September 21, 2015

We’ve still got a good 3-4 weeks left before the traditional 2nd week in October even when the heat gods flip the temperature switch off until next April and the Valley of the Sun goes into “Arizona winter” mode, but the signs are all around us that the seasons are changing. We’ve actually got a non-monsoon related storm approaching from the southwest that could dump anywhere between 1-2″ on us between now and Wednesday.

But the signs are everywhere as well. Like the voice message from the tree people calling to schedule the fall feeding of the queen palms. And driving through Scottsdale today I saw a couple of golf courses teeming with mowers cutting the summer Bermuda grass down to the nubs in preparation for winter rye grass seeding. That’s something that’s on the agenda for our yards in the next couple of weeks, and I’ve already cut back on the watering in preparation for that.

Of course, the ultimate sign that the seasons are changing is the replacement of summer flowers with fall flowers in the pots that sit on either side of our driveway. The task itself isn’t all that hard: I simply pull out the fake hydrangeas and replace then with fake orange and white flowers which look really nice and fall-like.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments (0)
September 19, 2015

September is not a fall month here in the Valley of the Sun. The days when there is no monsoon are still in the low 100s, and a walk to the mailbox in the late afternoon will make its return a hurried one knowing that air conditioning awaits. For sure, the nights are starting to cool down, but even the mid- to upper seventies will keep the swimming pool temperature tolerable for swimming until the end of the month.

There comes a point every year at this time, however, where the sense of the coming fall season (or, rather, the coming of “no heat”) becomes most apparent, and it is a joyful one for me. It is the Friday when Carmelo and his gang show up and Carmelo shows that purposeful look about him. All of a sudden, after months and months of maintaining property through the heat, he calls you over to discuss strategy for the coming “no heat” season.

This year, Carmelo’s main concern is with the front lawn and the back. “There’s not enough green showing on the grass”, he tells me. His concern lies with the fact that, while the lawn looks green, it’s only the top 1/4″ that’s green; underneath that everything is brown. And he doesn’t like the terrain: while it’s true anyone driving past our house wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between our lawn and Shawn’s and Keith’s (or neighbors), Carmelo knows better. Underneath all that seemingly lush grass lies the remnants of February’s sewer line fiasco. Carmelo’s plan? “I’m going to cut the grass down to the nubs and lay topsoil on top of anything that’s uneven.” The winter rye he’ll plant will start the true reclamation project. “By next summer you’ll have a lawn worthy of a putting green”, he tells me.

I believe him.

Out back, Carmelo knows we’re in a transition period. He sawed off the branches of the queen palms broken in the last storm but still isn’t satisfied. He wants to cut more branches, I want him to leave things as is.

“That’s OK”, he says without a smile on his face. “Next spring you’ll be begging me to take them down.”

I believe him.

It’s the back lawn that’s going to require some coordination between us. I’ve planted dichondra to cover the half that was just basically dirt, but with all the water I’ve been giving it the Bermuda grass has flourished on the other half. So in two weeks Carmelo is going to cut the Bermuda down to the nubs, after which I will cover it with topsoil and seed with dichondra to see how it all works out. Carmelo loves the dichondra idea: it is so green and so bright that the Tiki bar deck will look like it is swimming in a sea of clover.

“Beautiful.”, he says.

The final work we undertake is to stake some cactus that has grown as high as the lower eaves of the roof so that the winter storms don’t blow it over. My thinking was to simply tie them together with some green tape or cord to serve as a stabilizing force, but Carmelo will hear nothing of it. “I have some tree stakes in my truck that will take care of it”, says he. And he’s right: These are 8-foot wooden stakes dug into the ground, upon which he places a metal thing that looks like something you’d see on top of a cell-phone tower. He then grabs his 8-foot ladder and a mallet, then drives the wooden stake further into the ground by pounding the crap out of it. After tying it all together and it looks like a thing of beauty.

As Carmelo and his team leaves, he gives one last look at the mesquite tree in the back yard and shakes his head: it has already grown back exponentially from the $200 trim he gave it just two weeks ago.

“El tigre”, says he, shaking his head. “That tree will never be tamed. All that water you’re giving the dichondra is just causing it to come back faster. We’ll need to trim it again before next March.”

