June 30, 2011

In regards to my post yesterday. I’ve just been informed that we have another beta fish arriving next Tuesday, from the same co-worker at Tracey’s place. Seems he has a fish he has been neglecting because with the heat and all he has to spend more time with his chickens.

I kid you not.

(While on the subject of chickens, I made a very nice chicken dish tonight – French country chicken with white wine and mushrooms. It was a standout!)

But I digress.

Anyhow, we’re told this fish is extremely intelligent – hence it’s name Medulla (short for medulla oblongata). I kid you not.

All I can say is, this better be one smart fish…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:02 | Comments (0)
June 29, 2011

mrbeta1 Our adopted fish, “Mr. Beta”, passed away quietly yesterday. I say he passed away quietly because, frankly, fish don’t make a lot of noise, right? I mean, maybe his passing was not quiet to him, but it was to us.

We don’t know how old Mr. Beta was – he belonged to a parent of one of Tracey’s co-workers, who then brought Mr. Beta into her workplace to swim around in a dinky little aquarium without anything to keep him interested or occupied for a long time. Last year, Tracey felt sorry for the poor beast, and proceeded to bring him home and set him up in a nice two-gallon aquarium filled with a hollowed-out phony log with lots of colorful phony sea stuff and rocks that he could swim around in.

Mr. Beta seemed to enjoy his surroundings a lot, and while I never quite grasped onto him as a pet, he did become a fixture in the household, if only for the psychedelic colors the light in his aquarium would toss across the livingroom at night when the lights were all out. As a fish, Mr. Beta lived life to his fishy fullest – at least I think he did. I don’t think he liked getting his water changed much, but I have a sense he knew that was part of the routine every couple of weeks. He liked to be fed and would get all excited when he saw you around his aquarium – he’d start flapping his gills anticipating his daily meal. He didn’t, however, like the drawer that sat directly under the countertop beneath him being closed too fast – in his fishy brain he must have though it was some kind of undersea volcanic eruption.

What more can be said about Mr. Beta that hasn’t already been said? He was born and swam and ate and slept like other beta fishes do. He probably lived as long a life as most betas, and he was lucky to have escaped the Petsmarts of the world where they have betas on display swimming around in little Tupperware containers. That can’t be much of a life – probably as stimulating as a Celine Dion greatest hits CD.

So, for our finny friend, it is finis – in every sense of the word. Thanks for having us around for a little while, Mr. Beta, I hope you enjoyed your time with us.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:31 | Comment (1)
June 28, 2011

That’s how hot it got today – really brutal unbelievably hot stuff. Heck, when I went for my walk at 9:15 PM it was still 105 degrees. It was so hot the pool jumped two whole degrees, from 92 to 94. Meaning, when it comes to pool water temperature, we’re officially in the “warm piss” category. :-)

When it gets this hot there’s something about turning off all the lights in the house and lighting some candles – we have one in the hallway on a little wrought iron table, and the light flickering against the wall with the cool tile under your feel makes you think you’re in some monastery in Mexico a hundred years ago. The light a reminder of Christ’s loving presence in a sad and decaying world.

As I write this at 10:30 PM it’s still 100 degrees. When it gets this hot outside I think back to those July and August nights growing up in Massachusetts pre-central air where you’d lie in bed, just an electric fan blowing across your sweating body as you’d try to fall asleep. For some reason, it’s nights like this that The Doors’ “End Of The Night” comes to mind. Very dark, very ominous, very paranoid, as if the entire world in all its heaviness and heat were closing in around you.

There’s something about that feeling I find very familiar in my bones.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:05 | Comments (0)
June 27, 2011

Brutally hot today, absolutely searing heat. With the little bit of humidity there was in the air today it was one of the hottest days I can recall here. And we’re in for a stretch of it. I found a great poem at PhoenixAbout.com which describes perfectly a day lik today. Hope you enjoy it.

Ah, Arizona!

The devil wanted a place on earth
Sort of a summer home
A place to spend his vacation
Whenever he wanted to roam.

