Sunday, 31 March 2013

Living in the Old Farmer's Almanac in April 2013

Farmer's Calendar

If you were asked to name the most important appliance in your home, what would your answer The television? The computer? The microwave? With as many household conveniences as we have, it might take a bit of thought. But, if the same question were posed to someone a couple of centuries ago, the answer would have undoubtedly been the woodstove.

Before woodstoves became mass-produced in the mid-1700s, the fireplace was the center of the home. It provided warmth, a place to cook, and an area for family and friends to socialize. In early America, your house was often referred to as the "hearthside".

Woodstoves proved a huge advantage over the fireplace. They used less wood and didn't blacken walls, and their flat top provided a convenient cooking surface. Because they projected out into the room, they provided much more even, radiant heat.

Over the years, wood fuel gave way to other sources of home heat, such as oil, natural gas, and electricity, but the energy crisis of the 1970s sparked a revival that continues today. wood is a renewable resource, and modern woodstoves burn it more efficiently than early styles and release fewer emissions. with today's high fuel costs, the woodstove may again be the most important appliance for many people in cold climates.

SKY WATCH ☆ The Moon meets Jupiter on the west on the 14th. This is the final month for easy viewing of the Giant Planet, which has now faded to magnitude -2.0 but is still the brightest "star" in the heavens. The Moon comes extremely close to the blue star Spica on th 24th and then passes to the lower right of Saturn on the 25th. Both rise at around nightfall. Saturn, with its rings now beautifully "open" (meaning not tilted edgewise to us), has its opposition on the 28th, when it can be seen all night. This is Saturn's brightest and best opposition of the past 6 years. Visible through any telescope, Saturn lights up the otherwise dim constellation of Libra.


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Friday, 29 March 2013

A Day Full of Music, Posting and a Clean (Again) House

Don't get me wrong, for me, this is not the best of days. But hopefully it will improve. The music, posting and Randy working on the house - that's all good. The weekend in the hospital, well, there is no way to make that good. Is there? (I'll save you the trouble of telling you no. There was little good service to be found from the doctors. The floor nurses were just delightful, as always.)

You must be wondering how a doctor can fuck up, yes? Me, too. The last three visits were more positive. Of course, the first was indeed the best. They took a huge interest in trying to find the issue and put me through a battery of tests. The tests - all of them - found nothing wrong, which on the one hand, was a relief - no cancer, no ulcers, etc.. On the other hand, it was disappointing; how does one fix what isn't broken? So nothing was fixed and I was sent home.

This visit began on Saturday night, at about 21:44, when I arrived at the hospital. They got me in the system and I.V.d and ready to go within a short time. I had thrown up once more before the nurse realised she had to give me the Zolfran IV before this would cease (which it did immediately after. Getting the Dilaudid for the severe back pain was something else again. Without Luis to insist on it and without (as it turned out) the vials of drugs which would confirm the fact that I take Dilaudid orally (8ml), which is 4ml IV, they would not go above 2ml - totally ineffective. I am cursed with a body that adjusts very quickly to medication. I cannot help this.

But the nurse on Floor Three explained to me that doctors tend to gravitate toward "drug addict" before "constant pain condition" and that is what they do if no drug vials are proffered. You would think someone higher and earlier on the food chain might mention this. Right? Clearly not. Don't assume. Of you, like me, have chronic pain, take that advice and bring 'em all - even if there're 25 of them!

That sounds crazy, right? But we, the EMTs, know this. You would think that after eight active years of riding on the ambulance I would know this. But the first eight riding years I only ever went to the hospital as an EMT, never as a patient. Before that? Nope. Never as a patient. Now, I'm a bloody pro. I went to Mo'town between 12 and 15 times and this year, 4 trips to St. Clare's. I can't believe there is still something I haven't learned about this.

What really made me crazy was the pain management doc that stopped in. The nurse told me I'd love him, and the name of the guy (a very Ukrainian or Russian name that was not easy to recall) and I waited all day Monday and a good portion of Tuesday for him to show. Fat bloody chance - I hated him. He was an unsmiling, unsympathetic and completely uninterested in what I had to say. I could not believe it. And that was that. He said there was no reason for me to be there and sent me home - nothing changed.

I asked the nurse and she told me this was not - NOT - the guy I'd been told about. So I requested the right person's name on the paperwork and when I can, I will contact that person. I know that Dr. Gilmartin wants me to see this other loser but you cannot convince me that this person has my best interests at heart - or any where else in his skinny little body. I'm going to the warm and fuzzy guy.

