Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 31 December 2007

The Cadaver Wagon

Gainesville, Florida

We spent the weekend with Bruce and Felica in Peachtree City. They are great hosts. Bruce is an ex-Navy SEAL and former Navy Captain who spent a lot of years in Vietnam. Bruce says we are the only “liberals” he knows. He seems to enjoy arguing with us about politics. Bruce quit smoking 11 days before our visit. He’s also lost 40 pounds. I’m glad for him.

The RV is ready today at 7:30 am. The Ford service guy, Rick, is not busy for a change so we spend 15 minutes shooting the breeze with him. The new transmission is guaranteed for three years or 75,000 miles. I thank Rick for keeping the RV plugged in so that the food in the refrigerator didn’t spoil.

Rick tells me about the cadaver wagon parked next to the RV. It’s packed with bodies and body parts. He has also had to keep this plugged in to prevent spoilage. Rick is not quite sure where the cadavers are being delivered or how they will be used. There are some indications that cadavers donated to medical schools in California, Texas, and Louisiana have been siphoned off into the lucrative market for body parts, with some of the heads ending up at plastic surgery workshops and some of the torsos being blown up on military proving grounds

2007 has been an interesting year. We started the year down in Mexico and then wandered past the Salton Sea and the Joshua Tree National Park in California. We hit Sedona and Roswell and saw some little black hairy pigs in the snow that they call javelinas.

After that trip, we spent a month in Europe, took a cruise to places like Greece, Turkey and Croatia and then made a 15,000 mile, four-month trip to Alaska. That gave us the chance to see wildlife (bears, whales, moose, mountain goats, chipmunks, puffins, seals, eagles, caribou and buffalo) and many glaciers, rivers, lakes and mountains. We caught and ate a lot of salmon and halibut.

Mrs. Phred and I agree to hope that 2008 will be another no-problem travel year. We will spend January and February hunkered down in Sarasota to avoid the worst of the ice and snow. On March 2 we leave to go places we’ve never been and see things we’ve never seen.

Apropos of nothing, here is a Queen video. It's a shame that Freddie Mercury died so young. He had vast talent. But who wants to live forever?

Touch my world with your fingertips
And we can have forever
And we can love forever
Forever is our today

Friday, 28 December 2007

-Simpsons & South Park Quotes

Wake Forest, North Carolina

Today is the anniversary of the wedding of our son and daughter-in-law. We have agreed to watch the kids so they can have a rare night out. South in the morning on to Atlanta.

Bart: Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know... the birth of Santa.

Bart: What's Santa's Little Helper doing to that dog? Looks like he's trying to jump over, but he can't quite make it.

Bart: I smell a museum.
Homer: Yeah, good things don't end with 'eum,' they end with 'mania' or 'teria.'

Homer: I'm not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to Hell?

Lisa: Do we have any food that wasn't brutally slaughtered?
Homer: Well, I think the veal died of loneliness.

Cartman: Too bad drinking scotch isn't a paying job or Kenny's dad would be a millionaire.

Mr. Garrison: A haiku is just like a normal American poem except it doesn't rhyme and it's totally stupid.

Mr. Garrison: Genetic engineering is a way to fix God's horrible mistakes, like German people.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Bubbe and Zaza Come to Town

Wake Forest, North Carolina

We have arrived at our destination and have been greeted by our six grandchildren and a chocolate Lab named "Nole". Like Mrs. Phred and myself, my son and daughter-in-law met at Florida State University, home of the Seminoles.

I'm working under a home school chart that shows six Latin verb tenses (I shall have...future perfect tense) and ten declensions of Latin nouns. All the children learn these and learn to play the piano. How well they play depends on their ages. I have no idea what a declension is. Maybe they will explain to me when they wake up.

I let Nole out this morning at 5AM and he disappeared into the woods. It was (imperfect tense) an anxious hour wandering the woods shouting "Nole" in my pajamas in the freezing dark before he returned.

Tonight is (present tense) Christmas Eve, our 41st anniversary, a full moon and the night that the ancient Hawaiians would have (pluperfect tense?) celebrated Hōku (mid-winter).

