Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wine - Red Wine Basics

W. C. Fields 

 Today I want to direct you to a short 10 minute video which discusses the differences between three noble red wines: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Check it out here.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Monticello is Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia. A trip here should  be on your bucket list. The good news is they have an excellent website,

Jefferson's Office

Here's an illustration of Jefferson's office which includes a revolving book stand, a revolving chair, his Polygraph for making copies of letters, and a variety of scientific instruments.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thomas Jefferson

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson has had his up and downs throughout history. He's often referred to by politicians to prove one point or another.

For all his faults and shortcomings, few would deny his brilliance. He was a scholar, philosopher, politician, architect, gardner, wine connoisseur, and violinist. He was a polymath and a true Renaissance man.

Clay Jenkins is a Jefferson scholar who frequently portrays Jefferson. He can be heard speaking as Jefferson on a number of topics at The Jefferson Hour.
I would like to suggest that you visit The Jefferson Hour and click on "Click Here to Listen." You will find a list of past podcasts. Here are just a few that are listed: #1010 - Church and State; #1014 Privacy; #1018 Secular Societies; #1036 Wine; #1040 The Women Jefferson Loved; and #1047 A Day in the Life.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Duolingo - Free Language Lessons

Duolingo is a web site devoted to teaching languages. It's very easy to use. You select the language that interest you and the program starts teaching you the basics. If you have some experience with the language, you can take an exam which will rate your knowledge and give you the appropriate lessons.
During each lesson they use a combination of asking you to translate a foreign phrase to English, write a spoken phrase in the foreign language, and translate an English phrase into the foreign language. When you get a wrong answer, the program immediate shows you the correct answer.

They are currently offering Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian.

They also have a mobile app for IOS and Android. I was surprised how much Spanish I remembered.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wine Basics

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

I've found a series of short YouTube videos that do a really good job of introducing us to wine. Let's start with the basics.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scenic Drives

I just discovered a new (for me) website. It's called myscenicdrives. You pick a state and MyScenicDrives gives you a list and description of scenic drives.

I checked California and here were a few on the list: Anza Borrego Desert; Big Sur Coast; Death Valley Scenic Byway, etc. Check it out.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Areal Flooding

I know is looks like a typo in the title of this blog. While checking the weather, I noticed there  was a warning of areal flooding. The word “areal” is the adjective version of the noun “area.” It basically means there's a risk of flooding in designated areas. The bus in the above photo was caught in a flash flood last summer in AZ.

I'm a big fan of following the weather. I guess it comes from my boating days. I have a weather station at the house. What's nice about this weather station is that it's totally wireless. I have the main control unit in the kitchen. This weather station measures indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity. It also measures wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, wind chill, and rainfall. It comes with two remote temperature sensors. I have one sensor on a covered patio and another in the living room. The anemometer (wind speed and direction indicator) unit also has a temperature sensor which allows it to calculate wind chill.

Some serious weather buffs have their stations connected to the Net. Take a look at this private weather station in Phoenix.

I can highly recommend WunderMap by Weather Underground app.

"WunderMap is the world's most interactive weather and radar map, providing current conditions and forecasts from Weather Underground's unique network of 30,000 neighborhood weather stations. Follow storms with the animated radar and satellite layers, track tropical weather in the hurricane layer and even view active wildfires."

Friday, November 22, 2013

How to Be More Photogenic - Squinching

This is a technique for improving photos of people. Check out this link for more details.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Departures - The Movie

This movie won an Academy Award in 2008 for "Best Foreign Language Film."

"Many viewers would be touched by the tale of an aspiring cellist, who accidentally becomes a mortician (an undertaker or a funeral director, to some) when he loses his dream job with a symphony orchestra. Many would even be stupefied by the ingenuity of the filmmakers to pick up a seemingly unique subject such as “encoffinment” as a subject for a feature film. Many others would be in awe of the Asian traditions that respect the dead, the elderly, and the institution of marriage until (and beyond!) “death do us part”. Many others would be equally intrigued by the Asian traditions that consider associating any profession relating to the dead as being somewhat demeaning and not worthy of public stature.