Not to say that Dr. Gilmartin isn't nice, he is. Always smiling, always pleasant, takes an interest, just like Dr. Iannetta, my own dear doctor (no one will ever be as delightful as Dr. Iannetta - he is an avid reader, very intelligent, has an amazing sense of humour - just as sarcastic as mine - and takes the time to listen to me. Luis goes to the same provider, Vanguard Medical (formerly Changebridge Medical), but to Dr. Pallay, whom I most;y have the desire to slap. I suspect that the feeling is mutual, so no skin off my back if he knows. If he has half of a brain, he knows. Generally, it is fairly easy to discern what I am thinking and/or feeling.

So today my back hurts, I have a fever, my muscles hurt like hell. I suspect I am in fact sick, which they'd thought from my high white cell count. But they released me early, so screw them.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Little Pre-Programming, Anyone?

Why do parents pre-program their kids in certain departments?

I don't mean training them to have good manners, behave in the store and restaurants, actually sit and watch a movie or teaching them to read. Those are all good ways to program your kids and they'll be more appreciated by strangers like me who get frustrated by the howling, whining monsters of the world - and tell me these little winners aren't at least 2/3s the population of kids under 15?!

No, that is definitely not the kind of pre-programming I have in mind.

Religion is the biggest beef. I do - before you say it - know quite well that I am in the minority and when it comes specifically to Catholicism and (to a degree) general Christianity, quite closed off to them. I find almost any other religion to be forgivable. At least if you are Christian or Catholic and you accept that I have my unorthodox - see Celtic Wiccan - you fall into the smaller category of those Christians/Catholics who truly understand the world and love of diversity. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Go, Vulcans! They all raise their children to believe in IDIC.

Nope, here, the flawed human race pre-programs their kids into this or that religion. My parents did not. My father is an agnostic. My mother is an atheist. Me, well, I started out atheist, went to agnostic, read all kinds of books on different religions, different religious history, and steered as far away from Catholicism as possible. What a bloody and unforgivable history! Christianity? Not too much better. The horrors the Jewish people went through is much more believable (and I can sympathize, having been terribly abused by my classmates in the eighth through twelfth grades. Their pain is something I can understand. Same with the treatment of the general Islam populace. I do not, however, condone any group that follows terroristic practices and buys into the most unlikely of beliefs to accomplish a political ideology. Not ever.

But Celtic Wiccans have persevered throughout centuries and still have their holidays (no matter where the idiots in the Catholic Church stuck theirs): Imbolc - 2 February; Ostara - Vernal Equinox; Beltaine - 1 May; Litha - Summer Solstice; Lughnassad - 1 August; Mabon - Autumnal Equinox; Samhain - 31 October/1 November (normally All Souls' Day); and Yule - Winter Solstice. If you look carefully, you will see how the Catholics stuck their pointless holidays to coincide with ours. Such as...

...the birth of Christ. Assuming - a big assumption by me - he lived, he was born in a range of time from July through October. The North Star, 2,000 years ago, was not Polaris. It was Jupiter (I admit to getting a huge laugh out of it when I read about it. The Wise Men knew less about astronomy than the ancient Egyptians - whom they tried to eradicate. The last laugh is on the Church. And I laugh long and loud knowing that!). Go figure. In 2,000 years, who knows what will be the North Star then, if anything.

Well, what started this, you ask?

We got an invitation to a kid's Communion, one of these weird little celebrations one foists upon the unwilling and unwitting party to pre-programming (and in the wrong direction, if you ask me, not that anyone did, but you're getting it none-the-less, because aren't you here willingly? Exactly.) We know the parents well and the child, too. It just happens that the minute our friend got married, suddenly church and all that goes with it was thrust upon him, something I am diametrically opposed to. And the same with the child.

Fortunately, he is scary-smart, so I hope his first adult act is to dump this junk and find his own way, spiritually. That is the best and healthiest way to live. Especially against a group who knows nothing - not a single thing - about diversity, the best of all things!


When the Sun Takes a Vacation

Thursday, 28 March 2013

When the Sun Takes a Vacation

According to astronomers, the year 2013 may be an unlucky one, featuring solar flares that blast Earth with hot, ionized gas. Solar Cycle 24 is reaching its maximum, and our satellites and electrical grids are at risk! In the words of Sir John Beddington, the United Kingdom's chief scientific advisor, during a February 2011 meeting of the American Association for the  Advancement of Science, a sever storm could cause a "global Katrina" that would cost the word's economies as much as 52 trillion.