So he picked out Arizona
A place both wretched and rough
Where the climate was to his liking
And the cowboys hardened and tough.

He dried up the streams in the canyons
And ordered no rain to fall
He dried up the lakes in the valleys
Then baked and scorched it all.

Then over his barren country
He transplanted shrubs from hell.
The cactus, thistle and prickly pear
The climate suited them well.

Now the home was much to his liking
But animal life, he had none.
So he created crawling creatures
That all mankind would shun.

First he made the rattlesnake
With it’s forked poisonous tongue.
Taught it to strike and rattle
And how to swallow it’s young.

Then he made scorpions and lizards
And the ugly old horned toad.
He placed spiders of every description
Under rocks by the side of the road.

Then he ordered the sun to shine hotter,
Hotter and hotter still.
Until even the cactus wilted
And the old horned lizard took ill.

Then he gazed on his earthly kingdom
As any creator would
He chuckled a little up his sleeve
And admitted that it was good.

Twas summer now and Satan lay
By a prickly pear to rest.
The sweat rolled off his swarthy brow
So he took off his coat and vest.

“By Golly,” he finally panted,
“I did my job too well,
I’m going back to where I came from,
Arizona is hotter than Hell.”

There’s lots of other cool (if you’ll pardon the phrase) info at this site as well. Check it out!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:21 | Comments (0)
June 26, 2011

[Ed. note: Warning: this post contains cute bunny pictures. If you have a weakness or sensitivity towards animal pictures that can cause any kind of health issue, please click away now!]

Our rabbit Peanut has always been a unique creature. She came to us courtesy of one of my co-workers, who found her in his back yard and somehow was able to corner her. Peanut is mixed breed with part of her being a lion head, meaning two things: 1) she’s got some long hair around her face (like a mane, hence the term “lion head”), and 2) she’s got an ornery streak in her a mile wide. It’s only been in the last year, after three years with us, that she’s gotten more relaxed and accepting of people touching her, which is nice – I mean, personality aside, she’s one cute rabbit that you just want to pet and cuddle, even if the feeling isn’t mutual.

We do know one thing about Peanut, however: as a female she despises any and all other females in the house, and whenever males are around she’s a flirt. We first noticed that when my sister-in-law’s rabbits “The Beastie Boys” (Sherman and Cookie) had a brief run of the house; we were amazed at how they liked her and the feeling appeared to be mutual. There was no fighting and no fussing – Peanut not only let them invade her territory (i.e., our bedroom), but let them have unfettered access to her cage, her food, and all her favorite places.

After we lost Half-Pint last month, our male rabbit Cosmo really took it hard. While they were never what I would call pals, whenever we’d let Half-Pint out you could tell she and Cosmo sought out each other’s company. They never really got to the point of bonding or accepting each other, but you could tell being around each other made for a welcome diversion from their typical bunny days. The one thing we’ve learned is that when a rabbit all of a sudden is no longer around, the other rabbits sense the loss of their presence. And, in Cosmo’s case, you could tell he knew Half-Pint was gone and not coming back. He was one sad bunny.

It was obvious from the start of this new arrangement that we should try and put Cosmo and Peanut together. The thing was, there was no way to get Cosmo from our office area to the next room where Peanut lived without some area rugs. Whereas Half-Pint could have cared less about the ceramic tile flooring that now covers the house – she would slip slide her way around the entire house and love the thrill of it – Cosmo has always been a chicken-shit and would only go where rugs were. So I went down to Lowe’s, found myself a bunch of small (and cheap!) area rugs we could lay side by side around the corner to our bedroom, and proceeded to let nature take it’s course.

