Saturday, February 29, 2020

HIking and Covid-19

Greetings!  Long time, no write.  The news is just sucking the marrow out of my bones.  There has been hiking.  Hiking is good, there have been no fellow humans in sight.  It's kind of weird, we're wondering where they all are.  I finally figured out how to use the panorama setting on Jim's phone.  This time I did not cut the tops off of the mountains.  It's sort of a distorted image, not sure I'm a fan of the format.


Yesterday we hiked late, we spent a fair amount of time on the phone with Charles Schwab trying to determine why they had locked our account due to not being able to identify me.  They actually could not pin point the problem and after asking me the four questions they can pull from public records they restored us to full access.  The investment guy keeps telling us to stay the course, and we keep wondering just how bad things are going to get.


This was today, it was just a gorgeous day.  White puffy clouds and warm temperatures.  Monday it's going to rain.


See the bites taken out of the prickly pear?  Javelinas did that.  It's hard to believe they can munch on the spines.


There was a sunset, as well.


At the 2/28 rally in South Carolina, the president went on record as saying Covid-19 is a hoax perpetrated by the Democrat (sic) party.  He  followed up with the equally baseless statement that the stock market was tanking because the markets didn't like any of the candidates in the Democrat (sic) party. I can't stand it.  Today, he announced the first US death due to Covid-19.  He then followed up with the statement that most people will survive, they'll just have to go through some stuff.  I still can't stand it.  Dr. Fauci (head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) was on stage with him, why wasn't he speaking?

The first US death came today in Washington state.  He was a 50ish man, with underlying health issues.  That was bad enough, worse is that several patients at a long term health care facility have tested positive, as have some people who work there.  Now what?  One hundred fourteen nurses at another hospital (different state) are now quarantined because they cared for a sick person that turned out to be positive for the virus.  Things are not starting off well.  The Seattle area Costco stores are running out of everything, people are buying everything there is to buy.
 
It is unfortunate that the team put together to confront the Ebola virus by Obama was disbanded by John Bolton in May 2018. Fifteen years of putting processes and procedures to efficiently run a pandemic response were flushed because it was an Obama sponsored project. Now, the wheel is having to be reinvented, and yes I do blame the president for this. That action was stupid. His personnel decisions have been based on who is loyal to him, and not on expertise. The head of HHS, was president of Lily, a major pharmaceutical company. The head of CDC has long ties to groups who believe AIDS was "God's judgment" against homosexuals, spread in an America weakened by single-parent households and loss of family values.  Having Mike Pence, science denier, who famously declared that smoking did not cause cancer because not everybody who smoked got cancer as the Covid-19 team leader makes little to no sense to me.   I could go on, but I'll stop there. The thus poor response to Covid-19 can be traced to not having qualified, experienced people in place and that problem starts at the top.

Yesterday, we tried to buy hand sanitizer at Target.  That was futile.  The hoarding has already begun.  I keep thinking we should stock up, but can't really figure out what I should be buying.  Pasta maybe?

This is the view from a Seattle area Costco.


So remember, wash your hands frequently and quit touching your face!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

On Being Melancholy

Hey-ho as the blogger in Wales says.  Or as Kurt Vonnegut used to write, and so it goes.  I'm fairly melancholy about the state of the nation (I know, what else is new).  However, after watching  National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien say he had no knowledge of the Russians' election interference this morning, it's become perfectly clear that this issue will not see the light of day until after the election. Additionally, I remain incensed about the president's complete and total lack of respect towards former acting DNI Admiral Joseph Maguire.  For someone who professes to love the military, we're not seeing much of that.  Huff Post had a good article with video clips of George Stephanopoulos questioning O'Brien if you missed it.

There has been hiking, and there was a mediocre sunset.  These are teddy bear cholla, they look so nice, but are so hard to remove from one's skin.


Sunset yesterday, after a day of rain.


We spent today on stage one of taking out two bougainvilleas.  The amount of debris they create has out weighed how pretty they are.  Each winter they drop almost all of their leaves which are difficult to remove from the yard.  They go everywhere.  After a lot of thought and debating the subject we decided to take them out.  They look horrible all winter, and we were getting tired of the looking dead and the debris removal.  So this guy has gone across the rainbow bridge for plants.  So has the one off to the right.  I'm really hoping we don't regret this, I still feel kind of bad about it. 