Sound scary?

The only thing scarier than the Sun reaching the high peak of a cycle is when the Sun has a quiet cycle with almost no peak at all.


According to some solar scientists, when the Sun last had a very quiet cycle, Earth experiences the "Little Ice Age" (A.D. 1550-1850). Some of these same scientists are warning that the current cycle's "peak" of activity is the weakest in 80 years. Even more alarming, several scientists report that this is a trend and that the next cycle (number 25, projected to begin in 2020 by David Hathaway, NASA's top solar storm scientist) may exhibit little to no solar activity at all.


Following the sweltering temperatures of Summer 2011 and the early spring of 2012 and decades of warning about "global warming", a a cool spell may sound really refreshing. Yet warnings of a possible ice age are daunting. What are the scientists talking about?

The yellow ball in the sky is a busy, noisy place. The Sun is made of gas, and it rotates, generating a magnetic field--but various sections rotate differently. Its interior rotates much faster than its surface, and its equator rotates more quickly than its poles. Hot gases bubble and burst through the mix, tangling and looping the "lines" of the MAGNETIC FIELD. (See the effects and hear the Sun at

Sounds from these titanic explosions ripple through the Sun, disrupting gases and creating even more tangles. SUNSPOTS, which appear to us as dark patches, occur when these intense magnetic loops poke through the Sun's surface. Eventually, like an overstretched rubber band, each stressed magnetic field "breaks", releasing tremendous energy and spewing the magnetically charged gases into space. This explosion is called a SOLAR FLARE, and the hot spewed gases are called a CORONAL MASS EJECTION, or CME.

An increased number of of sunspots indicates an increased output of solar radiation. These tangles, tears, and explosions spray Earth with increased energy, from light and heat to X rays. Satellite readings show at the peak of a solar cycle, (when the most sunspots occur), the Sun emits the most radiation and energy.

Scientists have been counting sunspots and their cycles for centuries. They have also been able to reconstruct a record of solar activity for over 1,000 years by analyzing tree rings. Some of their discoveries are disturbing.

Even from the 9th to 13th (the Medieval Warm Period), the Sun was extremely active, with lots of sunspots and lots of radiation emitted toward Earth. Historical records show that Earth's climate was warm. Vikings grazed cattle on grasslands in Greenland and settled in Newfoundland.

Then the Sun entered a long quiet phase, during which the cycles were weak. Very few sunspots occurred (even maximum phases had minimal activity) and a lot less solar radiation reached Earth. Global temperatures dropped by 1.8ºF (1ºC).

This may not sound like much, but it produced effects that seem inconceivable today. In the 1600s, caravans of oxen carts with metal and hides departed from what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico, traveled 370 miles south; and then crossed over the frozen surface of the Rio Grande into what we know today as Mexico. From 1607 to 1814, citizens in England periodically held huge ice fairs on the frozen Thames Ricer. In 1780, it was so cold that people walked from Manhattan to Staten Island over the frozen New York Harbor.

The last drop in solar activity, which occurred from 1790 to 1830 (called the Dalton Minimum, for English meteorologist John Dalton, 1766-1844), was a time of crop failures, famines, and massive social turmoil.

It is important to note that daily, even year-to-year, variations of solar radiation have not produced noticeable changes in Earth's weather patterns. This is due, in part, to the oceans, which cover 70% of our planet. These bottles of water store enormous heat reserves and have significant influence on our weather (think El Niño conditions in a warm Pacific and hurricanes in a warm Atlantic). The oceans are slow to cool; most global cooling takes place over land, especially far inland from the coast.



In June 2011, scientists from the National Solar Observatory warned that if then-current trends continued, the Sun's magnetic fields would be too weak to generate visible sunspots by 2022. In the words of Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, "The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like [a t.v. show in summer]."
However, research by Danish scientists Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen has shown that global temperatures do drop during quiet (inactive) sunspot cycles. Historically, during 11-year sunspot cycles of low activity and radiation, Earth Earth experienced cooler temperatures and, when the quiet period was prolonged over several cycles, "little ice ages". Think of it this way: If the globe were to cool 1ºF, the freeze zone would move roughly 350 miles south from its current position. (In Canada, where this would be referred to in metric measures, it sounds even more spectacular. If the globe were to cool
1ºC, the freeze line would move 1,000 kilometers south.)