It took several days for Cosmo to get up the courage to check out the new rugs, but over a period of a few days he gradually worked his way into the bedroom. And once he did, Peanut accepted his presence with open paws. Within a few days, she was making the reverse trip into our office area to be around Cosmo, and since that time, they’ve been virtually inseparable. It’s funny to watch ornery Peanut come running behind Cosmo when it’s time for bunny breakfast in the morning, and they love to spend their days days together either under the armoire in our bedroom:

cosmo_peanut2

(That’s Peanut on the left and a sleepy Cosmo on the right.) Or hanging out together in our office area:

cosmo_peanut1

(That’s Peanut on the right and a sleepy Cosmo on the left. Start to get a picture of what Cosmo likes to do throughout the day?)

Don’t they make a cute couple?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (2)
June 25, 2011

What does it mean when you hit a stretch like this?

* No touching the steering wheel with your hands if it’s been sitting out in the sun all day (you’ll burn ‘em)
* No leaving your car outside without one of the windows open a smidge (your windows can crack)
* No going a day without watering your outside plants (they’ll fry)
* No outside exercise without a water bottle
* No touching of any dark surfaces, especially metal
* No walking barefoot on even light concrete

I’ve always said the height of summer is like the dead of winter in New England, just in reverse. You go past all these beautiful golf courses all green and open, and no a soul is out there. Pretty funny to see.

But that’s the way it is when the heat is on, when it’s on the street.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:12 | Comments (0)
June 24, 2011

Interestingly enough, I found this comment in a totally unrelated post from Jake Tapper on his ABC political blog, but since it involves the absolute, 100%, will manufacture-a-lie-about-anything Obama White House – you know, that place where the guy (to quote his wife) “doesn’t take a day off”. Hey Michelle, does that include days when he (or you) are either golfing, cavorting all over the world on the taxpayer’s dole, or attending fundraisers? They don’t call him Mr. “Leading From Behind” for nothing!

But I digress.

Anyways, in the comments of Tapper’s post I found the following, and it absolutely backs up everything I’ve been writing about these past few months. You wanna know why the USA is where it is right now, on the precipice of economic catastrophe with unemployment, underemployment, increasing civil unrest and overall bad vibe? Look no further, mon cherie, than what’s happened to our manufacturing base:

The United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing. It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II.

But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America . Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us. The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally out produce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world. If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children?

Any great nation throughout history has been great at making things. So if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode at a staggering pace how in the world can the U.S. continue to consider itself to be a great nation? We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in an effort to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not anywhere close to sustainable. Every single month America goes into more debt and every single month America gets poorer.

So what happens when the debt bubble pops?

The deindustrialization of the United States should be a top concern for every man, woman and child in the country. But sadly, most Americans do not have any idea what is going on around them.

For people like that, take this article and print it out and hand it to them. Perhaps what they will read below will shock them badly enough to awaken them from their slumber.

The following are 19 facts about the deindustrialization of America that will blow your mind….

#1 The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001. About 75 percent of those factories employed over 500 people when they were still in operation.

#2 Dell Inc., one of America s largest manufacturers of computers, has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.

#3 Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem , North Carolina in November. Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.

#4 In 2008, 1.2 billion cell phones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States ? Zero.

#5 According to a new study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, if the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.

#6 As of the end of July, the U.S. trade deficit with China had risen 18 percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

#7 The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.

#8 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.

#9 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

#10 Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul , Minnesota . Approximately 750 good paying middle class jobs are going to be lost because making Ford Rangers in Minnesota does not fit in with Ford’s new “global” manufacturing strategy.

#11 As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing. The last time less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.

#12 In the United States today, consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP. Of this 70 percent, over half is spent on services.

#13 The United States has lost a whopping 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#14 In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.

#15 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

#16 Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products. Asia now produces 84 percent of them worldwide.

#17 The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States .

#18 One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.

#19 The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.

So how many tens of thousands more factories do we need to lose before we do something about it?

How many millions more Americans are going to become unemployed before we all admit that we have a very, very serious problem on our hands?

How many more trillions of dollars are going to leave the country before we realize that we are losing wealth at a pace that is killing our economy?

How many once great manufacturing cities are going to become rotting war zones like Detroit before we understand that we are committing national economic suicide?

