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

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Calorie Game

Based on my age, gender, height and weight, I need to limit myself to 1500 calories a day to reach my target weight by August 23. The August 23 date is based mostly on a suggested minimum of 1500 calories for men (1200 for women) and the amount of weight I want to  lose. Apparently, I will lose 1.37 pounds a week if I stick to this limit.

An examination of what I ingest reveals wine to be the first big issue. A bottle is about 550 calories. I've been looking into some other things. A banana is about 120. A date is 23. A whole cup of broccoli is only 60 calories (unfortunately, two tablespoons of butter to season the broccoli adds another 200 calories).

I've found some microwave TV dinners that taste fairly good and range from 230 to 400 calories.

So I've got an ingestion  log now and I'm closely monitoring caloric intake. Too bad about the wine.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Wet Money

Trout Creek, Tampa

I finally got Mrs. Phred off to look after the seven grandchildren. Her flight out of Sarasota was canceled two days in a row after the big snow and ice event in the Southeast. I've been here soaking up sunshine by myself since Thursday.

Ken asked me and Gary to go kayaking with him today at Trout Creek in Tampa. He gave me a "sit on" single-person kayak. I've never done one of those before. They seem to be extremely unstable, the more you weigh, the higher your center of gravity and instability becomes.

I gave Ken my cell phone and Gary my camera....sort of anticipating an upset.

The little creek looks like it must have looked 5,000 years ago. Full of big alligators and ancient Cypress trees.

Ken developed a bad leak and returned to the launch point. Gary and I pressed on until I finally dumped into the creek about two miles in. It was deep and cold  so I got up on a sunken log and managed to get back up on the wobbly kayak. I lost my prescription dark glasses, soaked my change of clothing and wallet.

It was interesting. Swimming in murky , cold, gator-infested deep water and trying to climb back onto an unstable watercraft. Gary loaned me some dry clothes back at the launch point. I think I'll stick to canoes.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

James Dickey

Sarasota. Florida

Sometimes it snows in Sedona. If you are lucky enough to be there you might see little hairy black pigs called Javelinas making tracks in the snow.

Tucson is another lovely place in Arizona. They have an outstanding collection of American bombers, fighters, transports, cargo planes and spy planes.There is a world class observatory worth visiting and the Saguaro National Park. The Desert museum has a great collection of fauna and flora. If you get there at the right time you can see a rattlesnake swallow a mouse.

The WWII era produced American authors that left us with great literature. Aside from Hemingway chasing U-boats near Cuba with his yacht and dynamite bundles, there other greats, some well known, others more obscure.

You have James Jones ("The Thin Red Line") and Norman Mailer ("The Naked and the Dead"), both great authors and Pacific U.S. Marines. Vonnegut  (Slaughterhouse Nine") got his fair share of inspiration as a prisoner of war during the firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war.

I identify most with Joseph Heller ("Catch-22") and his brilliantly absurd description of war .We should all  strap on .45s, get naked and sit in a tree when required to navigate into places where people are trying to kill us. Yossarian was the navigator that I wanted to be.

The recent unpleasantness in Tuscon may taint the town in the way that Dallas and Oklahoma City became synonymous with other shocking and horrendous acts. In this case we seem to have a failure of gun control combined with ever decreasing federal and state mental health budgets. It might be that a certain number of disturbed individuals will always commit acts of this type. Perhaps we could restrict them to nineteen round clips of ammunition rather than the thirty round clips used in this latest insanity?

So...James Dickey...he was a WWII bomber pilot, a novelist and a poet.

You probably read "Deliverance" by Dickey or at least saw the movie with Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds.

About ten years ago I picked up another big novel by Dickey in a used bookstore in Savannah. The Book was called Alnilam and was about a father who was going blind with diabetes and trying to find out how his son had died at a WWII pilot training base. The plot was strange beyond all reason and I enjoyed reading it very much. Alnilam was a favorite star of mine even before reading the book. It's the central star in the belt of Orion. About 1,470 light years away, it should go super nova within a million years or so.

You can imagine my surprise and delight to find Dickey's third and last novel in the stacks of the Sarasota County Library. He published it in 1993 just before his death. It's called "To the White Sea" and it's a story about a B-29 tail gunner who bails out over Tokyo. He evades capture for months by killing civilians for shoes and other trivialities but you know that eventually he will come to a bad end. This one makes "Deliverance" look like a fun weekend canoe trip.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Post-apocalyptic Novels

The View from Here

I picked up a brand new very long novel called "The Passage" by Justin Cronin this week. It's an excellent read of the post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy genre (as opposed to post-apocalyptic "hard" science fiction).

The book kept me up all night reading about the new interstate checkpoints for travel that were established in the wake of the terrorist massacre of 500 at the the Mall of the Americas. Of course when you get into glowing telepathic vampires that live long, have astounding strength and speed and don't eat much you are moving away from hard science fiction in my estimation. The vampires were created by the U.S. Army as part of an experiment to create nearly indestructible soldiers for the neverending wars in the middle east....

The last time I stayed up all night with a book was 1961 and "The Grapes of Wrath".

"The Passage" is in the same classification as Steven King's "The Stand". I also enjoyed "On the Beach" and "A Canticle for Liebowitz" (which I also reread last week after 40 years). These latter two are in the hard science fiction category with no glowing telepathic vampires. "World War Z" was also good as an apocalyptic novel about the spread of zombies as the result of a new disease out of Africa.

Other good Zombie novels include "The Walking Dead" by Kirkman and Bonansinga and "Zone one" by Colson Whitehead. I'm also hooked on the TV program called The Walking Dead and another one called Jerico.

I guess we should mention "Failsafe"; "I am Legend" and "The Road", but my all time favorite post-apocalyptic work is "The Last Ship" by William Brinkley.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year Resolutions

Sarasota, Florida

Sunday morning. A new year. I'm thinking about buying an onion. Then we can make chicken and yellow rice.

I loaded three albums on the thumb drive this morning:

  • Nacho de la Rosa...a Spanish flamenco guitar player
  • Moody Blues
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
 ...and go for a five mile hike past the chicken farm...

It's a nice combination of walking tunes. The flamenco album came directly from the artist who was playing by the fountain in the Royal courtyard in cost only a ten euro note...funny money.

I do have the new year resolutions. I hereby resolve to:
  • Speed up the rotation of the earth so that it completes  exactly 360 rotation days per sidereal year rather than the rather messy 365.242199 day system that currently exists. I suppose that the moons rotation should be slowed to exactly 30 of the new Firecloud days. All this would permit a more rational calendar of 60 6-day weeks, permitting the elimination of  Mondays entirely. Thirty days hath September...all the rest have thirty too...
  • Establish a unified world government (Note to self... buy more black helicopters).
  • Lose a few pounds. 
 The weather has been in the mid-seventies ( That's about 25 C for our English friends)....and it just started to rain. My printer ran out of magenta ink as I was trying to print the 4th quarter estimated tax return. That will require a long trip for another printer cartridge. Time to get that onion.