That’s why I love Carmelo. Even if I were I to lose my job and couldn’t afford anything else but food, I’d rather go hungry than having to go and not pay my landscaper. He is el hombre.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:56 | Comments (0)
September 18, 2015

If you’re a Beatles fan this is something that should be on every fan’s Christmas list. Would love to see the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones come up with a similar concept.

I can wait for Christmas to get that. But what I’d really like for Christmas this year is this.

While there are few bigger fans of LPGA star Paula Creamer than yours truly, there’s no way she should have been a captain’s pick for this year’s PGA’s Solheim Cup team. She’s had a terrible year – that 81 with a quadruple bogey last weekend had to have been pretty embarrassing – and really doesn’t deserve someone else’s slot. But being the kind of guy I am, I’m giving her a mulligan for this year – after all, she got married last December and is obviously very happy with her life right now. Hopefully the “Pink Panther” uses the upcoming off-season to get her head and her game back in check and ready to do battle in 2016.

Is there any question that Jason Day is the best golfer on the planet right now? And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

On the other hand, maybe he is and maybe he isn’t, but there’s something about Zach Johnson that leaves me cold. Just the way he looks, dresses, and acts on the course comes across as some arrogant, prickly pretty boy who thinks the rest of us are just a bunch of low-life turds.

I like Carly Fiorina but we’re about to find out just what she’s made of over the next few weeks. I don’t think she has a clue about the tsunami of attention and criticism about to come her way. Unlike Sarah Palin, she’s no dope and she’s not out of her league. But she better be prepared to take a beating because it’s coming.

Ohio Governor John Kasich is a dope.

And so is Jeb Bush.

Can’t we somehow clear the field down to six candidates – Trump, Fiorina, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, and let them hash it all out in front of the voters? The rest are clearly not ready for prime-time, and what the GOP voters need right now more than anything else is clarity.

Red State’s streiff calls it “A shameful day without parallel in American history.” The Republicans in Washington – in particular, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell – are a disgrace. All I want to do right now is blow up the entire GOP establishment. And if it takes electing a blowhard like Donald Trump to do it, I’m all for it. What’s the point of electing Republicans if they won’t even fight for something so obviously critical to our national security?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comments (0)
September 17, 2015

Post title comes from one of my favorite Rolling Stones albums, BTW. The UK version is best because it has my all-time Rolling Stones favorite tune on it.

Been checking out a lot of blogs (both liberal and conservative) following the second GOP debate and I now have things pretty clear in the looking glass the following points:

1. I’m with Conservative Treehouse on this: Wall Street (the biggest Democrat supporters) really thought that the Donald Trump candidacy would have imploded by now, but his performance during the second debate indicates he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. He’s become the Joe Biden of the Republican Party, nothing sticks to him

2. …as a result, look for VP Joe Biden to enter the race by Halloween. The big Dem donors know Hillary!’s candidacy is not just treading water, but they know he knows that there’s bad stuff about to be released as far as her e-mail server scandal is concerned, and there might be even more to it than that.

3. Which is why Hillary! is about to embark on an apology tour the likes of which you’ve never seen before. But it’s all futile: female voters have tuned her out, and Democratic Party insiders are increasingly aware that they’ve got a big, orange-pantsuited albatross around their collective necks.

4. Both Jeb! Bush’s and John Kasich’s respective candidacies are doomed. Wouldn’t surprise me to see the GOP establishment money start being directed to Marco Rubio, and a not-so-subtle push by the RNC to begin an aggressive push to winnow down the field to six candidates: Trump, Fiorina, Carson, Rubio, Christie / Bush / Walker, and Cruz as a way to better focus their guns on Donald Trump by the next debate.

5. Don’t believe me? The GOP establishment has to know that the only way they’re going to take down Trump is to put him on stage in a setting where he won’t be able to hide behind a large field. They believe that’s the only way they’ll be able to smoke him out as some kind of wizard revealed behind the blue curtain.

6. But of course, Trump knows this, so look for him over the next month to start releasing policy papers with positions and people (Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, for one) who will be advising him on issues going forward. Just in time before the holidays get everyone’s attention.

7. All of which will lead up to a Trump / Biden matchup for the 2016 Presidential nomination. How that plays out will be anyone’s guess. But it ought to be entertaining, to say the least.