Over recent decades, the Sun has been very active. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany reported that from 1940 to 2005, solar activity was higher than it had been in the past 1,000 years. They were quick to point out that this activity could not account for all of the recent global warming (particularly that since 1980), but that it was probably a factor.

The period of heavy solar activity may be coming to a close. During 2007-09, the end phase of Solar Cycle 23, the Sun set space-age records for low sunspot counts, weak solar winds, sand low solar irradiation. Current Solar Cycle 24's activity has been slow to start and Hathaway has predicted that this cycle will be the weakest, or quietest, in a century. (This should reduce the risk of a "global Katrina"!) He also predicted that Solar Cycle 25 will be even more feeble.

Now other scientists are agreeing with this analysis. Not only does the current sunspot cycle seem quiet, but also a number of recent reports have indicated a slowing of overall solar activity. These include studies that show:

◘ Sunspot magnetic fields have been steadily decreasing in strength since 1998.

◘ Streamers of the Sun's gassy outer envelope normally develop around the Sun's poles a few years before peak solar storm activity. They should have appeared as early as 2011. They did not.

◘ Jet streams that have formed inside the Sun at this time in every other cycle are not appearing.

Ah, but ice ages (even "little" ones) can last than the summer rerun season.

Scientists have been quick to reassure the public that there is no need to worry. Historically, it took several quiet cycles in a row to produce dramatic cooling--and that was before man-made greenhouse gasses entered the picture. Indeed, some scientists are claiming that a quiet Sun may slow down global warming as well as generate fewer solar storms to disrupt satellites and power systems.

layers of the sun.gif

The National Solar Observatory scientists won't discuss the effects of a quiet Sun on world temperatures or global warming. Too much is unknown. However, Dr. Hill made this observation: "If our predictions are true, we'll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the Sun has any effect on global warming."

In June 2011, scientists from the National Solar Observatory warned that if then-current trends continued, the Sun's magnetic fields would be too weak to generate visible sunspots by 2022. In the words of Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, "The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like [a t.v. show in summer]."

According to astronomers, the year 2013 may be an unlucky one, featuring solar flares that blast Earth with hot, ionized gas. Solar Cycle 24 is reaching its maximum, and our satellites and electrical grids are at risk! In the words of Sir John Beddington, the United Kingdom's chief scientific advisor, during a February 2011 meeting of the American Association for the  Advancement of Science, a sever storm could cause a "global Katrina" that would cost the word's economies as much as 52 trillion.

Chilling, isn't it?

I have to say I found this article to be reassuring, for the simple fact that a couple of weak solar activity cycles would help us out from this overweening fear of "global warming", a phenomena that is normal to all planets. I do not mean the Ozone hole that opened up in 1980 -- that was scary as hell --which is exactly as should have been. When human hubris causes the damage, that is one thing. When it is a facet of solar influences, it is normal and natural and part of the ecology of the planet.

So all of you who love to run around ascribing fear to the idea of global warming run rampant, here's your call to calm down and let it go. This Solar Cycle 24 and Solar Cycle 25 will prove to be our friend.

Of course, then, you'll all bitch about the snow!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

ARTICLE: Who Should Vote on Gay Marriage in New Jersey

That's right. I'm back in the hospital. How can you tell? When I'm reading the newspaper. It's the only time I ever see one. The volleys (volunteers) go around distributing them to patients if they'd like one. It's the local paper, the Daily Record, which covers Morris County (that's fine, it's the county I live in as well as get well in), and sometimes it is good to see local news.

And sometimes not...

When I saw the title of the article, "Who Should Vote on Gay Marriage in New Jersey", my first and immediate thought was only those who support it should vote on it so that it will sail right through! Wouldn't that be awesome ("awesome" being defined as "something that leaves you in awe and wonder")?! Ha to the hard-asses who don't support gay marriage! Supporting doesn't mean you have to do it, it just means you leave others alone who do wish to do so.

Why does anyone need to vote on how people love? It never ceases to amaze me that this -- like women's rights -- needs to be put to a vote! That is appalling. The constitution states that we are all created equal; if this is so, why does equality in any format have to be voted on? I just don't get it -- and I never will.

So here is the article (which left me wanting to shoot some individuals and applaud others):

"As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in two gay marriage cases, proponents of marriage equality in New Jersey are mired in their own internal arguments over how to counter Gov. Chris Christie's veto last year of a bill allowing same-sex nuptials.

