Friday, March 30, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 11

The blues is bluesy, all right, but also cathartic and therefore uplifting. If you want music dripping with pain and self-pity (and, yes, beauty), make it country.

Here it is, your moment of Zen...

... or eight seconds, to be precise. Look, don't make fun of me, it's my first video taken by phone. Turn up the volume for soothing drip-drops...

Escalon and Oakdale

On the way up Highway 120 to Yosemite, I always enjoy my drive through little Escalon, CA, with its attractive older middle-class homes along tree-shaded streets. But should you stop for lunch? The photo below was snapped behind Hula's burger joint on 120 east of "downtown." Aidan and I stopped in because the place looked to have some local flavor, and the sign outside boasted of the best burger in town. Well was it? Seems doubtful. And the tables smelled of bleach.

A better bet for lunch (or dinner) near the halfway point is in neighboring Oakdale, one of those classic Central Valley agricultural entrepots, and former home of a Hershey's factory. On 120 heading east out of town you might notice a brown-shingled shack that looks more like a dive bar than anything. It's Ferrarese's Deli Restaurant, a place we've eaten a couple of times. The simple fare is very tasty, decent beer on tap, the walls are interesting, and it's a real favorite with locals. You can't do much better.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Irrelevant economics

Judging from Henry Aaron's observations, it appears that the most fundamental insights from over a century of economic thought on public policy will play almost no role in the Supreme Court's debate over the health care law. Sorry to have wasted your time, students.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Black Steel

Sometimes the cover of a classic is as good as the original...

The mandate

I have no qualifications whatsoever to judge the constitutionality of Obamacare, but it is supremely ironic (perhaps even contradictory?!) that exercising federal police power to fund universal socialized health insurance to people over 65 is perfectly fine, while preserving and in fact facilitating a private market approach to health care is quite possibly verboten. Not to mention that Congressman Ryan's Medicare "reform" plan is to replace it with an underfunded version of Obamacare for old folks. If that should come to pass under President Romney, I wonder whether the questioning from Justice Scalia will be equally hostile...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I made this too

TC won't believe it, but I did, and it was good!

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 10

The video doesn't quite do justice to her piano chops... but still, the answer is yes, baby baby sweet baby...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I made this!

I love to cook, but baking bread has always scared me. The recently discovered NY Times no-knead recipe converted me with its ease and fantastic taste and interior texture, but the loaf still looked a bit amateurish. Cooks Illustrated "almost no-knead" to the rescue (hat tip to M.O.)! It went quite nicely with tonight's white bean and kale soup in homemade chicken stock, if I do say so myself. Pizza at Howie's tomorrow night!

Bees like miners lettuce too...

... I guess, although this gal seemed strangely disinterested.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jonathan Richman

Back in the day I enjoyed artfully artless music like this:

And I guess he was kinda cute in "There's Something about Mary." But in my advanced years, I tend to prefer artlessly artful music, like, say, Blind Willie Johnson. Jonathan Richman sounds more like precious pretentious crap than it used to. Guess I'm gettin' old...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 9

Don't let anyone tell you pop music got better after 1960. And I'm not even considering Sinatra... de-bop-she-bop!

Ceanothus cuneatus

The blue beauties of the Ceanothus genus attract much of the attention this time of year, but with its graceful arching structure, smooth and appealingly rounded foliage, and showstopping snow-white blossoms, Ceanothus cuneatus has a claim to being the best of the bunch. They are at their peak in the hills of San Mateo County, in this case at Pulgas Ridge.

From Pulgas Ridge, March 10, 2012

Up close...

From Pulgas Ridge, March 10, 2012

And an unusual plant with not just one, but two fantastic popular names: fetid adder's tongue, or slinkpod (Scoliopus bigelovii):

From Pulgas Ridge, March 10, 2012

Woodrat project, vol. 4

Woodrats in abundance at Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve. Some decent dens, including this nifty construction up a tree:


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Oh pretty please!

GOP slugfest could drag on till June.


Nothing common about the city, or about Common.... thanks TNC.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pissed off and getting worried...

... is how I read (between the lines) Nordhaus in this take-down of climate skeptics. He's not given to hyperbole or alarmism, so it's all the more alarming...

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 8

In our collective American cultural brain, jazz and R&B are "black" music, and country is "white" music. What then to make of the blues in bluegrass, and the swing in country swing, the roots of so much of that shit-kickin' stuff we know and love today? My taste in swing tends toward Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie, but Bob Wills always sounds fine, just fine...

Windy Hill

Hikers, bikers, and runners love Windy Hill Open Space Preserve for the rolling grassy slopes leading up to the top of the hill, with its commanding views of the entire Bay Area and westward to the Pacific. I love it for the wooded trails on the Preserve's southern side, especially the Razorback Ridge and Lost Trails, with their abundance of flowers, big trees, and moist ferny dingles. Later in the spring the iris, columbines, and clintonia will offer up a visual feast. But late winter brings its own pleasures...

... trilliums of two kinds...

From Windy Hill, March 3, 2012

From Windy Hill, March 3, 2012

... currants...

From Windy Hill, March 3, 2012

... ginormous (8-foot) horsetails...

From Windy Hill, March 3, 2012

... and don't forget the fungi...

From Windy Hill, March 3, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

A salad of Claytonia...

... (that's miner's lettuce) with organic beets and a fresh carrot pickle, in Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Oh it's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. The winter rains quickly bring the delicate and abundant Claytonia, and the lengthening days just as quickly cause them to bolt and shrivel. Enjoy them while you can... handle gently!

Geoengineering won't save us

If we get desperate we might be able to launch massive amounts of reflective crap into the upper atmosphere and reflect enough solar radiation to prevent the most catastrophic warming. But alas that won't do much for us when the ocean ecosystems collapse from acidification. Weaning ourselves, and quickly, from carbon is the solution.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


TNC is, as usual, spot on, here and here. Will a single Republican in a position of authority just once and for all stand up and say, GET OUT NOW! ? Will the American people?