September 20, 2010

This has been one hot weekend here in Gilbert. Saturday we hit 111, today it cooled down to 108. Amazingly hot weather for this time of year.

They don’t make men like these anymore, that’s for sure.

I never bothered to make my NFL picks this year. Hope Rob doesn’t mind if I pick the Saints to repeat in the NFC and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC. I’ll worry about the Super Bowl when it gets here.

Bermuda’s getting battered tonight. Maybe I’m just being optimistic, but it looks as if Hurricane Igor is weakening to a low Cat 1 hurricane right now. The beaches along the south side of the island are going to really suffer and there will be lots of building and tree damage, but I’m thinking it could be a whole lot worse. Prayers continue for the people there that everyone will make it through safe.

This is actually pretty funny. I remember what I had when I moved into my first apartment – a few bowls, some second-hand dish towels, a cheap set of pots and pans, and some starter utensils. I couldn’t have more than that – my little kitchen had little room for storage.

Just so y’all know, my recuperation continues to go well. I’ve been VERY fortunate – unbelievably so, really – that I’ve experienced no incontinence since my surgery. The muscles down there definitely need some tightening up, for sure, but not to the extent they’ve given me, er, unexpected trouble.

But check this out: it’s common for guys after my surgery to be given a prescription for Cialis – not necessarily for the erectiloe dysfunction, but to increase blood to the affected area to help the recovery along. My doc gave me a prescription for one pill to be taken every other day for three months, but he warned me I might need to do battle with my insurance company because of the cost of the medication. Boy, he wasn’t kidding: I got an initial six pills and it cost me $70. Imagine that? So I’m not likely to be on Cialis for long.

Pool temp: 85 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:48 | Comments (0)
September 19, 2010

Courtesy of an e-mail from my folks:

What’s it like to surf a 64-foot wave?

What a cool video, especially when the camera begins to pan away and you start seeing just how big that freakin’ wave is. Dude had to have been 1/2 exhilarated, 1/2 scared totally shitless. You’ll note he didn’t try and shoot the curl – he probably would have been broken in half – all you can do is try to out-run it, which he nearly did.

Fabulous, can’t imagine what that must have felt like…

Now, back to my Planter’s Punch….damned, it’s been a hot weekend.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:49 | Comment (1)
September 18, 2010

One of the lovely memories I have of my visit to India was seeing the Hindu shrines of candles and bowls of water with flowers floating on top (I think there called gayas, someone correct me if I’m wrong) in the lobbies of the hotels in Mumbai and Vadodara. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been wanting to create my own little shrine on my secondary prayer table where I keep my holy water and always have a candle burning for my intercessions that particular week.

While doing one of my walks the other day, I noticed a whole bunch of pretty purple flowers had blown off one of my neighbors’ hedges, so I scopped up a whole bunch of them and put them in a small bowl of water. It created a really lovely and calming setting:

gaya

Pretty, huh? Well I was pretty proud of myself until I checked on them the other day, only to find they had turned into a mushy gray. After doing a little research, it turns out those bowls in India contain a special kind of flower – the lotus – which are actually designed to grow in those kinds of settings.

And from the looks of it, they take a little work to make happen. So, I’m thinking maybe I’ll just stick with the candle for now. That’s OK, but it sure made for a pretty picture.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:03 | Comments (0)
September 17, 2010

Mid-September here in the Valley of the Sun is a hot, dusty, dismal time. The calendar says that “Arizona winter” is but a few weeks away, but that seems like forever. The excitement of the monsoon season – listening for the dew points and humidity levels, seeing the build-up of thunderheads over the surrounding mountains and wondering where they’re headed, checking out the radar on Accuweather.com – is over, replaced by bright blue skies and a searing sun that stays so even as its sinks lower into the west earlier each day. It may be September, but don’t let the calendar fool ya – it’s still summer.

Don’t believe me? Check out the extended Accuweather forecast for the rest of this month.