New Jersey was among the first in the nation to grant legal status to gay couples when it authorized civil unions in 2006, but the state's Republican governor stopped a bid led by majority Democratic lawmakers to expand full marriage rights to gays.

Christie said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, but said voters should decide if marriage laws should be expanded -- an option that has divided advocates.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the state's highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker, said Monday he's planning to schedule a future vote to override Christie's veto, a strategy supported by several gay advocacy groups.

But Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, said the referendum may be a better route, especially after gay-marriage approval by voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine last year.

"An override vote, a referendum, a favorable court ruling -- let's have everything on the table at our disposal," said Gusciora, D-Mercer.

However, the referendum is not supported by the state's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, which says a referendum would create division and controversy in communities.

Putting the "rights of the minority in the hands of the majority" is unfair, said Troy Stephenson, executive director of Garden State Equality. "It destroys communities, it breaks up families, it brings out levels of hatred and discrimination that people have never seen before," Stevenson said. "It's a horrible thing."

The evolving politics of gay marriage are not unique to New Jersey, but Gusciora's turnabout is noteworthy, said John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Protect and Preserve Marriage.

Tomicki said the divide shows that Democrats know "they don't have the votes in the Legislature to override the governor."

"The override vote will obviously fail. They're not even close to the 54 votes they'll need in the Assembly and 27 votes in the Senate (for a two-thirds override)," Tomicki said.

Tomicki said his group is opposed to same-sex marriage "because thousands of years of history and sociology and the last 40 years of research shows that the most stable situation for the raising of children is the biological of one man and one woman."

The Supreme Justices will hear arguments today on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and on Wednesday on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Same-sex marriage proponents say the civil union experiment has failed in New Jersey and couples are constantly being denied equal rights.

Ocean Grove residents Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Pastor have faced a number of road blocks since their civil union in 2007.

One of the first led to a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights, when the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association prohibited their civil union ceremony from the boardwalk pavilion. The DCR ruled the Camp Meeting Association's call call discriminatory in 2012, and the group banned all weddings from its pavilion, said Bernstein, 71.

Bernstein and Pastor say many local hospitals and doctor's offices don't recognize civil unions on medical forms. Pastor, 65, has checked herself off as "single" because there is no suitable option.

People don't understand civil unions. It's easier for people to understand you're married," she said.

Garden State Equality filed a case in the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2011, representing five civil-union couples who say they have been slighted equal rights.

The couples were denied access to their spouses in hospitals, deprived of health insurance by their partner's employers, incurred additional fees for legal protections among other challenges, according to GSE.

Sweeney said the Supreme Court rulings could swing more legislature votes in favor of the New Jersey legislation. "If we're not successful in an override, then we'll get back together and with the marriage equality community and strategize on what's next," Sweeney said.

Bob Jordan:

I included Bob's info, just like the article provided, in case anyone wishes to contact him with comments or questions.

When Ray called to see how I was, I was pissed off and high on my soapbox, and let out a solid five or six minute diatribe on how exactly slighted I felt by reading this article, how the morons opposing gay marriage should be treated, and my thoughts on who should vote, because the number of closed-minded, unfeeling wretches out there scares me silly. And wasn't I surprised when he calmly told me that he heard on the news that approximately 65% of New Jersey residents are in favour of gay marriage!


I love to hear good news! Do I believe it? I very much want to. I also can't believe at all that hospitals won't honour gay marriages and allow the most important person, your lover, your partner, your best friend, to be at your side when you need him/her (or those who as yet undecided) the most. Or this group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, and their idiotic behaviour. May the next hurricane swamp those who denied first Ms. Bernstein and Ms. Pastor their ceremony and all the couples following, from enjoying their nuptials on a beautiful beach!

Again, I find it appalling that anyone has to put to vote anything that has to do with love. Hatred should be stamped out, not love. Never love.

I worked with, have friends who are gay. I never minded. It has never bothered me. Why should anyone care? I just don't understand what people consider their business.

And this guy John Tomicki needs to be slapped. I offer my services. Followed by Corzine, who should be slapped or whatever for any number of reasons, followed of course by Christie. Morons, all. And so stupid -- again, not their business. Why would Mr. Tomicki state such unbelievably ridiculous comments about marriages between one man and one woman being the only correct atmosphere for children?! There are plenty of one man/one woman marriages with another, not-so-spoken-of man or woman taking part. Or with a man who beats the wife and kids. I know plenty two man marriages and two women marriages where the kids are loved and raised in a wonderful atmosphere. What do you know about happy children in relationships, Mr. Tomicki? Clearly, you don't. Leave the raising of the kids to the parents, whatever their respective genders.

