Thorny

Our current A-hole-in-Chief turns the relationship between the United States and the rest of the civilized world a thorny one, fraught with perceived threats, intended threats, and the very real possibility of a war (declared or not) spanning the Pacific.

Here, I was under the impression that the nearest threats to the US were from the other side of the world, ie, the Middle East, a historically unstable region of the human-inhabited earth.  But a real threat comes much closer, especially to those of us who reside on the Left Coast.  The Rump may feel secure and safe in the abode which his own (current) wife eschews, behind his Secret Service bodyguards (who are better than private security, or no?) from the other Little Man with another monosyllabic (family) name.  The pissing contest between small heads has begun.  If neither will budge, will it be the end of the civilized world?  In this almost Strangelovesque scenario, who will be the cowboy pilot who rides the Bomb to its target?

I harbor absolutely no respect for either of the small(-minded) men who have been crowned the heads of their respective states.  Both came to power with questionable validity, and their presence may well cause a very real turn of events for our species.

But…  what the hell, our species has had its run of a few thousand years, during which it has managed to profoundly change the chemical balance of the planet, so why prevent it from being winked out, like a bad flea infestation?  Or, rather, humans are much more like ticks, who burrow their heads into their hosts and suck their nutrients directly and disgustingly.

When I was talking with someone earlier this week regarding Climate Change, she mentioned recycling and the improvements in energy efficiency of the machines we use.  I asked her if all of this work is not the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?  She just looked at me, and said nothing…

 

 

 

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Confabulate

via Daily Prompt:  Confabulate

To discuss informally;  to chat, perhaps, about a particular topic?  I admit, it’s not a word that comes to my mind very often.  It may be used to describe the conversation during dinner last night at the Abyssinian restaurant where we shared dinner.  It was a little surprising and, I’ll admit, pleasing to me to have Kat take interest and actually engage.  The third person at dinner with us was a young man named James, for whom it was his first outing with the Meetup group for which I serve as one of many Assistant Organizers.  Incidentally, Kat and I happened upon the founder of that Meetup group in front of the restaurant, where she and her husband had decided to dine that evening.  I recognized their dog before I recognized her, though I did peek at her hair, as red as a midsummer’s day is long, and wondered if indeed, it was her.  I didn’t recognize her husband, though, as it’d been several years since I’d met him at a Meetup, but knew who he was once I introduced myself to him after she went inside to secure a table.  They were seated quickly and Kat and I continued standing there until a young man came out and turned out to be our dinner guest for the evening.

Our dinner conversation began outside the restaurant, on the sidewalk.  I had not yet gone in to check the table, and he had been sitting inside, probably wondering where the rest of our party was.  As it turned out, neither of the two women who’d secured seats at our table, nor a man, whom I consider a friend and who later apologized, showed up.  I figured, aloud, that perhaps they’d failed to find parking (it was University Heights, after all) and decided to go home or somewhere else.  The women are now placed on the waitlist for my future events, as there were people on the waiting list who might have attended had the spaces been relinquished and therefore available…

I first asked James if he had any dietary restrictions, and he answered that he’s an omnivore, as are Kat and I.  We ordered a beef entree, a lamb entree, and a vegetable entree to balance the protein.  After we took turns washing our hands, we continued talking about one thing or another until our food came, all served on a single large injera, with additional rolls for our use/consumption.  At the end of the meal, I had the server pack a box for me, and was disappointed when I opened it this afternoon for lunch and found that the injera had not been included…

At any rate, Kat participated in the conversation greatly, I think because there was a single guest with us and I’d gone to the rest room to wash my hands, so she had time to establish a conversation topic.  When I returned with clean hands, I spent much of the rest of the evening listening, as I often enjoy doing (especially because Kat was participating),

At the end of the evening, James thanked me for organizing the dinner, as he’d never had Abyssinian food before, and he found the conversation the most stimulating one he’d had in many days, even months, as the people with whom he interacts on a daily basis are not very intellectual.  I invited him to join us again for another meal in the future.

I was pleased that although the evening had not started off too well, that it ended well.

 

Another Example in Which I am, Once Again, Shown the Limits of the Human View

The event was the third in a series of three workshops focusing on Biomimicry, or the application of “natural solutions” to modern human problems. The presenter, Jacques, goes over the list of “Life’s Principles” presented in a book published some years ago, titled Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus.