Bubbe is a traditional name for a Jewish grandmother. A Zada is a grandfather, but it has been (past tense) corrupted in this household to "Zaza" due to an inability of the eldest to properly articulate "Zada". Here's Bubbe.

Happy Hōku.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Traveling Light

Nag's Head, North Carolina

The RV mothership needed a new transmission so we left it in Gainesville and headed North in the Toyota escape pod. The trunk is full of presents and the back seat has our traveling togs.

After the strokes, I remember the neurologist asking me what season it was. "That question has no science based answer.", I responded. So then he asked me to count backwards from 100 by sevens. Try it.

For example, today is the winter solstice, which marks both the beginning and middle of winter. For the Egyptians, the winter solstice was mid-winter. The Celtic countries usually noted November 1st as the beginning of winter. However, the Jewish and Persians calendars both indicate the winter solstice as the beginning of winter. The Hawaiians celebrate the full moon on the night of Hoku closest to the solstice as midwinter. Recently, many US calendars have treated the winter solstice as the first day of astronomical winter. I'm going to call it as I see it. Winter starts November 7th and ends February 6th. End of discussion.

We looked around New Bern, North Carolina, as a place to possibly buy a home. We didn't get a good feeling, but it was a pretty little historic town. The people were very friendly. A lot of them just walked up to us and started chatting. There's nothing wrong with New Bern. It has some neat old historic homes that woould be fun to rehab. It's just that we want to travel fot 12 months in 2008, so why buy a non-mobile home?

On the drive today we stopped in the tiny town of Bath, North Carolina, home and place of death of Blackbeard the pirate. We found a restaurant called "Words and Wine" on down the road and had lunch, wine and bought a book on mutinies. My sandwich was tuna fish laced with horseradish...very interesting. I left my USB cable in the RV so any pictures will be posted later.

We are listening to the big Atlantic waves crash just over the sand dunes in a motel at Nag's Head..

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best
wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wished."

Saturday, 8 December 2007

In Search of Blue Agave

The blue agave heart weighs between 40 and 220 pounds. One way to prepare them for fermentation is to bake the hearts or piñas in an oven for 24 hours, converting the plants starches to fermentable sugars. More modern techniques involve shredding the heart of the plant and cooking the pulp in a giant pressure cooker

Ninety percent of the tequila exported to the gringos in the US is not made from 100% blue agave. It is inferior product diluted with alcohol made from other grains such as corn.

Last week I saw an old Marlon Brando western. He wears a sombrero in a small Mexican town and drinks a disgusting green jar of pulque while talking to a villain with horrible facial scars. Pulque is to tequila as beer is to single malt scotch.

Mrs. Phred is tied up in a tennis tournament today. At noon I track her down. She's only played two of five matctes. I tell her I am wanting to search for a decent margarita. She nods approval.

At the Target department store, I buy four large margarita glasses, a metal drink shaker and a holographic blinking window Menorah for the RV (an impulse purchase). I look for a plastic dashboard Jesus with a bobbing head, but they must be sold out (it is Christmas). I pick up 10 fresh limes at the grocery store. At the liquor store I get a bag of ice, a high-end bottle of orange liqueur and a $50 bottle of tequila made from 100% blue agave tequila.

I wet one of the new glasses and line the rim with salt.

My first glass is:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/4 cup blue agave tequila

My second glass uses 1/2 cup tequila...I like it better...

This is the best margarita I've had since last New Year's Eve in Mesilla, New Mexico on the border at the Double Eagle Saloon...I've been hopefully drinking bad margaritas ever since.. now I need to get a blender and try frozen margaritas....

I was worried this year about the blue agave because of a decline in the Mexican Fruit Bat population. They fertilize the agave like bumblebees...however, now I know that the clever Mexicans analyze the DNA of the real blue agave and produce thousands of plants from a single cell...without the help of fruit bats...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

But if we do, I'll still love you

My little brother, David, sent me an e-mail today. It was the first time. He says he has enjoyed my blog. We have a four-year age difference.