The deindustrialization of America is a national crisis. It needs to be treated like one.

If you disagree with this article, I have a direct challenge for you. If anyone can explain how a deindustrialized America has any kind of viable economic future, please do so.

America is in deep, deep trouble folks. It is time to wake up!!!

Bob and Markoleta Wilson

This, my friends, is what lies at the very core of so much of what ills this country right now. Jobs at McDonald’s and Safeways aren’t going to cut it. Someone, anyone, needs to find us a path back to actually constructing things other than hambugers and houses, otherwise we will see everything around us destructing. We’re almost there now.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:15 | Comments (0)
June 23, 2011

[Ed. note: This past Sunday, just before the final round of the U.S. Open got underway in earnest, CBS golf commentator Gary McCord and The Great White Shank got together for a little golf talk following TGWS's latest trip to the Superstition Springs driving range.]

mccord Shank, last year at this time, almost to this very day, you and I sat at this same same table overlooking the 18th green here at Superstition Springs Golf Club and talked about the state of your game, and you politely asked I not write about it because you were struggling so badly with your swing. Today I’m watching you absolutely stripe the ball – you look like a completely different golfer! What’s up with that?

tgws Well, Gary, this game is all about tradition, honor, and integrity. What can I say except that it’s been a very long process and taken a lot of hard work, self-examination, and introspection to get to the point where I am now. I’m just glad to see all the hard work starting to pay off.

mccord You broke 100 for the first time in a Goodboys Invitational in last year’s final round, then followed it up a short time later back here in Arizona with a 96. But then we hear that just a few months ago you blew up your swing completely. Why?

tgws Well, Gary, I’d go to the range, perhaps hit a decent ball or two, but then find myself pushing the ball to the left, or even shanking, and while I could sort of get myself back on track, I just got tired of struggling with my swing, all the time.

mccord So tell me about that moment – was it a case where you heard some angelic voice from heaven, or found a message lying at the bottom of a fifth of Johnny Walker Red?

tgws (Chuckles) I wish it were that easy, Gary. A couple of months ago, after a few decent weeks of practice, I’d had a rough day out here at the range pushing, slicing, hitting it fat, hitting it thin, chunking it – everything but hitting it where and how I wanted to. So there I am back home, lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling fan going round and round when the thought occurred to me about starting over – like from the very first time I ever held a club in my life…

mccord Most sane people would have thought about taking a lesson…

tgws A lesson? Listen, Gary – life is my lesson. What was a pro going to tell me? That I stunk at golf? Hell, I knew that already. And they say the first step to recovery is recognizing the problem. I jumped off the bed, grabbed a 8-iron, and headed out to my front lawn, where all I did for an hour was work on my address and grip, squaring up, then taking easy practice swings and imagining myself making solid contact. And from that point, each week it’s been getting better and better.

mccord You’ve been quoted as saying you’re not relearning how to swing a golf club so much as learning how to “feel” and “see” a golf swing. Can you explain?

tgws Simply put, I’m rewiring my golf brain. For so long I’d played such poor golf and generated so many bad memories that, no matter how well I might have been playing, I was always waiting for the shoe to drop and the roof to cave in. And inevitably it would. I was a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy out there, y’know? So what I’m doing now is slowly replacing those bad memories – and equally bad habits – with the experiences of feeling the club make solid contact and seeing the results of a good golf shot. And not just once every four or five shots, but repeatedly.

mccord I noticed today that after you hit twenty balls (and I counted 18 of them hit right on the screws), you spent the next ten minutes just hitting pitch shots to 85 yards with a variety of clubs – pitching wedge, 8-iron, 6-iron. What’s the strategy there?

tgws It’s all about rewiring my golf brain to feel what it’s like to make solid contact with the ball repeatedly so it becomes virtually second nature. You have to understand, you’re talking to The Great White Shank here – you’re not talking a Lee Trevino, or Phil Mickelson, or even a “Vegas” Clark or “Cubby” Myerow. There’s a lot of discipline and positive reinforcement needing to happen here, and I’ve found one way to accomplish that is to finish up with a drill that rewards the good habits I’ve been following by hopefully instilling a positive take-away for the next time I pick up a club.