Just a guess on my part, we’ll see how it all plays out.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:24 | Comments (0)
September 16, 2015

I have to say that CNN did a OK job with the questions and keeping the flow going and giving everyone a chance. But how they figured out how to spend three hours and not ask anyone about Obamacare, The VA scandal, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail debacle and the IRS scandal is beyond me. Nevertheless, here are my ratings from top to bottom:

Carly Fiorina: Had the strongest night of all by far. The way she handled the Trump “face comment” issue was strong. It will be interesting to see where she takes this from here, as (at least in my view) she comes across as a little hot for TV. There’s no doubt she’s poised and intelligent, can she translate that into likeability and voters?

Chris Christie: I liked the way he kind of spoke as the working-class candidate. He was especially strong on Hillary Clinton, which I think conservatives will like. I think he did himself a lot of good.

Donald Trump: No major gaffes. He obviously chose to just suck it up with the Fiorina comeback – that’s as close to an apology as Trump’s ever gonna give. Personally, I like the way he just talks differently than the politicians. His comments about North Korea were spot on, and his take on autism, rightly or wrongly, is going to resonate with everyday voters. He’s absolutely right – there is an epidemic of autism in this country, and Trump spoke to the suspicion that the FDA guidelines have something to do with it. The pundits will say that Trump is through, but they’ve been consistently wrong about Trump all along, and they will continue to do so.

Ted Cruz: I didn’t like the way he kept looking at the camera when he answered his questions – he just came across as too polished – but there’s no doubt of his conservative bona fides and he wasn’t afraid to let them show. I don’t think he’s electable in a general election, but for now he didn’t do himself any harm.

Marco Rubio: He’s a mystery to me, I’ll admit. He ought to be the shining star of the GOP field, but there’s just something too slick and too robotic about him. He knows stuff for sure, but I don’t think he speaks to the average voter in a way that touches them. Still, I think he did himself some good tonight.

The rest of field I don’t think did themselves any good:

Ben Carson: Lost a major opportunity to force himself into the race. He’s a soft-spoken, humble guy, but on a stage with ten other candidates you’ve got to find a way to work yourself into the discussion. He got kind of steam-rollered tonight.

Scott Walker: He might be a great governor, but he’s not ready for the national stage. Maybe see ya in another four to eight years, Scott.

John Kasich: He started off the debate absolutely lunatic wild-eyed, then settled into a kind of “can’t we all just get along” kind of schtick. His comments about the Iran nuclear deal were absolutely ridiculous, and the rest of the field pretty much let him know it. He’s not going anywhere.

Rand Paul: There’s no doubt the guy is smart but I don’t see him going anywhere. I see him dropping out in the next month.

Mike Huckabee: Shouldn’t even be on the stage. Say goodnight, Huckleberry.

Jeb Bush: Hopefully tonight is the end of the most pathetic candidate on the stage. Sure, he was more animated tonight but I don’t think he did himself any favors with his big $ GOP establishment donors. He’s got this kind of odd look and cadence whenever he answers questions that reminds you of some junior-high science teacher. His comments about Chief Justice John Roberts doing a good job after having upheld Obamacare (twice!) is gonna haunt him. And how stupid was his answer about putting Margaret Thatcher on U.S. currency – talk about a nitwit! I’m guessing his financial support starts drying up big-time. One can only hope.

My guess is you’ll see after this debate The Donald staying pretty much right where he is, Carly Fiorina moving up in the pack, Ben Carson dropping into the middle of the pack, and everyone else still fighting for air. Ron Paul and Scott Walker are in danger of dropping out entirely. The rest – who cares? How Fiorina handles being under the hot spotlight will be interesting to see. I certainly wouldn’t underestimate her, but I refuse to underestimate Donald Trump’s staying power, either.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 21:59 | Comments (0)
September 12, 2015

A few thoughts and links between housecleaning and backyard chores:

While not much a fan of Steely Dan, I always find it intriguing and interesting to learn the background of where hit songs: what the writers were thinking, what they were attempting to accomplish, etc., so this interview with Walter Becker and Donald Fagan discussing SD’s “Deacon Blues” is pretty fascinating.