Director Yojiro Takita’s film is loosely based on Aoki Shinmon’s autobiographical book The Coffin Man, which was subsequently adapted for the screen by the scriptwriter Kundo Koyama. "

- Jugu Abraham

Here's a much longer review by Roger Ebert of Departures

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Digital Library #3

San Antonio Public Library

I discovered this very interesting article about the San Antonio library. The San Antonio Main library is an architectural phenomenon created by the famous Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta. Here are some photos of the library.

Is San Antonio’s bookless library the future of libraries?

Bookless library
The first completely bookless library has opened their doors to the public in San Antonio, TX. Bexar County Digital Library prides itself at the “country’s first digital public library”. For people who consider a book to be words that are printed on paper and are bound together this news might be a bit confusing. However, for people who understand that a book can be available in a digital format the new library will make perfect sense. In fact, the new library boasts over 10,000 ebook titles. All of these ebooks are able to be accessed from the library’s 4 touchscreen tablets, 40 iPads, 57 computers and 900 ereaders.
As of now, it is still too early to tell how this new library will perform when it comes to public visits. However, there is one thing that is for sure, and that is this new library is one step closer to a future in which libraries are no longer filled with paper books. We’ve been getting closer to this future for more than a decade and many people are skeptical if this new kind of library will be a good thing.
Libraries, as an institution, are currently having a sort of identity crisis. Most people typically think of libraries as having stacks of books and shelves with titles organized by category. Of course, the image wouldn’t be complete without the stereotypical librarian going around shushing people and helping patrons decipher the Dewey Decimal System. This is how people have thought about libraries for close to a century.
The reason libraries have remained relatively the same for such a long period of time has been because of the traditional paper book. Printed books are an absolutely brilliant piece of technology. They are a durable, portable and inexpensive way to communicate ideas and knowledge. Of course, the most amazing thing about them is how easy it is to share them. Libraries have existed for so long because the general public could benefit tremendously by sharing the same books over and over. This allowed communities to get additional value from a single purchase. Unfortunately, in the technological world all good things must come to an end. Nobody knows how long the printed book will remain the dominant format, but every sign seems to indicate that ebooks will eventually be the most popular way for people to read books.
San Antonio’s new bookless library is supposed to be targeted at communities with low household incomes. The idea is to put these libraries where only 25 percent of the surrounding residents have a form Internet access. This allows the library to provide a vital service to the local community since so much of modern life depends on the Internet.
The way people think of libraries is drastically changing especially among the younger generation. Only time will tell if the image of a library will change in the future. For now, the bookless library of San Antonio is providing valuable services that benefit the people in the surrounding community – just like all libraries do.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Old Time Radio, Not

I remember as a child sitting in front of our old Philco radio. This radio had a short-wave band which allowed you to listen to faraway places. I would sit by the hour and slowly turn the dial listening for foreign languages. It seemed like magic.

Today we can listen to radio stations around the world via the Internet. If you would like to listen to your home town radio while on the road, use radio-locator. You can search for national radio stations  or international stations. You can also search by continent and/or country.

The best solution for mobile devices (iOS and Android) is TuneIn Radio. This is a mobile app that allows you to listen to over 70,000 radio stations. Just go to the App Store and search for TuneIn Radio.

Add a Blue-tooth headset to this combination and you can walk around the house while listening to your favorite radio station without carrying your iPhone, iPad or other mobile device.

Monday, November 18, 2013

David and Goliath - The True Story

Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer for the New Yorker, has written a new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and The Art of Battling Giants.

"In David and Goliath, Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks."

Please watch this terrific youtube video. Gladwell discusses the unapparent background of the battle of the giant and the shepherd.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Salinger - The Movie, The Book

I may be one of the few college students who never read the famous Catcher in the 
Rye by J. D. Salinger. I'd heard the name over the years but never thought about him. 

Then one night I'm watching Charlie Rose, and he's interviewing Shane Salerno who had just written a new book and produced a documentary film about Salinger. I also learned that many people thought Salinger was one of the best writers of the last century. He was also a bit of a recluse.

I read the book and was fascinated by Salinger's unusual life. I was surprised when I found that the recent documentary film was available on Netflix.

It might surprise you to know that Mark David Chapman (John Lennon's assassin) and John Hinckley (Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin), were both carrying copies of Catcher in the Rye.