mccord The 2011 Goodboys Invitational is less than a month away. What are your expectations? What would be a good scoring weekend for you?

tgws Gary, my goal this year is to simply keep doing what I’m doing and let the results end up as they may. I’m looking forward to seeing how my swing holds up under the bone-crushing tension of a Goodboys Invitational weekend. I’ve got good positive thing going here, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can keep it up. I’ve never hit the ball better in my life, so I’m feeling very confident.

mccord Well, best of luck to you Great White Shank, we’ll be watching all the Goodboys here at CBS Sports throughout the weekend as the 21st annual Goodboys Invitational unfolds.

tgws Thanks, Gary, the same to our friends at CBS Sports as well.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:38 | Comment (1)
June 22, 2011

cheese_grits Ingredients

6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups regular grits
16 ounces Cheddar, cubed
1/2 cup milk
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces grated sharp white Cheddar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart casserole dish.

Bring the broth, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grits are thick, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cubed Cheddar and milk and stir. Gradually stir in the eggs and butter, stirring until all are combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the white Cheddar and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Filed in: Uncategorized by Jana at 00:13 | Comments (5)
June 21, 2011

Here we are, at the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year:

The first “official” day of summer occurs early next week, at 1:16 p.m. EDT, on Tuesday, June 21 to be exact. This is the time of the summer solstice (or more accurately known as the June solstice), when the Earth’s tilt on its axis is at its maximum, 23 degrees and 26 minutes.

Thus, at this time, the direct rays of the sun are at the farthest point north, the Tropic of Cancer. Also on this day, the northern hemisphere experiences its most sunlight of any day of the year, ranging from 24 hours anywhere north of the Arctic Circle to a never-changing 12 hours at the equator. Major cities in the Lower 48 will have as much as 15 hours, 36 minutes and 54 seconds in Minneapolis and as few as 13 hours, 45 minutes and 4 seconds in Miami.

Enjoy the length the day, as at 1:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the sun begins to make its apparent southward trek across the sky for the next six months (until the winter, or December, solstice). The time the sun is out will drop to 13 hours, 45 minutes and 3 seconds in Miami on June 22nd and 15 hours 36 minutes and 52 seconds in Minneapolis.

Time to turn up the heat, as Accuweather meterologist Ken Clark tells us what we’re in for here in the West, especially in the Valley of the Sun:

Phoenix hottest so far has been 110 and it will be around 115 Wednesday and Thursday.

Holy sh**. My summer flowers don’t stand a chance.

Whenever June 21st comes around, I can’t help but think of the opening scenes in “The Great Gatsby”, one of my all-time favorite movies (and, I’m happy to say, one of my late godfather Milt’s as well). I just love the scene with Mia Farrow all in white, sitting at that table with everyone else in white, the green trees of Newport behind them, the pink roses and the candles, and she wondering how people celebrate the longest day of the year. Me, I’ve always liked putting on every light in the house and burning candles all over the place, as if celebrating the zenith of the sun in the Western Hemisphere would somehow hold at bay the coming slow but inevitable slide towards November and December, and the almost claustrophobic darkness those weeks and days bring.

To this day, Tracey hates the longest day of the year – it reminds her of living in the northern climes, where, unlike here in Arizona, those short days of November and December weren’t always so docile.

I often wonder if the Summer Solstice is a reminder (at least to those of us who pay attention to these kinds of things) that, no matter how full the season seems to be and our lives might be at a given point in time, you can’t avoid the slide towards the autumn and winter of life, and the melancholy and challenges they bring. Maybe we subconciously try to hold on to the longest day of the year because we know that, as beautiful as the coming autumn of the year and our lives might be, we know what comes afterwards.

Me, I’m burning candles all over the place.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:51 | Comments (0)

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