectively, terrain view, satellite view and the map view of Desert Hot Springs:
Mission Santa Cruz
Last Friday, before visiting Mission Santa Clara, we visited Mission Santa Cruz, also known as Misión la exaltación de la Santa Cruz, in (drumroll please) Santa Cruz, California. A couple of interesting things about this particular mission is that the Holy Cross Church was built in 1889 on the site of the original mission church which was destroyed in an 1857 earthquake. A half-size replica of the mission church was erected nearby in the early 20th century. According to Alex Tabone, the state park ranger at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historical Park which owns the only original building left standing from the mission, the design of the replica mission church was based on drawings made by a French visitor to the area 20 years after the church had been destroyed. He had never seen the original.
The single original building that is in the state park still exists because it was a residential building and people continued to occupy it even after the mission was secularized. The last resident of the building agreed to donate it to the state of California upon her death, and established a life estate for herself. She lived to be 101 years old, so the building didn't actually come into the possession of the state park system until the 1990s. The state park removed a century and a half of modernizations to restore it, as much as possible, to a nearly original state.
If you go visit you will be fortunate, indeed, if you also get Mr. Tabone for your tour guide. He's one of those rare government employees who is still young and fresh enough to be excited about his job, so his delivery is very entertaining. If you also happen to like 'em red-headed, bearded and scruffy, you will enjoy the tour immensely.
Despite Mr. Tabone's excited delivery, I observed that he must be adhering to some carefully crafted guidelines on terminology. There were no references to Christianity, Catholicism, priests or the cross. The priests were called "Padres," and the Indians who were forced to live and work in the mission under threats of violence while their children were held separately in either the nunnery or the soldiers' barracks were called "neophytes" even though the obvious word to describe them was "slaves." The word "church" was used only once, when we were told that the neophytes went to church upon awakening and then again in the evening after work. He did not say the neophytes "attended mass" but "went to church."
Here's a short Wikipedia article about Mission Santa Cruz where we learn this: "On October 12, 1812 Father Andrés Quintana was beaten to death and his body disfigured (allegedly, his testicles were smashed) by natives angry over his use of a metal-tipped whip in the punishment of Mission laborers." We are reassured that the spirit of liberty and resistance to tyranny thrived even in Indians in Mexico.
My set of photos is here, and these are a few samples:
Another Happy Visitor
Poetry Evolution recently visited Desert Hot Springs, staying at Sagewater Spa and seems to have enjoyed it:
I've been here a little over 24 hours and have another 40 or so to go before the two hour drive back home to L.A. I've gotten through a couple of journals, organized some poems for submissions, read that New Yorker article and gotten half-way through the crossword puzzle. Dinner is over, I've watched enough TV for the day, so it must be time for a soak in the hot tub, where, who knows, under those magnificent stars, inhaling the good, clean, dry air, any number of transcendent poems may arrive to fill up the rest of my evening.
November 28, 2007
From men camping in tents to men driving luxury motor homes, to Gay campgrounds and even spiritual retreat centers, A PORTABLE TRIBE presents a unique look into some of the lesser seen parts of Gay male culture.
Judging from this preview video and the still photos on the film's website, they did some filming at both Starland Retreat and at CMEN's West Coast Gathering, along with visits to several other clothed camping areas.
November 27, 2007
CNET's Worst 10
CNET has gone to the trouble to list its "top ten terrible tech products." "the gadgets and concepts we felt really surpassed themselves in being utterly crapulous. Many of these travesties aimed to reinvent the wheel, but were plagued by huge dollops of fail." The 10:
- The Sinclair C5 - an electric vehicle from 1985 with a top speed of 15 MPH.
- The Barcode Battler - a handheld video game from 1991.
- The Squircle - an MP3 player with zero memory and terrible sound quality.
- Gizmondo - a game console with terrible games, such as Momma Can I Mow the Lawn? The director of Gizmondo was the guy who crashed the $1 million Ferrari on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
- Tamagotchi - the most intensely irritating toy ever.
- Apple Puck Mouse - round with a single button.
- Atari Jaguar - a failed game console.
- Amstrad E-m@iler Telephone - a phone that could send email.
- Sony rootkit CDs - "the worst product anyone has ever released in the history of the music industry."
- Windows Vista
One More Way To Recover a Hard Drive
Heat it up in a double boiler. If you've tried everything else, you might as well try this before giving up on it entirely.