David lives in the desert on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. He is a poker dealer at a casino and drives a black Corvette very fast on the empty desert highways.

You may remember the beagle, Snoopy, from the Charlie Brown comic strip. Snoopy has a homeless brother beagle that lives in the desert, looks a little disoriented, wears a beat up hat and talks to saguaros. I think of Snoopy and his brother sometimes when I consider my own brother (right).

I remember a day in 1954 when we loaded into our father’s new Cadillac and drove out on Waters avenue in Tampa to see Bud and Juanita. Juanita was a Seminole Indian who was breastfeeding her tenth child. I remember the baby was about three and talking.

Bud and Juanita lived in a lonely patch of palmettos that has since turned into a highly industrialized area on a six- lane highway. They had prepared a feast of turkey, sausage and other delicacies. I remember a small puppy that ate scraps until its belly dragged on the ground. In the south we refer to an temporarily extended abdomen from overeating as “puppy belly”.

Bud was a carpenter who also raised turkeys to eat. David and I discovered that turkey excrement was in the form of hard little brown balls, perfect for our slingshots. We filled our pockets with turkey shit.

My brother did something to outrage me and locked himself in the Cadillac, rolling down the power windows from time to time to spit in my face. Then he rolled one window all the way down and captured my neck by quickly raising the window. He spared my life, so eventually we made peace and used the Cadillac’s power windows to slice watermelon. Our father was very irritated.

In 1966, David came to our wedding in Miami. My Jewish mother-in-law, who may have had too much to drink, asked me in a very loud stage whisper, "Have you been circumcised?"

After a moment's panicked thought, I pointed to my brother and said, "No. But my brother has." All eyes turned to him.

That was not my only gaffe at the wedding dinner. Asked to make a toast to the bride, I fell back on this old standby:
Here's to you
and here's to me
and may we never disagree.
But if we do, piss on you.

In that way of all history revisionists, we now agree that the last line was actually:

But if we do, I'll still love you.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Hydrogenated Coal: The Tipping Point

World demand for oil is projected to increase from 31 billion barrels today to about 42 billion barrels a year by 2030.

In comparison, German oil consumption was 46 million barrels a year in 1938 and 71 million barrels a year in 1943. By 1943, about 50% of Germany’s needs for diesel and gasoline were supplied by the production of synthetic fuel, primarily hydrogenated coal.

In 1929, Standard Oil entered into cartel agreements with I. G. Farben. Standard Oil engineers developed synthetic gasoline production processes in America and transferred these processes to I. G. Farben in Germany.

Hydrogenation of coal allowed a synthetic gasoline with an octane reading of 60 to 72. With the aid of lead tetraethyl, the octane reading could be raised to 87. Standard Oil supplied I.G. Farben with the formula for lead tetraethyl, allowing synthfuels to be used in aircraft engines requiring more power and higher compression ratios.

At the time of the invasion of Iraq, the price of a barrel of oil was $30. Recently, the price has approached $100. Oil is an important input for nearly everything produced by the global economy. My best estimate is that global price levels inflate 15% for every 100% increase in oil prices. Double digit inflation will return in the next few years despite the best efforts of central banks.

The good news is that now we have reached a price point where hydrogenated coal is economically competitive with oil and will soon place an effective cap on oil prices and consumption.

Ethanol from corn is a truly bad idea. It is simply the result of pandering to agribusiness and requires an input of 1 unit of energy for every 1.3 units of energy output. The collateral damage is a huge spike in food prices, including milk and meat. You can't eat coal or feed it to pigs.

The US Air Force is currently using increasing amounts of synthetic fuel. They plan to be running all their jets on pure synthfuel from coal by 2011. Synthetic fuel from coal costs $45 to $60 per barrel, making it a bargain in comparison to traditional oil.

