May 22, 2015

This morning the Islamic State announced that it had taken control of the Torrey Pines golf course. When queried about this unexpected development, President Obama said, "They're advancing, but we're not losing. There's no way we can lose--ISIS spotted me four strokes a side."

I heard some Iraqi big shot say that they wouldn't be getting kicked around so badly if they had more air support. Meaning it's our fault, I guess. It does not, however, escape my attention that they're getting whupped by a force that doesn't have a plane in the sky.

May 22, 2015

Meanwhile, in the District of Columbia, police have arrested one Daron Dylon Wint in the matter of four people who were tortured, murdered, and set on fire. Robin Ficker, an attorney who represented Wint in a previous case in which Wint was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, says, "My impression of him -- I remember him rather well -- is that he wouldn't hurt a fly. He's a very nice person,"

This morning I believe I heard Mr. Ficker, a flamboyant character who has faced certain challenges to his ethics and credibility, and who is well known for his skills as a sports heckler, claim that he has handled 30,000 court cases in his career. He's been practicing law for a loooooong time (42 years), but that still works out to 714 cases per year, or three to four cases on every single day that the courthouse has been open in the last four decades. Golly, that seems like a lot to me.

I also believe that I heard Mr. Ficker, who is certainly not angling to get a bunch of publicity, assert that the police have nothing on Mr. Wint because the pizza crust that allegedly bears Mr. Wint's DNA was found in the garbage can outside the house, not in the house where the crimes were committed. Apparently, if he lands the job of defending Mr. Wint in court, his theory will be that his client, who knew the paterfamilias of the victims and was once arrested for waving a machete outside the family's business, was innocently dumpster-diving for pizza when the unrelated crimes occurred.

Makes me want to pull the covers over my head and sing little happy songs to myself.

May 21, 2015

Here's an interesting excerpt from the obituary of (former) local resident Dan Delton Fulgham:

After the Korean War the U.S. Air Force was aggressively experimenting with high-altitude aircraft and the response of the human body to the near-space environment. Fulgham became the bioastronautics project officer for the X-15, X-20, and XB-70 programs and the sole test parachutist on the X-20 escape system and pressure suit. As part of that work, the then Capt. Fulgham became one of only three USAF master balloonists testing rudimentary space suits of the time by taking balloons to the upper limits of the atmosphere. During one of those exercises conducted near Roswell, NM in May 1959 there was an accident in which his helmet was crushed and he sustained a head injury during landing. The resultant head swelling produced a rather startling physical appearance which was observed by the hospital personnel at Walker Air Force Base where he was taken emergently. In the official Air Force report, Roswell Report – Case Closed, it was concluded that the injured pilot Dan Fulgham was mistaken for “an alien” giving rise to the still vital controversy of the “Roswell Alien”.

May 21, 2015

I'm starting to pull together a Friday-night dinner for a family gathering over the holiday weekend. Today I smoke a brisket until it's almost-not-quite done (maybe 180 degrees), then wrap it and hold it. I'll finish it in the oven tomorrow. I've started a big pot of frijoles. Later I may sautée up some shrimp and chorizo to put in quesadillas, or maybe I'll let that wait for tomorrow morning. The definite task for tomorrow morning is Spanish/Mexican rice—pre-cook it 90% in a lasagna pan and toss it in the oven that night. I'm trying to get as much done ahead of time as I can, because there will be Margaritas to attend to.

Our housekeeper Merced is here today, so we swapped recipes. She's never made brisket, so I showed her the basics. We had a meeting of the minds on Mexican rice—fry it first (she uses lots of oil, then drains it off), add tomato sauce and secret ingredients—but we come at frijoles from completely different directions. I cook ranch beans, which I probably derived from Southern cooking on my mom's side of the family. They're the sort of beans that can sit on the back of the stove for a couple of days, getting better every day. Soak 'em, then simmer them slowly with coarsely chopped onions, chopped garlic, fatback/bacon/ham, and chopped tomatoes. Season with some chili blend and a little oregano. Cook for two or three hours. Merced cooks the beans by themselves. When they're done, she fries up bacon, onions, cilantro, peppers, tomatoes and such, then combines them with the beans. I'll bet that's good. I may try it next time.

My double-super-secret ingredient in both beans and rice is beef stock. Don't tell anyone.

May 20, 2015

The iPhone adhesive-tape repair covered up the microphone hole. I called Jeanne from the supermarket. We did the "Hello? Hello? Hello?" thing three times before I figured it out. Idiot.

What costs more—buying a new one or replacing the glass (plus dealing with Apple to get that done)?


May 20, 2015

In today's NYT, Tom Friedman, whose specialties are Marxist economics and being grumpy, said this: "For a presidential campaign that has started so early, it’s striking how little most of the candidates want to engage with major issues of the day, let alone the future.... While Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders are motivated by clear ideologies, the others, so far, evince much more compelling ambitions to be president than compelling reasons for why they should be."

That brings the number of times I've agreed with Friedman up to exactly one. Friedman also made a fascinating observation/prediction:

We’re in the middle of some huge disruptive inflections in technology, the labor market and geopolitics that will raise fundamental questions about the future of work and the social contracts between governments and their people and employers and employees. These will all erupt in the next presidency.

What are the signs of that? Well, my candidate for best lead paragraph on a news article so far this year goes to Tom Goodwin, an executive at Havas Media, whose essay March 3 on began: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

May 20, 2015

Planned obsolescence has reached a new level of artistry. Last night my iPhone, set on vibrate, vibrated itself off the counter, hit the floor on its corner and shattered its screen. Self-destructive impulse. I patched it with stretchy adhesive tape, but there are cracks all the way across the screen, so it's probably doomed.

There it is, on my scuzzy mouse pad on my scuzzy desk with a scuzzy plastic spoon, kept company by my lucky Spanish coin and my too-hip fish pocket knife. Also visible: detritus, flotsam, and a little bit of jetsam.

That's all. I gotta go clean my desk.

May 20, 2015

God has caused iTunes to begin playing Christmas Carols on my PC. That seems like a hopeful gesture, signaling a beginning of some sort. On the other hand, God has caused a lawn guy to stand under my window, revving his weed whip for about a half-hour. That seems like something else entirely.