I want to see California's Proposition 8 go through. I want to see New Jersey put gay marriage back into lawful behaviour. I want it for all places on Terra. I want diversity to be celebrated -- everywhere.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Living in the Old Farmer's Almanac in March 2013

Farmer's Calendar

The appearance of sap buckets hanging on maple trees is as sure a sign of Spring as spotting the first robin. Tapping season usually begins in late February and lasts well into March, ending as the leaf buds begin to enlarge. But weather dictates when the sap will actually start to snow. It runs best when nighttime temperatures fall into the 20s and daytime highs are well above 32ºF.As a boy, I often helped my neighbor, John, tap the old maple trees that lined our road. First, he would drill a 1/16-inch hole into a tree trunk 3 feet above the ground. Next, he would use a hammer to drive an iron tap (a hollow tube, also called a spile) into the hole, after which I would hang a bucket on it. I still remember the "ping, ping, ping" as the first drops of sap hit the bottom of the metal pail.

We poured the sap that we collected into a large, shallow pan and heated it over a roaring wood fire in John's sugarhouse. A pleasant maple aroma filled the air as we boiled down 40 gallons of watery sap to make each gallon of syrup. The boiling was complete when John's candy thermometer showed that the thick liquid in the pan had reached 219ºF.

Like the first sweet song of America's first intrepid robin, the delicious taste of freshly made maple syrup is a sweet reminder that Spring has indeed sprung.

SKY WATCH ☆ On the 1st, the Moon hovers to the right of Saturn, which now rises at around 11:00 P.M. Jupiter, high and conspicuous in the west at nightfall, stands above and to the right of ton the 17th. The Moon dangles below Saturn, which now rises at around 9:00 P.M. on the 29th. Mars, Venus and Uranus all cluster tightly together behind behind the Sun on the 29th, thus becoming "invisible". This simultaneous disappearance of our two closest planetary neighbors, Mars and Venus, ensures that both will remain challenging for the next few months. Spring begins with the vernal equinox at 7:02 A.M. on the 20th, when days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and the Sun rises and sets due east and west.



Living in Snowland

It has snowed on and off this winter, a half inch here, an inch there; maybe even two inches in one fall. About ten days ago, the weather began showing a chance of snow for Monday, 2/11 into Tuesday, just a 20% chance and no accumulation amount given (I must say that up until just a few years ago, the various weather services would give guesstimates as to how much (if any) snow would fall, but eventually smartened up enough to cease making even the tiniest guess until just two days from the snow date).

For the first six days of this bit of snow headed our way, it remained as a 20% chance of snow, no accumulations given, nothing of any import attached to it. I remember on Tuesday commenting to Ray, then later, Luis (I was back in St Clare's at that time with another flare up that made the previous ones feel like a pleasure cruise) that I had a bad feeling that before this winter was out, we would get hit with "a whammy" - some kind of super-snowstorm that would really bring things to a screaming halt. I did not have that storm in mind by any means; just some storm this winter. Since there is half of February, all of March and some of April, we still have plenty of time. Granted, April snowstorms are a rare animal but they certainly happen. In this time frame, a lot can happen.

By Thursday afternoon, the forecast changed to the snow arriving Saturday morning and dumping two to four inches upon us.

And today, 20 March, the first day of spring - the Vernal Equinox was 01:14 this morning - we are two days after the last snowstorm with - possibly - more on the way!

Old Man Winter has not taken the hint yet...

Living in Season 11, Episode One of Hell's Kitchen

I'd like to say, "WooHoo, it is the start of the new Hell's Kitchen season," but after so many season of manic contestants, fighting interns and fifteen-bleeps-a-sentence conversations, I don't if I really feel all that excited and celebratory about it. And Ray told me this morning that the Greg-Chef, as I call him, is not on this show this season. He made the show for me to a large degree, for he looked a lot like my friend Greg, also a chef.