What natural chemical processes occur without the most commonly found solvent on the earth: water? One of the women, both practicing architects, with whom I worked during the first exercise insisted that in state parks (presumably in California), there are composting toilets that use no water. My contention (though I didn’t push this point verbally) is that unless the water used in the chemical breakdown of the waste is that limited to that in the waste itself (which is, no doubt, possible), that there is no such thing as a truly dry toilet… except perhaps in the desert, where everything becomes desiccated into dust. I [still] beg to be shown a real example and thus proven wrong…

A study of classically selfish human behavior: The Tragedy of the Commons – Garrett Hardin, 1968

Well, there you go – there is a company, Nature’s Head, that manufactures a composting self-contained unit. I haven’t read the specifications, but can do if/when I need the information.

For the second exercise, I am bowing out, as I’m just not convinced of the usefulness of this particular program besides serving as additional window-dressing for SDG&E. How I’ve become such a fucking cynic is beyond me (at the moment). Maybe I’m just retreating into my introverted self today, as the overly social setting (the exclusively group working environment) is not appealing to me. Perhaps I will retire to Peter’s soon to write some more before going to Kitchens for Good this afternoon. I may even go there (near the Euclid Avenue Trolley/Transit Station) earlier in the day, as then at least I can feel a bit better using my time in a constructive manner, rather than speaking Physics to cows…

The sharing of answers to the second exercise is being done now; lunch begins shortly, and I will take my leave then. I don’t feel any enmity toward the other individual participants themselves, for I don’t know them personally, and it is only really within that context that I hold such emotion. The discussion is, at least, quiet (or at least at low volume). Another architect, a man, puts forward a hypothesis regarding an image that has been presented to them. Apparently the images are “natural” inasmuch as they entail organic processes, including living soil.

The caterer is putting out the drinks for lunch now (lemonade and iced tea, iced in two large plastic urns) on a cart. There are plates, napkins, on the cart as well.

The second exercise has been completed. This workshop is supposed to be about entrepreneurship. I don’t know how these particular exercises relate directly to entrepreneurship, but that’s my narrow view, unfortunately, limiting me.

I don’t think there is anything else happening until lunch is served, so I will prepare my departure.

Elevate

via Daily Prompt: Elevate

It would be a tough thing to elevate any discussion that includes reference to The Rump, and not only for the most obvious reason.  How does one elevate a discussion when the topic at hand is not only unsavory and unseemly, but appears to delight in its lack of class?

Indeed, the current resident of the White House (where he apparently lives alone, since his current trophy wife refuses to lower her standard of living to reside there with him) is not worthy of any kind of elevation.  His stature as President of these United States belies his true nature: a spoiled, unruly, self-promoting waste of a human being.  To call attention to The Rump is itself degrading.  Therefore, I will address something worth elevating:  the likelihood of California becoming the (first) Sanctuary State within the 50 United States of America…

In a recent email sent out by the Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, our city schools will not be places that schoolchildren need to approach with fear, for she has come to an agreement with the San Diego office of Border Patrol (by which I assume she includes INS) and ICE to keep the schools safe from INS invasion, for children need to feel safe in order to learn.  They will be taught, as all children should, that their education is worthwhile and that they are worthy;  children have a  right, regardless of their immigration status, to an education with which to elevate themselves to better circumstances.  If California does not become the nation’s first Sanctuary State, in following with its most populous and popular cities, then it is right that the Superintendents of all California cities forbid their schools from becoming hunting grounds for federal agents to seize innocent children (and their families) whose only crime is to exist.

I wrote the Superintendent a letter of thanks, and I encourage all parents to do the same, regardless of their own or their children’s immigration status.  My letter follows:

Office of the Superintendent
4100 Normal Street, Room 2219
San Diego, CA 92103

6 September 2017

Dear Superintendent Marten:

I write to thank you for your recent email regarding protecting our students’ rights as human beings against unconscionable federal search and seizure while at school, a place that needs to serve as a safe haven for all children to learn and thrive so that they may reach their full potential.