Here are  some of the people who appear in the film: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Edward Norton;
John Cusack; Martin Sheen; Tom Wolfe; and Gore Vidal!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Crockpot Thai Green Curry Chicken

I was so happy with the No Hurry Curry I decided to try Thai curry. I picked up some green curry paste when I was at the Oriental market.  Green Curry Paste consists of green chilies, lemongrass, garlic, galangal (looks like ginger but tastes like pepper), shrimp paste, Kaffir lime peel, coriander seed, pepper, cumin, and turmeric. Garam Masala contains cumin, green cardamon, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and mace. This dish was delicious.

2 - boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 - 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 - 14 oz. can chicken broth
1 - 14 oz can chickpeas
3 tbsp. green curry paste
3 tbsp. garlic/ginger paste
1 tsp. garam masala
1 - sweet potato, chopped
1 - medium onion, chopped
2 - cups of frozen stir fry vegetables (or your own combo)

Add coconut milk and chicken broth to crock, whisk in curry paste, garlic/ginger paste, and garam masala. Add chicken, add sweet potato and chickpeas. Add stir fry vegetables.

Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve over rice or other grain.

Note: If you like a thicker sauce, you can use a little cornstarch near the end of cooking.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven - The Movie

Filmmaker Andrew Rossi documents a year in the life of renowned Manhattan restaurateur Sirio Maccioni as he closes the doors of his celebrated Le Cirque restaurant in 2005, then works feverishly to update, relocate and reopen a year later.

After you've watched the film, check out this NY Times review.

This is an interesting documentary focusing on two generations of an Italian family.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Digital Library #2

Strahov Theological Hall, in Prague

I mentioned in the previous post that it's advantageous to have a number of different library cards. Each library has a different selection of downloadable ebooks or audio books. Check on-line or call libraries along your travels  to determine whether you are eligible or not.

Several systems are available on-line for libraries. Most of these systems were developed by third parties and have contracts with participating libraries.

One system is called Freading. allows for the downloading of books. There is no waiting list. I won't go into all the details because they have an extensive FAQ.

Another system is called Freegal Music. "Free music? Yours to keep? Yes! Get it from your library and yes, it's yours and you get to keep it! Download three songs every week from some of the hottest musicians on the charts. Want something more eclectic or indie? We've got that too! Check out Freegal today and get your groove on!"

Another system is OneClickDigital which allows you to download free audio books.

Another system is Overdrive which has downloadable ebooks. Quite often you need to place yourself on a waiting list for many of the titles.

Another system is Zinio Magazines which gives you access to a bunch of popular magazines in a digital format.

Check on your local library's website to see which if any of these services they offer. Let me know if you're aware of others.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Digital Library #1

I've always been a big fan of libraries. I've always loved books but never could afford to buy them. As the years went by, I realized that borrowing books was much better than owning them. I have mixed feelings over the advent of digital books. Will printed books disappear? Will physical libraries disappear? Hard economic times don't help.

Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated funds that built over 1,600 libraries in the USA between 1883-1929. "Carnegie believed in giving to the "industrious and ambitious; not those who need everything done for them, but those who, being most anxious and able to help themselves, deserve and will be benefited by help from others. Under segregation black people were generally denied access to public libraries in the Southern United States. Rather than insisting on his libraries being racially integrated, he funded separate libraries for African Americans. For example, at Houston he funded a separate Colored Carnegie Library."

There are obvious benefits to digital books.  The ability to access ebooks and audio books on-line is amazing. Suddenly, in theory, any book ever written is available via the Internet.

I've noticed that libraries are slowly changing to include not only just books, but DVD movies, music CDs, audio books, publicly available computers connected to the Internet, etc. Let's hope that libraries continue to be places of available public information.

As local entities, each library system establishes rules for the issuance of a library card. In the old days, you needed to prove that you lived in the local area. Traveling around California, I found that quite often you can get a library card if you had proof of California residence such as a driver's license. Some libraries will issue a card if you have a piece of mail with your local address on it. I once sent a letter to myself at an RV park in California and was able to use it as proof of residency. (to be continued)

Tecoma hybrid Sierra Apricot

This petite new Esperanza from Mountain States delivers a powerful punch of apricot color in the summer months. This garden gem is smaller than previous selections, with a compact and dense form. Because it is virtually seed free, this clone blooms continuously throughout the summer months with large clusters of bell-shaped flowers. Hummingbirds love the tubular blossoms! In mild climates Sierra Apricot™ remains mostly evergreen, but is deciduous below temperatures of 25°F. Simply cut the stems back after frost, and plants will flush out quickly in the late spring.