Without any cloud cover to hold it back, the pool, which was beginning to shows signs of a slow drift towards 80 has jumped back into the game with a consistent 84-86 degrees – perfect weather for swimming.

It’s been a very hot summer here in Phoenix, actually one of our hottest on record. Look at these daily temperatures for the months of June, July, and August. Never mind that the thermometer hit 100 for the first time all the way back on May 21st!

My two previous posts on thunderstorms aside, it really wasn’t a very interesting monsoon season this year. Most of the action – and the rain – slid to every other side of us. Now, at least until the heat gods flip the switch (usually the 2nd week of October, uncannily so) all your eyes can do is, as Bruce Cockburn penned in his song “Pacing The Cage” “scan a bleached-out land, for the coming of the outbound stage”. (A great tune that Jimmy Buffett did a fine job on as well, BTW…)

Hope the folks in beautiful Bermuda – one of our all-time favorite places on earth – are battening down the hatches for Hurricane Igor, because he looks to be one bad hombre. The worst thing would be if it passes slightly to the island’s west, leaving it in that upper-right hand quadrant you just don’t want to be in. We’re keeping the good folks there in our prayers. Sure wouldn’t want to be any passenger on a cruise anywhere in the Atlantic this week, either: that passage can be rough enough in favorable conditions.

Finally, speaking of weathering things, today the catheter was removed and I’m free of tubes, velcro, and strips. Still lots of swelling (I won’t go into the gory details) and some discomfort, but the doc tells me the pathologist’s report came back showing no sign of cancer spreading beyond my prostate to any of the surrounding areas. Which, I’m told, puts me in that much-desirable category called a “cancer survivor”. Being lifted on the eagles’ wings of all your kind thoughts and prayers makes me both humble and very forunate indeed; hope y’all didn’t mind coming along for the rise, at least vicariously.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:46 | Comments (6)
September 16, 2010

There were three significant events that took place in yesterday’s final primaries before the November midterms that should have the Republican establishment in Washington quaking in their Buster Browns: Christine O’Donnell’s upset victory over presumed favorite Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware, Carl Paladino’s unexpected victory over Rick Lazio in the New York Republican gubernatorial primary, and the near-miss by upstart Ovide Lamontagne who lost an excruciatingly-close GOP U.S. Senate primary fight to Kelly Ayotte, the long-presumed favorite of the state’s party apparatus.

What these three events have in common is their backing by the surging Tea Party Express and other tea party-related organizations, in the face of strong national and state Republican party resistance – if not outright hostility.

By far the biggest example of this was the broadside against O’Donnell by Castle supporters and Beltway Republicans, both at the state and local levels. So what, they argued, that as a congressman Castle had voted for the Democrats’ cap-and-trade legislation, a) he did vote against ObamaCare, and b) if Republicans wanted to take the Democratic seat (formerly held by VP Joe Biden) in Deleware the only way to do so is to vote for a so-called “moderate Republican”. Nonsense, said O’Donnell supporters, what’s the difference between voting for a Democrat and a Republican who’ll vote like a Democrat more often than not when it counts. And it got nasty on both sides – negative stuff about Castle from O’Donnell supporters, negative stuff about O’Donnell from Beltway Republicans (“she’s uneletable”) and even the Deleware state GOP party chairman, who said she couldn’t be elected dog catcher.

The same thing happened in New York and New Hampshire, albeit to a lesser extent, but last night and throughout the primary season you saw the same civil war being fought: the “Republican establishment” defending their choices, often unsuccessfully, against resurgent tea party candidates. In all of these cases, the tea party candidates started out as virtual unknowns, slowly started gathering steam, received critical endorsements from the likes of Sarah Palin, (South Carolina) Senator Jim DeMint, and others, and closed very quicky in the last two weeks to defeat the presumed favorite. In most cases it was the tea partiers who flexed their muscles, proved their ability to run solid campaigns on the solid message of reduced spending and limited government, and, most importantly, on election day bringing their ground game to the polls.