I have been watching, in horror and disgust, the events since the Trump Regime came into office. I, personally, have participated in local actions, contacting my federal and state legislative representatives to argue against many of the draconian, narrow-minded, and short-sighted policies championed by the current Administration. Indeed, I eagerly await news of the regime’s downfall, for which I almost pray daily (I don’t pray almost daily, but, rather, I dearly wish on a daily basis, for I am not a religious person – wishing is as far as I come to prayer to any deity, though I don’t wish to anyone in particular, either).

If I were a religious person, I would shower you with not only gratefulness, but blessings, for you are doing the hard work, based on your passion, that I have found lacking in so many so-called public servants, including our President, who so handily lost the popular vote. Indeed, this is a fact that he cannot, himself, seem to let go, for his tiny, chrystalline ego demands that he puff his chest out to maximize the physical space he inhabits. But I digress…

I wanted to thank you for standing up for our students and their families, without whom the San Diego Community would surely be far worse off.

 

The Court of the County of San Diego has an antiquated computer system that doesn’t know how to communicate between different offices. How is this possible, you may ask: the computers are all in the same department, how can they not communicate through an internal network?

I do not know the answer to this question, but I may bring it up when I go in front of a magistrate on Wednesday. I’m being summoned to court to explain why I didn’t provide the court with proof of service, even though the computer at Probation knows the dates that I served. When I went to their public service desk, they printed out my certificate, one copy for my records and one copy to submit to the court.  Why isn’t their system streamlined so that people don’t get hauled into court at taxpayer expense to tell them what their own department has in their records? It’s a classic example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Unfortunately, I have to go in. I did not send in “proof” of the first time I served time for another traffic infraction, and never heard from them, so I had figured that since I’d served my time, that was enough. Apparently not. They can’t get their shit together to save time and taxpayer dollars because it is not to their benefit, because they can pawn off the cost onto individual citizen, and I am sure they will.

It’s a shit deal for taxpayers of San Diego County to have to pay for an inept court system that doesn’t know how to keep its own paperwork coordinated.

I’ll write a follow-up after I get my (second) day in court…

Lurch, Larch, Lech…

Lurch

When this word come up, the first thing I think of is Addams Family, their butler, named Lurch (or so I assume that’s the spelling, though I’ve never verified it).  Tall, gaunt, with a bass voice bordering on gravelly, he was a great comic character in a pretty funny show.

If I think about lurch as a verb, it comes across as something that I don’t often find myself doing, though I suppose I’ve probably done it while riding on some form of public transit, particularly while standing on a bus as it comes to a sudden start or stop.

The Larch brings up, without fail (in my mind, at least), the repetitious image from Monty Python’s Flying Circus in which there is a picture of a tree, and the voiceover states, “And now, the larch.”  I never understood the significance of this until it was explained to me by a native Englishman, who informed me of the massive planting campaign in England to reforest the nation after the Second World War.  The tree they chose was the larch, and every English person knows of its ubiquity.

The last term is really a shorthand way to refer to a lecherous person (in my experience, it’s typically a man, though I suppose it’s possible for there to be lecherous individuals of all stripes and persuasions), as in “that guy over there is a total lech, don’t shake his hand, you don’t know where it’s been besides inside his pants.”

On another, completely unrelated note, I received, in the post, a letter, supposedly from the Superior Court of California, regarding a fine that I certainly DO NOT OWE since I decided to do community service for my traffic fine and completed my service months ago.  So it must have stemmed from some systemic error and the criminal justice system is at the point of trying to collect money from me, to the tune of $805.  It initially startled and frightened me to receive such a notice, but when I noticed what it was for, I realized that I needed to contact them to correct the matter.  According to the notice, unless I pay or contact them within 20 days of 14 August (a week has gone by already, and I only received this in the post today), they’ll issue a warrant for my arrest and/or suspend my driver’s license.  Under normal circumstances, I really wouldn’t give a shit, because it’s not like I drive very much, anyway.  It’s more just that I’m totally pissed that they fucked up and that they’re going to try to make ME pay for THEIR FUCK-UP!  I know the officers under whom I served my time, so I will tell the court to haul their asses in to have them testify, if necessary, since they’re the ones who would have had to hand in the records of my service.

Yes, I’m pissed.

 

 

Dreaming While Awake

via Daily Prompt: Trance

Sometimes, when I’m riding a San Diego city bus, going to one place or another, but typically on my way home, my attention drifts into the space between my mind and my exterior circumstance.  Occasionally, I’ll miss my stop, though this is occurring less and less frequently, thankfully (although I’m thankful to no-one in particular, as the case may be and is).