I took my big camera (Canon SX50HS) with me on my walk today with hopes of photographing our local coyote. He was no where to be found so I took some flower shots and one of a local quail. I think this is a Gambel's Quail.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Am I going Batty?

Mexican free-tailed bat

Bats are an important part of the eco system. Most species are insect eaters. This little bat pictured above is about 9 cm long and weighs 12.3 g. One hundred million of these little bats will consume 1,000 tons of insects in one night in Texas. This species also pollinates sugar cane.

Unfortunately, bats in general are under attack from a fungus called Geomyces destructans.
This fungus has killed about 6 million bats since its discovery in New York in 2006. This fungus is commonly referred to as WNS (white nose syndrome) because infected bats quite frequently have a white nose when this fungus is present.

There are forty-seven different kinds of bats living in the United States.

For more information visit and

Monday, November 11, 2013


  1. 1.
    a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.
  1. 1.
    make (a multimedia digital file) available as a podcast.

    I always think of podcasts as pre-recorded radio shows that you can listen to at your convenience. Podcasts can also be videos. I know a lot of people who listen to music on their portable devices. I take a daily walk and like to listen to podcasts as opposed to music.

    Thousands of topic are covered by podcasts. Do you like to listen to NPR? Most of their shows are available via podcast. Check out the NPR podcast directory here.

    Podcasts cover every imaginable subject including music, literature, food, gardening, politics, wine, sports, science, technology, etc. If you don't know where to start, check out Top Ten Podcasts here. On this same page you can also find a list of Top Ten Podcasts by subject.

    Podcasts used to be a part of iTunes in IOS. Recently podcasts where separated out and they now have their own app. called Podcasts. I've started using an app called Downcast to download, organize, and listen to Podcasts. It's available at the App Store for $2.99 and worth every penny. Downcast will allow you to search for a Podcast and subscribe. Downcast will automatically download new episodes as they become available.

    One of the  best parts of Podcasts, they're all free!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Good Cup of Coffee

I like a good cup of coffee. I prefer to make it at home. A good cup depends on three major factors: (1) quality coffee beans, (2) a good burr grinder, and (3) good clean water.

There are a number of different system for making coffee including but not limited to automatic coffee makers (Mr. Coffee), Keurig type, French Press, and Pour Over (Chemix, Melitta, etc.)

I prefer the pour-over system because it's easy, cheap, requires a minimum of equipment, doesn't require electricity, and produces a quality cup of coffee. The above photo is a Melitta 10 cup pour-over system available from Amazon for $11.00!!

Here's the bad news. You need to buy a good Burr Coffee Grinder. They are not cheap. I found mine on sale at Costco for $30.00 but the coffee geeks say it's no good for my espresso machine. Look for a deal on the Cuisinart Supreme Grind DBM-8 Coffee Grinder.

The biggest mistake most people make is not using enough coffee. Use two tablespoons of ground coffee for each six ounces of water.

Visiting the following site for more detailed information about the Pour-Over method.

If you would like to see coffee making videos, go to youtube and search for "pour over."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let Us Enroll at Yale

Yale is one of the top universities in the world. With an acceptance rate of 6.8%, I don't think my odds are too good. And yet, I've already taken several wonderful courses there. These courses can be found at Check the web link for a selection of many other classes.

Here they are:

The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.

This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.

This course is an introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning and individual monuments and their decoration, including mural painting. While architectural developments in Rome, Pompeii, and Central Italy are highlighted, the course also provides a survey of sites and structures in what are now North Italy, Sicily, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and North Africa. The lectures are illustrated with over 1,500 images, many from Professor Kleiner's personal collection.