The ESPN mini-documentary about President George W. Bush’s perfect first pitch strike linked to at Hot Air thrown at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series brought back some incredible memories. And Hot Air’s Allahpundit is right: maybe that was the last time this country was united around anything. Thanks in large part to Democrats and Barack Obama everything is now politicized to the point where you can’t even watch a normal night’s TV without having someone’s political agenda shoved down your throat. And, ironically and sadly, that’s especially the case at ESPN these days.

That Iran nuclear deal keeps looking worse every day, doesn’t it? My view is that very few times in politics does there arise an issue that is worth tossing all your chips on the political table. But the stakes are so high here that I’m with Townhall’s Guy Benson on this: the Republicans (and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell especially) should play the hardest of hard ball on this and halt all work in the Senate until the Democrats agree to break their filibuster preventing a vote on the deal:

Republicans hold a Senate majority, several prominent Democrats are with them, public opinion is heavily on their side, and they occupy the moral high ground. Use it. Shame Democrats for this action. Force them to vote to sustain this filibuster over and over again. Make them explain on television why their chamber has ground to a complete halt, and why they don’t believe Congress should have any say on the Iran deal. Shine a white, hot spotlight on this, day after day. Make Hillary Clinton defend them, too. And apply intense pressure to Democrats who’ve aired public misgivings about the filibuster, particularly Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Enough of the niceties and gentleman’s club rules; this is too important an issue to allow politics-as-is to rule. Force the Democrats to show how they really feel about the deal. Republicans must get creative here and do everything they can to sabotage this deal.

The funny thing about all this is that I’m not (at least philosophically) against Iran getting a nuclear weapon – hell, Israel, Pakistan, India, and others have them. And people like Donald Trump are right in saying that the prospect of Iran getting nukes probably means that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will now start trying to aggressively attain them as well. But that doesn’t mean we should actively support Iran’s effort by standing idly by and unfreezing their assets. Political and financial pressure towards moderate regime change is what the US should be working towards, not helping the most extreme kind of extremists get the keys to the nuclear kingdom.

Sad to see Texas Governor Rick Perry drop out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination but he turned out to be a lousy candidate with lousy political instincts. If he had played the long game by sticking to issues and not attacking Donald Trump’s rise in the polls so personally (a tactic Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are taking) he might have worked his way into the top-tier down the line. I think he, Bobby Jindal (who will be next to drop out), and Scott Walker are learning a hard lesson about presidential politics: being a successful governor does not automatically make you qualified to be a player on the national stage.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 11:53 | Comments (0)
September 11, 2015

New York City. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Washington, D.C.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Benghazi – y’know, what Hillary Clinton once said, “what difference does it make?” (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:48 | Comments (0)
September 10, 2015

It’s been a cloudy, muggy week in the Valley of the Sun, but with temperatures only in the 90s we’ll take it. Here are a few thoughts about stuff goin’ on…

If he keeps this kind of thing up, Donald Trump is going to make it harder for his supporters who appreciate his bombastic style to keep supporting him. I mean, you can’t talk about a woman’s looks like that. If he had said that about my wife in public we would have words, believe me. I wish for once he’d just suck it up, ditch his ego for ten seconds, then apologize and forever after stick to the friggin’ issues. Perhaps that might be asking too much?

With so much misery going on in the world today it’s nice to read stories like this.

…It’s been more than three weeks since the plastic came off the pool and – knock on wood – there has been nary a bee sighting. I hope wherever they went they’ve found a more accommodating place.

…I sure miss hitting golf balls. Maybe in a few weeks as I prepare for a fall visit back home to Massachusetts.

I’m with National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg: we don’t need Hillary Clinton’s apology for keeping a private e-mail server for national security e-mailing – we need answers. And National Journal’s Ron Fornier – a die-hard liberal, BTW, who has been on Hillary’s case from the start, has just the questions he would like to see answered. If her initials weren’t HRC, the federal government would be preparing a very nice cell for her in Leavenworth.

And I’m with NRO’s David French on the pathetic, do-nothing body that the U.S. Senate has become. You can’t allow a minority to run roughshod over how a legislative body does business. And it requires a strong leader (something Mitch McConnell isn’t) to make things happen. Just like in Congress, there are too many fat and comfy elected officials feeding off the public trough.

I guess I don’t understand the whole Kim Davis / Kentucky / gay marriage licensing thing. If your religious beliefs prevent you from handing out marriage licenses to gay couples, then simply delegate the activity to someone else. After all, a) she’s a government official with a job to do, and b) like it or not, gay marriage is the law of the land. It’s one thing to have religious convictions; when they interfere with the job you’ve been hired to do you either find a way to work around it, or you find another line of work.