Though I haven’t missed my home stop for many months, nay, years, I remember missing seminars and workshops because my somnolence has forced me to ride to the following stop, which can be at quite a distance, before I can turn around and catch the next bus back.  I’ve mistakenly gotten off at an earlier stop than intended because I’ve drifted off and not known how long I was unconscious before regaining awareness, pulling the signal cord too early and getting off the bus only to realize that I’d only winked momentarily and therefore was still a long way from my destination…  Yes, I’ve become sufficiently discombobulated when starting awake that I’ve not noticed where I was before getting off the bus.

Other times, my mind wanders a bit far afield, and I need to reconnect my optic nerve to my attention in order to figure out where I am exactly…

Sometimes, thoughts or daydreams are accompanied by a musical score composed of a piece of music I’ve come to memorize, inconveniently played in fragments so as to become lodged in my brain for the remainder of the day.  If I’m lucky, I know the song well enough to be able to play it through in my head to its conclusion, which will enable my mind to move beyond it instead of becoming trapped in an ever-repeating refrain.

Luckily, this has not happened recently.

Clonal Plumrose Anemones and a Black Plum Sorbet Recipe

Peter and I are planning a trip to Monterrey, California, during the first week of October, when the water should be at its warmest and when we’ll both be free to travel. I will continue to study for the LEED EBOM AP exam and can bring my study materials with me, and Peter does not have any working travel plans that week.

We made the decision to head north instead of south to Bahia de los Angeles, in Baja California, because although the distance is similar, the drive going north, as well as arranging accommodations, will be easier if we remain in California.  We briefly considered heading even further north to Oregon, Washington, or even British Columbia, but settled on a repeat visit to Monterrey, as we’d had good experiences there.

This will be our third trip to Monterrey.  Previous trips found us staying at the Carmel Mission Inn, but this time, we will shop for a deliberately diver-friendly accommodation.  Though we’d had no problems staying at the Carmel Mission Inn, we were rather spoiled by our rooms, especially the second room, on the southwest corner of the top floor.  Each room had a balcony on which to dry our drysuits and hang up gear overnight to drip dry.  It’s a bit pricier than we’d like, given our current finances (really Peter’s finances), and we’re hoping we might find a place potentially closer to Point Lobos State Reserve.

We’ll need to find a new breakfast restaurant, since the one we’d gone to while staying at the Carmel Mission Inn was right across the small carpark behind the hotel.  We’d also gone to nearby restaurants for dinner, either in the same shopping center as the breakfast restaurant or across the street which the hotel fronts.  Perhaps we can find a slightly more urban (read:  pedestrian-oriented) environment so that we don’t have to drive everywhere.

We’re inviting friends who dive to join us.  Tiffany’s family is in NorCal, so she was the first person to whom we’d mentioned the trip (at a viewing of “Chasing Coral,” a very worthwhile, if disheartening, documentary about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef,  now available on Netflix).  Unfortunately, I think Tiffany’s might out of the country, possibly hosting a Power Scuba trip.  Other friends and acquaintances we’ll want to ask will need to check their calendars, as most in academia will likely be ensconced in research or teaching in early October.  If it turns out to be just the two of us, I would not be disappointed, as I enjoy traveling with Peter as a couple.

On another note, I’ve signed up to volunteer for the Community Kitchen Days at Kitchens for Good this coming Wednesday and the following Wednesday.  I will take the bus and trolley, as the drive was a bit nerve-wracking when I went (with Kat) the first time.  I’d told Kat that when she comes with me again, I’ll buy her a transit day pass for $5.  Unfortunately, since it’s a weeknight, it might prove difficult for Kat, since she’ll have schoolwork and other activities…

I took the 20 bus yesterday afternoon to buy eggs.  The first bus I boarded ended up stopping at Miramar Transit Station, so I spent half an hour waiting for the following bus which would take me up to Carmel Mountain Road.  During my wait, I chatted with the driver of the first bus, a man named Billy, who turned out to be a native San Diegan. My first reaction was (as it would be) was that since he’s a native San Diegan, he doesn’t have much reason to go anywhere else.  I gave him a short version of my history, and he asked why it was that I’ve lived in so many places in my life.  It hadn’t occurred to me previously that I’ve lived in *so* many places, especially since a lot of the moving was circumstantial, but then again, I guess I’ve not been particularly interested in remaining in any single particular geographical location, though San Diego has been my longest city of residence since I left Paramus for college.