We're keeping the one next to the driveway.  He's equally messy, but it's easier to use the blower to move the dead leaves and blossoms into the street and down into the wash.  Other than this paltry offering, I have zippity-doo-dah all on offer.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Desert and the Politics

Greetings and salutations people of Earth.  It's hard to post about daily life these days as we stand by watching the wanton destruction of the most successful democracy to date.  Having said that, I'm putting my political stuff at the bottom so you can click away if you're tired of it.

Here are some nice pictures from recent hikes.  Today a front is moving in with some pretty good wind.  Tomorrow is forecast to be raining, cooler and windy.  Bleah.





OK!  Begin politics.

All it took was one ego maniac and the willingness of the republican party to go along with him.  Why don't the republicans decry the recent naming of Richard Grenell as acting DNI?  He knows nothing, he has no background, his only qualification is his unrelenting support of the president.  This appointment came about because there was a classified briefing that discussed the fact that Russia is still interfering with US elections.  Rather than do something about this state of affairs, the president called the acting DNI (Admiral Joseph Maguire) in to his office, gave him a dressing down and then sent him packing.  So, at this point the intelligence community is learning to not discuss anything that might irritate the sensitive-one in chief.  This censoring will also make it that much easier for Russia to do what they want again.

The following is from a KOMO article.  KOMO is a member of the conservative Sinclair network, so it's interesting to me that they're allowed to do this kind of reporting.
The background of Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany since April 2018, is primarily in politics and media affairs. He lacks the extensive national security and military experience of the acting director he replaces, Joseph Maguire, as well as previous holders of the position. Such experience appears to be required under the 2004 law that created the post to coordinate the work of the nation's intelligence agencies.
"He is probably the most unqualified individual ever appointed to this position," said Larry Pfeiffer, a former longtime intelligence agency official who helped establish the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Dating from his time as spokesman for former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, Grenell has had an antagonistic relationship with members of the media, whom he frequently criticizes for perceived liberal bias. He has issued demands for retractions and corrections over unfavorable reports later confirmed to be accurate.
Last month, he took to Twitter when The Washington Post reported the Trump administration threatened to impose a 25% tariff on vehicles manufactured in three European countries, including Germany, unless they met U.S. demands for actions against Iran.
Grenell slammed the Post reporter who wrote the story for "Fake News."
The following day, a German foreign ministry official confirmed the Trump tariff threat in a briefing to a parliamentary committee.
WAPO wrote a piece about the events.  It's a very coherent summation of what happened and why.

But wait, there's more!  I can't stand it.  Read more here.
Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials.
In other news that is pissing me off, three weeks ago the president signed a memo giving the Department of Defense an exemption from the law that gives federal employees the right to unionize.  The official excuse is "national security."  The real reason is union busting.  This will affect 750,000 people who do stuff like build aircraft carriers and etc.  It's not clear to me why people buy in to his shtick that he's a friend of the working person.

Currently the administration is dynamiting its way through Organ Pipe National Monument to build a section of the wall.  In addition to blowing up Native American burial sites, the contractors have drained an aquifer to mix concrete.  These are damages that can not be repaired.  There has been no negotiation with the local tribes, they just went in and did this.  You can read about this here.

Meanwhile, John McEntee, the president's former body man, has been reinstated and appointed to run the presidential personnel office.  Basically his job is to root out people who are not seen as sufficiently loyal to the president.  This is looking more and more like a dictatorship

.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Yes!  HVD, now let us all go out and commit vehicular homicide. The traffic is just nuts.  Safeway this morning was just nuts, full of men with their hands full of infantile balloons, stuffed animals and chocolate.  Jim later drove across town to pick up his freshly de-virused laptop and reported that the red light running and tail gating was way worse than usual.  I can't imagine what traffic will be like as they head out for their romantic dinners.  I'd be interested in seeing the stats on accidents for tonight.  I personally detest Valentine's day, it's a complete and total made up event, conjured up for the sole purpose of getting people to buy stuff.  Anyway, enough grumbling, I'm starting to sound like a old person.