Octane is not an issue with jet fuel, heating oil or diesel. These fuels are heavier than gasoline and rely instead on cetane ratings which measure energy content. Europe has already gone largely diesel and the US will soon follow. The recent increase in oil prices makes liquified hydrogenated coal a sure winner in the 21st century.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Bone Valley

Peace River, Florida

We rent a canoe in Arcadia for a ten mile paddle down the Peace River. I ask Mrs. Phred to sit in front and let me do all the paddling. This is an effective strategism which eliminates any harsh words about who should be paddling on which side.

The river, unlike most in Florida, doesn’t have an Indian name such as Withlacootchee. Curious about this, I Google and find out it was named River of Peace by the Spanish in the 15th century.

The first five miles is lined with weekend cabins, mostly vacant. There are a surprising number of “no trespassing” and “private property” signs. This is probably the result of the usually heavy canoe traffic and people stopping to picnic in inappropriate places.

A number of the paddlers have shovels and screens to search for fossils and prehistoric shark teeth. The Megalodons swam here during the Pleistocene. The teeth are up to seven inches long. They may have reached lengths of fifty feet.

The river runs though an area of Florida known as Bone Valley. It is a huge area of phosphate deposits and fossils that fuel agriculture around the world.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Amelia Found!

Sarasota, Florida

I have various “bots” searching out news on Amelia Earhart which I monitor continuously. Today the truth was finally revealed.

Impeccable sources report that Amelia has been discovered by the FBI. She has been operating a chicken farm in North Carolina staffed with illegal immigrants.

I went online today and found a canoe ride that goes ten miles down the Peace River. It’s rated one of Florida’s best rivers. It’s over in Arcadia, about an hour away. We plan to do it tomorrow.

The high temperature finally dropped below 80 F today for the first time. Winter is on the way. We’re waiting for a part from Emporia, Kansas…waiting to move on.

This place offers some nice features. We play doubles tennis in the morning, lift weights, read books, hang out in the hot tub and swim laps in the big pool. Nice, but it can’t compete with new places.

Sometimes Phred thought about the economy and sometimes he thought about butterflies. “I like thinking about butterflies better than thinking about the economy”, he once said. “They’re cute and you can watch them flutter around and land on flowers. You can’t say that about the economy.”

On the 1st, I took Mrs. Phred to "our" restaurant on St. Armand's Circle for her birthday.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Mile Marker 123

We spent a little too long escaping the storm, chatting with neighbors.

You never really know when you wake up in the morning if it will be the last time.

Whenever they have a fatality on the US 1 two lane choke point out of the Keys, traffic stops dead for about five hours while they investigate and clear the scene.

The accident must have happened about a minute ahead. The big rock hauler is trashed. The other vehicle is completely disintegrated, parts strewn for 200 yards along the highway. The fire rescue people walk along the roadside for 500 yards in all directions making sure that they have not overlooked any bodies or parts.

We see the helicopters evacuating dead victims.

The last time we left the Keys there was also a fatal accident that stopped all traffic in and out. Since we were stopped by a restaurant, we had conch fritters while we waited.

John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park

Key Largo, Florida

We move north to mile marker 102 in the Keys. This is where Bogart and Edward G. Robinson filmed Key Largo 1948. Like them, we wait for the hurricane and the boat ride.

Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What's that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh ...
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That's it. More. That's right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won't.

I agree with Rocco. I want more: more sensory stimulation, more experiences, more life. One of the films goofs was a character murdered by Rocco as the hurricane approaches who then helped to push his own body overboard. Now the movies have continuity directors.

This is one of the best State parks in the US. It’s the only state park in the US that has been awarded two gold medals. They have a shallow area you can snorkel that has authentic looking Spanish cannons and anchors. They also have a dive shop, kayak rentals, glass bottom boat trips and snorkeling trips to the reef about four miles out in the big coral reef preserve.

We are parked in a good spot, backed up to some mature red mangrove trees. We have water, electric and a grill. We’re parked on big flat concrete slab and swept with cool breezes from the Atlantic. We’re very close to the water. Seabirds wander past.

I signed up for a dive trip today but the 40 MPH winds make it look very doubtful. Noel is bearing down and the other divers are canceling left and right. The two lane choke point out of the Keys is about 30 miles north.