(Of course, this doesn’t explain how poster-child RINO John “Maverick” McCain was able to trounce challenger JD Hayworth in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary, but the fact remains that inside Arizona McCain remains very popular across a wide cross-section of voters, and, compared to Hayworth’s gaffe-filled, incompetent campaign, ran one that was tough, smart, and disciplined.)

What does this all mean for the midterms less than two months ahead? There are three things to keep in mind:

1. Independents have swung very heavily away from the Democrats, oftentimes over to tea-party candidates who are better able to distance themselves from what’s going on in Washington by running against not just the Democrats, but incumbent Republicans as well.

2. As Brad O’Leary points out, there is a huge anti-incumbent sentiment out there, and, after the significant Democratic wins that Barack Obama brought with him in 2008, there are a heckuva lot more Democrats having to defend their seats in a struggling economy than Republicans.

3. Don’t think that RINOs (Republicans in name only – i.e., those whose voting patterns typically lean Democratic) up for re-election in 2012 aren’t paying attention. To that end, one can expect RINOs like Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham to be far more careful in their votes over the next two years. Without a doubt tea partiers have these three in their sights for defeat two years ahead.

You’ll never hear it from the mainstream media, but the tea party movement, which got its start out of discontent for President’s Bush’s handling of spending and economic issues during his second term but caught fire after CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s classic 2009 rant is not just some loosely-cobbled group of angry white people mad at Barcak Obama and the Democrats – this is a historic, honest-to-goodness revolution that is idealistic, smart, technologically savvy, and, most importantly, still growing as we hurtle towards the 2010 elections and beyond. It has no love for either Republican or Democratic lawmakers intent on the status quo and bankrupting this country’s future with a steady of of increased spending and taxation, and it has no problem rolling the dice with candidates like O’Donnell, who faces an uphill battle against Democrat Chris Cooms, whereas Mike Castle appeared a shoo-in had he taken the Republican nomination.

All the brave reassurances aside, you can be assured that the Beltway establishment on both sides – Republican and Democrat – are fearful and concerned about the Tea Party movement. The events of this year’s primary season, culminating in last night’s races, shows it has the muscles and the potential to make the November midterms truly historic in its scope. Only time will tell just how successful it will be, but looking at the tea lives (no pun intended) I see no sign of the wave cresting yet, meaning November 2nd could be a historically miserable night for all incumbents, and the Democrats in general.

Pool temp: Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:35 | Comments (0)
September 15, 2010

Check out my first attempt at a YouTube video. Real easy to do, real fun song to make it to. Hope y’all like it.

Filed in: YouTube Channel by The Great White Shank at 01:56 | Comments (3)

As I mentioned the other day, it may be Fall by meteorological standards, but the past couple of days have been hot hot hot. I didn’t realize just how hot yesterday got – it was up to 108. And with me having to do my one mile walks each day. Brutal.

You know one way you can tell it’s Fall? It’s the start of the Fall Pledge Drive on the National Public Radio (NPR) station here in Phoenix that plays the classical music we wake up to each day. Rhetorical question: is there a more outdated and wasteful concept than government-supported radio (and television, for that matter)? Listening to the poor host and his station manager make their pleas for $5 and $10 monthly pledges (“and if you do in the next seven minutes, we’ll match your pledge!”) is sad and kind of pathetic, really.

This is yet another example of government inability to keep up with the times. Perhaps as little as ten years ago you could make the case that, yeah, if you want to wake up to commercial-free classical music on the FM dial, the only way you’re going to get it is on a publicly-funded station, but that’s simply not the case anymore. Think about it: there are Blackberry and IPhone apps, Bose radios, CD players, MP3 players, XM satellite radios, and DirecTV and Dish Network stations, all with the capability of waking you up to the music of your choice. The possibilities are virtually endless. And with all these choices, you still have these poor saps begging (threatening, actually) people to send them money so they can – you got it! – keep their jobs.