But we do watch it and I guess I will get into it (I hope so, but pessimistically, I'm not terribly confident; after so many seasons, many shows begin to molder and this will not be any different. It will have different challenges and such, but the [often bad] behaviour of the contestants vying for the position of head chef somewhere in Ramsey's vast empire and all the infighting and constant cursing gets old. It just does. Maybe if they left the cursing in it wouldn't be so bad, but all the high pitched beeping is annoying. At any rate, the strife of the people on the show is often completely and often beyond rude and unforgivable on someone's part. No one excepts that every contestant will get along with and like all the others, but if you don't just keep the relationship professional since teamwork is essential and then outside of that, ignore them and release any frustration through a jog or punching a punching bag or something that relaxes you. Anything else is just playing into their hands.

But here we go with the two hour premier of Hell's Kitchen. I will stay hopeful that this will be a new leaf...

The different contestants all were in LAX at the same time (how amazing) and got onto the Hell's Kitchen bus. But it doesn't leave the airport but takes them to a flight to Las Vegas. Immediately many of the women begin screaming and jumping up and down and I really, really hate screamers. I also hate women who constantly cry. Nothing is that bad. I cry when someone dies, but not much else moves me to tears.

On the way to the show, the contestants get on a bus and a heavyset black woman gripes about the older loudmouth Italian woman yelling out things and pointing while the bus gives them a tour. (I was thinking she should shut up, too.) The Italian woman then announces on the side interview bits that she is the way she is and will be a pain in the ass. That wasn't what she said, but it is close enough to the meaning.

So they get onto the stage and and each has to cook their signature dish for Chef Ramsey. Very often this is fairly brutal experience. The ones who in the sitting interview bits who brag about their dishes are almost always shot right down. The women's team went through a few dishes and the heavyset black woman (I haven't gotten their names yet) scored the first point. The guy who represented the men's team who came up with her had something corn dog things from salmon. Chef took a bite, then asked our favourite black woman to taste it. She ended up spitting it out - ouch.

One woman presented completely and utterly raw lamb. Chef Ramsey asked if her if she was trying to kill him. I'd agree - serving raw meat in general is considered unforgivable. It is a mystery how some of these people weasel onto the show. Some of them are so stupid, or so combative, or so outrageous that they have no business being on the telly at all.

Well, the women won, and got to stay in Caesar's Palace. Their suite had a woman laying on a padded table covered in Sushi. They had tables groaning under the weight of food and ice sculptures. They love it and one woman was grinning and saying how even the air smells fresh (it does but not from any other reason than desert air is wonderful - no moisture! They got to meet Celine Dion and see her in concert. Then they flew in to LAX and arrived at the Hell's Kitchen building before the men returned.

The men had to take an eight-and-a-half-hour school bus ride with no air conditioning through Death Valley. The men argued vehemently about not allowing them to lose again. They flooded off that bus after on of them, Sebastian, spent the looooong ride just chattering away the whole time.

Now, I am not a slender woman, although I've lost quite some weight and am not fat either. But there are several terribly overweight women on that team. The men appear to be more normal but I think there are one or two who are large. I suppose for some it may be reassuring to see a fat chef, but I would never say it is reassuring to see a fat anyone - it is a fact that they are shortening their lives severely by carrying so much extra weight. It kills me to see these mostly young people so overweight.

The women are trying to study the books they were left by Chef Ramsey and the older Italian woman, Gina, who is 49, I think, is playing with a hand puppet and pissing off the other women. Frankly I agreed with the other women. She is immature and stupid. She is a pain in the ass. And she seems to think that because she's older, the others will look up to her. Fat chance. I don't.

Gina woke up in some kind of distress and I am confounded as to what is wrong with her. She isn't focussed at all. The men on the other hand, are moving like a team. Huh...

When asked, Gina said, "I feel like I can't function. I feel like I can't continue." She requested a medic. The women all just whined about how they are screwed while Gina sat in a back room and was breathing as though having a panic attack. She was oblivious to the medic asking her questions. Then she went up stairs and put on cosmetics and held something cold to her forehead, and the women in the kitchen began to realise that they might be better off without her. (No argument from me.) She then went down when they were all done with prep. What a loser. Gina, you will be gone soon.

One hour into this and we are finally going to see them in action in the kitchen with the usual menu choices - the weird pasta which has an odd name (ah, risotto!), scallops, Wellington, etc.

Gina cooked perfect scallops. Wow.

The men appeared a bit lost. On the other hand, they do speak to each other.

Gina was told to do risotto and someone else the scallops and Gina refused to do it! She said she was cooking scallops and someone else would cook risotto. GIna got kicked out of the kitchen by Chef Ramsey and went upstairs and said to no one, "Those little bitches. They better watch out. There's gonna be war." Personally, she's got a screw loose.