Found myself re-visiting Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and enjoying it a lot – it’s one my top five albums of all time. I especially love the brashness of this Lindsay Buckingham tune.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:17 | Comments (0)
September 8, 2015

I’ll say this about September here in the Valley of the Sun: it reminds me of August back home in New England. The days are hot, but not like 110 hot, but it’s the humidity that you notice. The pool is starting to cool down (it’s now a refreshing 86 degrees) and the nights are as well, although you’d be hard-pressed to start calling the nights “cool”. Better to call them cooler, which, I guess, is not saying much. Anyways, we have a hurricane lurking off the Baja that is going to bring in some moisture over the next few days. Anytime there is rain in the forecast you won’t hear me complain.

A few other thoughts:

Can you imagine, say, Tiger Woods doing this kind of thing after winning a tournament like the Deutschebank Championship? It’s just another example of why Rickie is so popular with golf fans and the media alike. He’s a genuine good guy who has really picked his game up in the past year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him win a major next year, and I think a Masters green jacket would look pretty awesome on him.

Is there a politician more disliked than Hillary Clinton these days? Beyond the fact that she’s as phony as a three-dollar bill, her latest comments about the e-mail and national security scandal she finds herself immersed in shows that: a) she’s completely clueless about the implications of her actions, b) she knows exactly what’s going on and she’s lying her wide pantsuited-ass off in a pathetic attempt to keep her campaign above ater, or c) Both. I’m guessing c. Seriously, I don’t see her campaign lasting through the New Year. She’s beyond damaged goods and the Democrats must know they’re going to have to orchestrate something to make her drop out of the race.

Jonah Goldberg and the good folks at National Review Online are wondering why conservatives like myself are Supporting Donald Trump’s campaign for the GOP nomination. Conservative Treehouse articulates it better than I ever could but here is the basic gist: I’m sick of the GOP establishment and the John Boehners, John McCains, Mitt Romneys, and Mitch McConnells. What’s the point of electing Republicans if all they do is lay down and support the status quo? These are a bunch of gutless, spineless weasels that have to go, and while I’m not sure Donald Trump stands for everything I hold dear as a conservative, I guarantee he’s going to shake up the status quo in Washington. He’s not going to put up with the gross ineptitude and corruption that Washington stands for, and I will celebrate the end of the GOP as it now exists were Trump (win or lose) to get the GOP nomination. Burn it down and let’s start from scratch, I say.

Nice try, Joe. That message might work as an opposition party candidate but riddle me this: what party has held the White House the last 6 1/2 years?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments (0)
September 7, 2015

Back from a long Labor Day weekend where I did a lot of labor in the back yard. There was a pool to backwash (it was fun seeing dead bees amidst the usual dirt and detritus), bushes to trim, and a back yard to lay topsoil and peat moss as I attempt to turn my grass to dichondra.

Here’s the story. A few years ago, I grabbed a can of what I though was grass seed and tossed it all over the bare spots in my back yard. In a classic case of Leaping before I looked I realized that it wasn’t grass seed I was spreading, but dichondra, which, as you can see in the link above, is a kind of clover-looking lawn cover. Horrified, I spent an entire afternoon with a broom and brush trying to sweep up all the seed I had sown. I thought I did a pretty good job of it, but a month later I’m seeing clover sprout from all over the place. And three years later it has taken over a vast section of my backyard, crowding out the grass and kicking ass and taking names.

And I’ve found I like the dichondra. It’s bright green, it doesn’t seem to care if I over water or under water the lawn, it stays the same color through summer and not-summer (the only two seasons we have here in the Valley of the Sun), and, best of all, it’s like walking on a lush, soft carpet. So I decided, if you can’t beat it, join it.

Which I did this weekend. A couple of trips to Lowe’s for bags and bags of topsoil and pea moss, and three canisters of dichondra. Spread the topsoil out, sprinkle the dichondra, cover with peat moss, work it all in and walk all over it to pack it down, and give it a good water. I will say this: the vibrant green color of the dichondra will really set apart the Tiki bar area and the deck I installed last year.

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:59 | Comments (0)


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