If there’s any kind of audience out there for commercial-free classical music (and the kind of programming you find on public television) let a group of well-endowed supporters make it happen. Just don’t take my hard-earned tax money and then come to me begging for even more just to support your niche programming. And I’m no prude: I grew up with Channel 2 in Boston, and loved all of Ken Burns’ work and the other quirky things you’d find there. Heck, I was even a pledging member – gladly – for many years.

But time really does march on. I know I sound like a hard ass, but it really comes down to practicalities: in this technologically-advanced day and age, where virtually everyone has cable, satellite, and/or handheld devices, there is no need to waste good money on a service that can easily – easily – be replaced by the private sector. There are far better ways for this government to waste spend its taxpayer money. And lord knows, we desperately need for the federal government to start going on a diet, even if it’s only giving up the equivalent of a bag of chips on occasion.

(And that’s without even mentioning the radically-left political bent of NPR and Public Television. Me, I’d love to count the number of times NPR News references “President” Obama in the same way they insisted on calling George W. Bush “Mr.” Bush – as if he didn’t deserve his right title.)

One can only hope that prudent-minded politicians take over in Washington and in next year’s Congressional budget eliminate the funding for NPR and Public Television – it’s a measure long overdue.

Pool temp: 85 degrees

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:35 | Comments (2)
September 14, 2010

It doesn’t feel much like September out here in the Valley of the Sun – today felt as hot as hell – but you can sure sense the days getting shorter. Here’s a poem I hope y’all like this as much as I do:

September

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

‘T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

— Helen Hunt Jackson (Hat tip: Poemhunter.com)

Pool temp: 86 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:20 | Comments (0)
September 13, 2010

Since my surgeon stressed the need to drink a minimum of two liters of water and walk a mile each day, I’ve been the most obedient of patients. Because of the anesthesia screwing around with your intestines and stuff it’s critical to drink lots of fluids and do a lot of moving in order to keep things, well, moving. Keeping up with the fluids is the easiest of the two; Tracey has made sure there’s a pitcher of water in front of me at all times, and I’ve combined that with every possible form of water-based fluid she can think of: juices, popsicles, Gatorades, etc.

The walking part is, at least theoretically so, equally easy: we live on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision with big sidewalks and not a lot of traffic. We looked over the terrain and figured out where 1/10 of a mile gets you, so all I’d need to do is make ten circuits to make my daily mile. I figured I’d exceed my surgeon’s expectations and actually do eleven: four in the morning before it gets too hot, three in the afternoon under the searing sun, and four after dark after the heat breaks. It sounded easy enough, and even though there are a lot of houses I’d actually have to pass in that route, how busy can it possibly get? This was important to me, since, at least for the first few days, the only apparel comfortable enough to accommodate my situation and gear would be my bathrobe.

Silly me. After three full days of walking, I’ve met all but one of my nineteen neighbors – eighteen of them! – most for the first time, just me and my bathrobe. I find it uncanny how many people are either coming or going just when I’m to pass by their houses: it’s like I’m some kind of arrival/departure magnet or something. I have to say, all of them have been very nice and understanding. Except, of course, the Muslim lady across the street who (I think) does her prayers while walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of her house every night around the same time. In all the years we’ve been here, she’s never said so much as a word or even smirked a smile when any of us neighbors have tried to engage her. With me the infidel motoring my way around the streets, as soon as she sees me coming, she high tails it to the safety of her front door until I pass by, then heads back for the sidewalk. She has to keep a wary out out for me, however, because I’m on a mission and as soon as she sees me coming down the opposite side from her, she knows she’s got 3-4 minutes at the most to head back to safety.

When I’m walking, it’s a good time to sort out thoughts and just listen to the sounds of things. I keep my head down because I don’t want to accidentally lose my footing or get into any rhythm that might disturb my catheter, so it’s easy to hear when I’ve disturbed a bird in a tree I’m passing, or when (inevitably) a neighbor’s garage door opener engages, telling me I’ll have yet another opportunity to meet yet another neighbor for the first time. Time almost seems to stand still, it’s almost like meditation. I suppose I could (and should) do my daily prayers, but I find the time useful to just let random thoughts run through my brain.