Located at the heart of campus, the Department of Music at Yale welcomes practitioners of music in the widest sense, including students with an interest in composition, music history, musicology, performance, and theory. Majors are required to undertake broad historical surveys, classes in music theory, and studies in basic musicianship. Students are especially encouraged to make use of Yale's extensive collection of historical instruments, original manuscripts, and recordings, as well as the Yale Institute for Sacred Music. The graduate program offers concentrations in music history and music theory. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

No Hurry Curry

I decided today that I wanted to make a curry in my Crock Pot. I started by going to Lee-Lee Oriental Market in Peoria (a Phoenix suburb). I picked up Garlic-Ginger Paste and Madras Curry Powder. The paste makes it so easy to add garlic and ginger to a recipe. Curry is actually a mixture of other spices including turmeric, chili, cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Some inexpensive curry powder is nothing but turmeric and chilis. Some people are confused by the fact that there is another spice called Curry leaves which are normally sold fresh and are not related to the curry spice mixture even though they may be used in certain curries.
I found a nice recipe on the Net at "The Lemon Bowl" and made some of my own adjustments.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4-5 mushrooms - sliced
  • 1 medium onion – thinly sliced
  • 15 oz. can chickpeas – drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium sweet potato – peeled and diced
  • 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 14 oz. chicken stock – low sodium
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder – salt-free
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger/garlic paste
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder – optional
  • 1 cup green peas – frozen
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • cilantro – optional garnish

Add liquid ingredients to the Crock. Whisk in the curry powder and garlic-ginger paste. Add chicken breasts. Add chickpeas, onion, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms. Cook for 4 hours on high or eight hours on low. Serve over rice. The lemon juice and green peas are added during the last five minutes of cooking.

Note: Remember that you can always make it hotter, so go easy on the cayenne pepper. I like a more  liquid curry. If you like it thicker, reduced the amount of liquids.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Rape of Europa

In light of the recent discovery in Munich of thousands of pieces of art stolen by the Nazis, I watched this documentary from 2006 entitled "The Rape of Europa." This documentary based on Lynn Nicholas' The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War is a must see. It's available on Netflix. The title of the book is taken from Titian's famous painting.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"As It Is in Heaven" - The Movie

This film was nominated for Best Foreign Language film in 2004.

"A successful international conductor suddenly interrupts his career and returns alone to his childhood village in Norrland, in the far north of Sweden.It doesn't take long before he is asked to come and listen to the fragment of a church choir, which practises every Thursday in the parish hall. Just come along and give a little bit of good advice. He can't say no, and from that moment, nothing in the village is the same again. The choir develops and grows. He makes both friends and enemies. And he finds love."

It can be seen on Netflix.

Bring lots of tissues.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More Zentangles

“The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.We believe that life is an art form and that our Zentangle Method is an elegant metaphor for deliberate artistry in life.We invite you to explore our web site and learn more about this wonderful and uplifting method and art form.”

Do you like to doodle? If so, you might want to take it to the next level. This is a great hobby for vagabonds and RV travelers. All it requires is a pen and paper. “Official” Zentangles are drawn with a Sakura pen on small 3.5” x 3.5” pieces of card stock. I found these too small for my taste. I create 6” x 6” cards from Strathmore, Bristol smooth surface, 300 series 100 lb. (270 g/m2) art paper. These supplies are easily  found online and at most Michael’s art stores.

Zentangling has a certain meditative aspect (hence the name). It's the kind of thing you can do while your watching TV, etc. (sort of akin to knitting) even though if requires no special skill. The Zentangle website has a bunch of patterns you can start with and you can gradually create your own. Here are few more examples of my work.

Friday, November 1, 2013

iPad Air

iPad Air

I confess, I'm an Apple fan boy. I know their stuff costs twice as much as the other electronic goodies. I live a rather frugal life. I don't have a motorcycle or a boat or an ATV or an airplane or a giant barbecue or a two car garage or a BMW but I do have an iMac, a MacBookPro, an iPad Air, an iPhone 5S, an iPodTouch, and an iPod Nano. We all have to make sacrifices. 

I've been surprised how much I've used my iPad2 these past couple of years. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much difference between the iPad2 and the iPad Air. Well, the Air is smaller (with the same size screen), lighter (1.0 # versus 1.33#), faster (at least twice as fast), twice the screen resolution, the Face Time HD  camera has twice the resolution as the iPad2; the iSight camera has too many new features to mention them all including 1080p video recording, video stabilization, face detection, and 3x video zoom.

I got up early this morning so I could join the line at Best Buy, which was opening at 8AM,   in anticipation of a large crowd. I got there about 7:15; no line!! When the doors opened at 8AM, there were only three of us waiting. I was first in line and was out of there in about 5 minutes with my new iPad Air 32GB.