Speaking of the elderly and their declining memories...   We've made the Chicken Adobo instant pot recipe three times.  It calls for scallions to be chopped up as a garnish at the very end.  The first two times we made it, we left the scallions in the refrigerator.  The third time we managed to get them out of the refrigerator and chopped up.  Mind you, this cutting board is about three inches away from the rice cooker.  We got the rice, we got the chicken, and then somehow managed to walk right by the cutting board to get the scallions.  I begin to fear for us, name tags may be next.  The next night we left the basil for garnish in the refrigerator after plating the Chicken Provencale out of the crock pot.


This is a terrible picture.  I was inside the house waving a point and shoot camera trying to capture this.  The feeders were recently filled, so the fluid level is close to the hole in hummingbirds stick their beaks through.  There is a small seed eater who likes to come and sit on refill days.  I think it's a Verdin.


The hummingbird was not amused by this.  He spent quite some time buzzing the seed eater, and then started flying at him as if to stab him.  Eventually the seed eater got tired of it and flew off.


As always there are restorative walks in the desert.  There was also some side hill mountain biking, but I did not get pictures since I left my camera at home. 



Other than this, I have zippity doo-dah all to report.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sunset

It was a windy cloudy day.  We were not expecting a decent sunset due to the depth of the clouds.  We were mistaken!






It's the Cruelty

As we all knew would happen, the president was acquitted.  Despite what he and his minions keep saying, it's not exoneration.  He's impeached forever, and there is no remedy for that.  Unsurprisingly, there was no contrition afterwards, only a 90 minute spew of  invective and anger in the East Wing.  What was particularly disturbing to me was the clapping and smiling on the part of his audience.  Clearly he now controls the hearts and minds of the Senate.

So now the retribution has begun.  Friday he fired Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, the wearer of a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge.  Lt. Colonel Vindman was subpoenaed to testify before the House, and so he did.  This infuriated the president, so much so that when he removed Lt. Colonel Vindman from the NSC, he also removed his brother, who had no role in the impeachment inquiry.


Lt. Colonels Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman were escorted out of the White House in full view of the press.  This sends a bad message to the next person who is subpoenaed by a House committee.

Outrage has been predictable on the part of the Democrats.  The Republicans took issue with the firing of Gordon Sondland, a major donor to the party, but had not one word of support for the Vindmans.


When Lt. Colonel Vindman took his seat to testify, he assured his father that he would be fine, that things were different here than in Russia, and I thought then he was naive.  There may not be a gulag, but there is definitely retribution.


This is something I want to remember so in to the blog it goes.

And if things weren't bad enough, feral hogs are taking over the US.  You can read about it here.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Fix to the Blogger Problem - Illustrated

Thursday morning I opened my laptop and went to blogger because I wanted to do a post.  Look in the upper corner, where it says create Create Blog Sign In.  If you're on your blog and are signed in to Gmail (which I was) it should show how you're logged in, New Post, Design, Sign Out.  So I hit Sign In.


And......... I went here, to the Dashboard.  At this point I freaked out, figured the blog was gone along with all of that history.  My phone was working, which is what I used to put up the Locked Out of Blogger post.  I put up a request for help on Blogger and was assigned help.  He turned out to be good help.


First we established that I was not logged in to the wrong account.  Then the consultant realized the navbar on the home screen was showing me as logged out. Notice that the editing symbol under the search box is missing.  Blogger in general knew that I WAS logged on and so would take me to the dashboard after clicking on Sign In.  Pretty weird, huh?  At this point we established that I actually could edit and produce a new post from the dashboard.   Then we moved in to clearing cache.  No effect.


Even though I knew I could still edit and produce posts, the whole thing was still stressing me out.  Then the consultant said this:
Here's what I think is going on. You have enabled one or more advert or cookie or tracking blocking settings or add-ins to your blog, and it or they are interfering in some way with the communication between blogspot.com and the rest of Google. I usually run Firefox with a lot of blockers, and have experienced this myself. The solution is that these blockers can be configured to whitelist blogspot.com.