Like this morning, for instance, when I was thinking that my thoughts on the death penalty, while not in accordance with what the Roman Catholic Church believes (i.e., that all life is sacred), is perfectly logical: while it’s true that all life is sacred, you give up the sacredness of your life if you kill someone else in pure premeditated fashion. I’m not talking about auto accidents or drunk drivers: if you set out to kill someone and achieve your goal, your life no longer is sacred, and you ought to lose yours for it. It not only makes perfect sense, you’d save a helluva lot of money keeping people in prison who have forfeited their own right to keep on living. And once that decision is made, let’s not lallygag about how it gets done: figure out the best way to do it efficiently and quickly, and dispose of the person. Keep it simple.

But not all my random thoughts are so heavy. I find thoughts of yesterday, or last month, or decades ago popping in and out, some good, some bad, all to the sounds of birds or crickets chirping, leaves in the trees, someone cutting wood a block over, or the motorcycles from “the Clampetts” who live three doors down from where I make my first turn towards back to our house.

(Everyone calls them “the Clampetts” because they’re a motorcycle family with every kind of motor toy imaginable, with the seeming goal of seeing how many notices and fines they can run up with our HOA for parking things where they shouldn’t, never taking their barrels in, and – the biggest sin – planting this humongous tree by their driveway that doesn’t fit with the rest of the neighborhood and constantly sheds little tiny leaves that end up in every other neighbor’s driveway or lawn. Every now I see him cruises his big purple hog with his young son on his lap around our cul-de- sac: I can almost hear him saying, “Son, some day you’ll be old enough to piss all these people off just as your daddy done do.” It’s pretty funny, actually.)

The one thing I don’t do while walking is think of the future in any way, shape, or form. This procedure has taught me a bit about my own mortality, and the importance of just living each day to whatever it brings you. I guess I’m the kind of optimist William Faulkner writes about: because you expect the worst to happen every day and most days it doesn’t, you have an optimistic view of life.

Our friend Jana wanted me to post a picture of me doing my bathrobe walkabout, but there are decency laws. Besides, today I was able to shed my bathrobe and go to a smaller collection bag that enables me to wear lounge pants and a T-shirt. From the reactions my neighbors don’t really seem to care – especially the Muslim lady across the street. She just tries to avoid me every way she can.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:13 | Comments (3)
September 12, 2010

…while remembering it was just a week ago I was bulletproof and (nearly) fancy free, strolling through the shops and restaurants of lovely Carmel. A lot has happened since then….

Unlike last year, I missed posting on September 11 (just didn’t feel up to it). Besides holding all those who lives were snuffed out or forever impacted by that day’s events in my thoughts and prayers, nothing I could ever write could match the sentiment and simplicity of this. Indeed.

I’ll admit it: I just don’t get all this Koran-burning thing. But anyone who professes at being shocked – shocked, I tell ya! – in this day and age that there are any sacred cows left, in any culture, is dreaming. The one thing that makes so-called “civilized” nations civilized to begin with is a respect for its various heritages (historical, religious, cultural) and its rule of law. We’ve gone a long way towards losing the former, and one can only wonder when the fundamental respect for the latter won’t go away as well.

This is not a good time to be a Red Sox fan. The scary part is that they have suffered through injuries to key players like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis, and, while none of these players had anywhere near career-threatening injuries, you never know how athletes will perform after they’ve been injured. That and the fact that no matter what happens, they’ll likely go into 2011 with question-marks in David Ortiz and J.D. Drew, both of whom are on the downside of their careers.

Lady Gaga no more than a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture? I love it.

President Obama says it’s the Republicans fault he hasn’t changed Washington. Personally, I don’t think he gives himself enough credit – which is why the highly-respected Jay Cost (formerly of Real Clear Politics) sees this coming. Now that’s change to be hoped for!

Bubba Watson can already do some amazing things with a golf club right-handed. But left-handed? As the saying goes, these guys are good.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (0)

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