Chef through out Sebastian for calling the chef Becky "Becky-Wecky". Yikes. I can see why the other guys aren't fond of them. However, they one that is out on the floor working on appetizers is happily throwing his teammates under the bus.

There is Danielle, who cannot remember the ticket in her head, so Chef had to show her where to look, Goodness, me, how could she have been a head chef anywhere? Scary. Another woman had to cut lamb and it took her a long bloody time to do it - I can't understand why it was such a struggle. Three more men got tossed from the kitchen. Sebastian returned and asked to return but was sent out with two others. And told Sebastian if he came back down, Chef would send him home.

Susan got thrown out then of the kitchen but I don't understand what her offense was. One guy set his station on fire. These are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Chef called out a ticket to Jeremy and he could not - could NOT - repeat it. I've never seen that before! It wasn't a complicated order. Then Jacqueline, 27, who sounds kinda... slow... had to rehydrate herself and got kicked out because she has had to get her water.

These guys are helpless. The only one who seems to have any hope at all is Zach. Hopefully that will not change. It looks as though Jeremy and Sebastian are going to sit on the hot seat to defend why they should stay. Jeremy comes across like a total nut. I find Sebastian to be incredibly immature, just like Gina, whom the women are stuck with now.

Sebastian's history. He's gone. What a relief.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Living in Television Hell

Luis is watching a sitcom - the bastion of the lowest common denominator - you know, the stupid people with which the world is overrun. Yes, I'm extremely harsh when it comes to telly viewing and how it equates to intelligence. Sitcoms are extremely idiotic, sexually loaded to the point of hearing "penis" on an 20:00 show (I missed when that became okay! This doesn't bother me, although there are references that do), come with laugh tracks, and just have sunk to a level that is unreal. These are designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

He is watching something called "Happy Endings" and it is beyond awful. Some people played a practical joke on a friend (which would make me rethink the friend immediately, as practical jokes are just cruel) and he reacted predictably when he found out he did not win the lottery. Now there is a rash of truly horrible practical jokes being done to everyone else as revenge. Curiously, while Luis told me I have no sense of humour, but I haven't heard him so much as chuckle or even smile during ANY of this idiocy.

Not one little chuckle.

But I have no sense of humour. The fact is I have an excellent sense of humour, but it is intellectual. I'm not putting on airs in this case. I have never, ever liked movies like Airplane or Something About Mary. I never thought that Eddie Murphy or too many other comedians were funny. None of this is funny to me, not at all. I don't like almost all of Jim Carrey's movies, he's just too dopey for me. All of this type of humour has never appealed to me.

Maybe that makes me lacking, but I'm okay with that. I like the way I am when it comes to this and I am especially glad that I hate practical jokes and jokers. None of that kind of cruelty is funny, not ever. If someone does it to you, rethink the relationship you have with him or her. It isn't worth it to be friends with someone like that. I was friends with a kid like that back in Wallington. I don't remember her name, but I do remember that we went to the pizza place across the street from the apartment complex. We each got a plain slice and something to drink (I never drink soda, so I doubt I got that). Anyway, I'm not sure why I thought something was not right, but I did. So when I sat down at the booth, I switched the slices. I didn't look, I didn't do anything, but I recall thinking that she had an odd expression on her face. When the drinks were done she got them, and I whipped the slices around.

She came back, waiting for me to take a bite. I did, a lovely plain slice of pizza. She waited, began to look surprised. She finally bit into her slice and turned colours - mostly red! Turns out she'd laced my slice with a huge amount of the hot pepper.

Her reaction was predictable: she yelled, cried, threw a tantrum, etc. I had no sympathy. Amazing how it would have been perfectly okay to see me cry from the extreme heat of the hot pepper but when it happened to her, I was the evil person and how could I do this to her? The fact that she felt it was perfectly okay to do it to me was lost on her no matter how I said it. So I left her to her sulk and tantrums and walked home, feeling really good about having dodged that bullet.

She tried a few times to renew the friendship but I was not interested, especially after explaining to her that those kind of jokes aren't funny and she was never to try any joke of that nature ever again. She wanted to prove to me how funny those jokes were. So I refused. A while later she got the message that I was not going to change my mind and finally promised not to do it ever again to me. She was good for a couple of months but then began to try to pull another practical joke. It was foiled somehow - I think someone else gave her up - and I ended it for good.

It was the best thing I ever did!