From the dark recesses of my mind I dredged up a memory of altering my Firefox security settings after reading an article about digital fingerprinting.
What is it exactly? Fingerprinting involves looking at the many characteristics of your mobile device or computer, like the screen resolution, operating system and model, and triangulating this information to pinpoint and follow you as you browse the web and use apps. Once enough device characteristics are known, the theory goes, the data can be assembled into a profile that helps identify you the way a fingerprint would.
“Get enough of those attributes together and it creates essentially a bar code,” said Peter Dolanjski, a product lead for Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, who is studying fingerprinting. “That bar code is absolutely uniquely identifiable.”
This was the culprit.  I deleted the bottom three first, no change.  Then I deleted the cross-site and social media trackers.  Ta-da!  Problem solved.  I changed the settings last July.  In between then and Thursday, something changed in some code somewhere and broke communication between blogspot.com and the rest of Google. 


Until the consultant mentioned the tracking blocking settings, I had forgotten that I'd made those changes.  At that point I knew which settings to go change.  Now I'm back to being vulnerable to cryptominers and fingerprinters, but I guess that's the cost of the brave new digital world.

So, the moral of this story, is that if you change security settings or anything else in Firefox, please make a note of it.  If something on your laptop breaks, go undo what you did and see if that fixes it.  Blogger has good help with real people.  This is the second time they've helped me with something.  This  past Thursday's issue ran over six hours with back and forth emails and into Friday morning.  My other take home is that English is imprecise and always send screen shots of what you're trying to convey.

Friday, February 7, 2020

I'm Back on Blogger

I'm back and happy to be here.  Soon I will elaborate on what happened.  It was interesting.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Locked out of Blogger

I can't get to my blog on my laptop.  No idea why. It may be awhile before you hear from me. Posting on the phone is not doable.

Yep, still broken.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Weather

The weather has become weird here.  Yesterday the talking weather heads were predicting high winds, plummeting temperatures and possibly locusts.  OK, maybe no locusts.  Anyway, at high noon the temperatures were in the upper 60s, winds were light and we went for a hike in shorts and tee shirts.  It was just a delightful day.

This is the harbinger of what is to come.  White puffy clouds.


As we headed out for hunting and gathering, the clouds were massing and getting dark.  I had to laugh at us, by the time we got to Target, the temperature had dropped significantly and the wind had picked up.  We had abandon our plans and go home for warmer clothing.  Dressing for the climate you want, rather than what you have is bad.


We saw this at the intersection of Mission and Ajo.  How does this happen?


When we got home, we covered the drive way bougainvillea.  That's the one we really want to survive.  It was difficult to wrap because of the wind.


Cactus under cover.  They're cold!


Tonight and tomorrow night it's going down into the 20s.  I'm not happy about this.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Cactus, Horses and a Lizard

Thursday we were feeling a little tired, so we decided to do stuff like go to Target, go to a cactus nursery on the far east side, and then finish up at Trader Joe's.  That was a perfect day for me.  We drove out to B and B Cactus Farm.  We got an advertising card that gave one free baby saguaro if you came out and looked.  So we did.

They have everything.  


This is an Agave Parryi, aka an Artichoke Agave.  We're contemplating one of these for the front yard.  The prickly pear is looking near death, so there may be a replacement.  The issue with these is they are slow growers, so you want a big one, but we can't lift a big pot.  Too heavy.  Their growth pattern is to put out pups.  Look at the bottom of both pots, the babies are trying to escape.


Another Agave.  They call these Cabbage Heads.


It's been cold out there, all of the growth tips are being protected from frost.  Jim just got back from the dollar store with styrofoam cups for a couple of our cactus.  Tuesday it's supposed to go down to 28.  Depending on whose forecast you listen to, it may or may not snow.
 

Then it was off to the tropicals greenhouse.  If we had land, there would probably be a green house.  They have the most spectacular plants in there.  This is a zoom on a flowering something.


The something.


Another one - they're just ethereal.


These are cool.  The one in the middle has an interesting growth pattern.


It sprouts clusters of arms off its arms.


There are furry cactus.


The baby cactus in the greenhouse.


More cool plants.


The shop cat.


It's an amazing nursery.  It makes me want to tear up the front yard and plant a lot.  Then I think about how hard it is to dig here and I reconsider.

Friday we were up and out for a hike.  We chatted with the horse people we met on the trail.  They're looking for a lot so they don't have to board the horses.  Apparently it's very expensive to do that here. 



On the way back we saw this guy hiding.  He's a Horned Toad Lizard, about an inch and a half long.  He's just cuter than a bug.  Hopefully he won't be eaten by a wretched road runner.


That's it!  Cactus, horses and a lizard.