I showed Billy the Meetup app on my phone. I described to him the concept of Meetup, an online site which enables people to physically meet other people in their cities/regions who have something in common.  He sounded intrigued, and I gave him the web address for Meetup (Meetup.com) and encouraged him to explore it.

I learned that Billy knew Ellen, the former MTS driver whom I’d met through the San Diego Humanist Association or Humanist Fellowship of San Diego (I don’t remember which organization exactly).  He hadn’t realized that she’d even left San Diego, though I told him that it’s been at least many months, of not a few years, since she’d moved to Arizona.

Billy asked if I wanted to ride with him and keep him company this week, as he’ll be driving the 20 route this coming midweek.  I’ve not yet ridden the 20 north of Carmel Mountain Road, so I might just do that if I decide to take him up on his offer.

It turns out that because of purchase limits on eggs, I’ll want to return to the same supermarket twice to buy more eggs, as customers are limited to buying two cartons in a single transaction, and I want to buy two additional cartons for myself, as well as a couple for Peter, since he’s just run out of eggs and won’t be back in town until after the sale is over.  I’ll ask the checkout clerk the next time I go if it’s possible for me to just make two purchases of two cartons each, to save myself the return trip.  Hopefully, I’ll come across a friendly checkout clerk who will allow me to do that.

I harvested some figs yesterday afternoon, and will likely return to return to harvest more midweek, on Wednesday or Thursday.  I cooked the figs with some orange blossom water, almond extract, and apple juice (for added sweetness), then rolled out the short crust pastry I prepared last night to make a 9″x9″ pan of scented fig bars.  I haven’t cut into them yet, but I suspect they’ll be very nice, especially if I try them in concert with the sorbet that Kat helped me to prepare last night:

Fresh Plum and Cherry Sorbet

Ingredients

1.5 lbs. Fresh black plums
1 lb Fresh cherries
1 c Apple juice
1 T Orange blossom water
1 .5 t Almond extract
1 c Granulated sugar

Pit cherries and plums, and place in medium-sized saucepan with apple juice and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half to a third of its starting volume. Add extract and orange blossom water, and continue to cook over medium-low heat until reduced so that a silicone spatula leaves a streak on the bottom of the pan.

Cool mixture to room temperature, then pureé.

Churn in ice cream maker until thickened.  Freeze until desired consistency is reached, probably overnight.  Serve with whipped cream and/or cake or shortbread cookies.

 

Making a Left Turn Without Signaling

While Kat and I were at the Little Italy Farmers’ Market this past Saturday, we stopped by the Easy-Up of a non-profit organization called Kitchens for Good.  They combine great objectives:  decreasing food waste and hunger, increasing levels of nutrition among those on food assistance programs, and reducing unemployment among vulnerable populations.  They take folks who don’t have a lot of training or money to pay for training, teach them a specific skill, then place them in a restaurant that has an opening for what they just learned.  Chefs at local restaurants participate in teaching classes and providing internships (and, subsequently, jobs) for the students to learn over the course of twelve weeks, or one season, how to master the job they will fill upon graduation.

Seeing this example of working towards sustainability on so many fronts makes me reconsider my own path.  While I’ve been taking courses aimed at returning to work in architecture and construction, there’s a part of me that is intrigued by the idea of working as a professional chef, or at least finding out what it’s like in a commercial kitchen, learning the practices, getting used to the working hours and conditions, and experiencing what it’s like to have a direct hand in putting food on the table for others.

The application window for the next session closes next month.  They don’t have next year’s schedule up yet, but I’m considering applying for their program in the winter or spring (the current application period is for this fall’s class).  I don’t know if I would be accepted into the program, or even if I would even like it, but part of me really, really wants to try…

Kitchens for Good also takes volunteers for producing meals that are dispersed throughout San Diego by partner nonprofit entities.  It might serve as a good introduction to the work if I volunteer to create and pack meals that are destined to aid those who would otherwise eat horrible food because they cannot afford (or don’t know about) anything better.

Something to think about, for sure.

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