Friday, December 30, 2016

The US version of The Great British Bake Off

In the US they have been showing both the BBC and ABC versions of the Bake-Off show.

The US version is a spin-off of the highly successful BBC program, it is a very close copy.

Mary Berry is the judge in both versions, and it is held in a tent, with the same program design and format. The only real difference are the contestants and on-air people have American accents. Then it hit me, it is the same tent and English weather, it uses the same production company in the same location. They fly over the contestants, presenters, and one of the judges. The exchange rate is good, the climate more certain for an outdoor tent, all you need are the accents.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

La La Land (2016)

Well it was light, had its good moments but was patchy. I am glad I saw it, and it had a quirky ending. Most of the movie involves the main two characters, Mia and Sebastian, who finally split to pursue their incompatible dreams, being a successful actress and owning a traditional jazz bar.

Near the end the story jumps five years, a very successful looking Mia is with her husband, to us he is a stranger from nowhere, with a kid and nanny. They depart for an event, but LA traffic is bad so they decided to skip the event and exit to get something to eat.  They come across a jazz bar, SEB's, and go in. It is, of course, Sebastian's successful jazz bar, and their eyes meet awkwardly, and we jump to a parallel universe.

We go back to the restaurant where Sebastian, playing christmas tunes on the piano, is fired and storms out of the place, brushing past Mia who approached him. Except this time, the universe changed, he stops and kisses her. The original movie is rerun fast-forward but it is a better parallel universe, they are successful together, have a kid and nanny, and leave the busy freeway and come across the jazz bar.

Wait! Is Sebastian going to meet himself?

No, she has been dreaming what might have been.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge theater opened in 1889 in Paris, the same year the Eiffel Tower was built. One hundred years later the movie, of the same name, was released in 2001. It captures the essence of the decadence, style, and spectacle, but uses modern songs, that add a surreal and joyful element to the performance. It is an emotional roller coaster, with romance, deception, greed, and the final death of the heroine.

Two hours of escapism.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


"The story tells of a prince who wants to marry a princess, but is having difficulty finding a suitable wife. Something is always wrong with those he meets, and he cannot be certain they are real princesses because they have bad table manners or they are too fat or thin or not beautiful. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince's castle. She claims to be a princess, so the prince's mother decides to test their unexpected, unwitting guest by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that she is certain has bruised her. The prince rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through such a quantity of bedding, so the two are married."

 Hans Christian Anderson, published 1835

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December Bee Care and Honey Check

The underside of the hives have holes to improve ventilation in the hot summer months, but now it is wintertime and they need to be closed off to allow the bees to keep warm.  The uppermost pink and blue box is full off honey, both hives look good.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Serious Russian Meddling

Not just in the USA, but Russian meddling in the democracy of Montenegro, a small European country, trying to be part of the other liberal democracies of Europe, and join NATO.

From Foreign Policy magazine two months ago:

Consider Montenegro’s recent elections, for example, where the interference was brazen even by Russian standards. Moscow invested heavily in Oct. 16 vote, hoping that anti-NATO Serb nationalists could finally beat Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic’s multiethnic, pro-NATO coalition, which in one form or another has governed for almost three decades. 

Moscow financed opposition political parties and demonstrations as well as an anti-Dukanovic media storm. They failed. Dukanovic gained upwards of 40 percent of the popular vote and enough seats in parliament to enable his party to govern in coalition with other pro-NATO forces, including ethnic minority political parties. 

But pro-Moscow forces had a backup plan: Serb nationalist agents provocateurs, dressed in police uniforms, planned to use an already announced protest demonstration to fire on the anti-Dukanovic crowd, then turn around and assist the crowd in storming the prime minister’s office, where the fake police would arrest or kill Dukanovic. 

The plot, hatched in Serbia, was foiled by the Montenegrin police at the last minute. The ringleaders, including a nationalist politician who formerly headed Serbia’s special police, and a Serb who according to Ukrainian sources fought for the Russians in Donbass, were arrested.

See the Freedom House map,,

Russia gets a score of 22 (Not Free) and is trying to drag down Montenegro 70 (Partly Free)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Irony - You cannot make this stuff up

Rick Perry has been chosen by Trump to be the new Energy secretary, a very important position that covers the protection of our nuclear weapons, as well as sources of energy.

He is the ex-Governor of Texas, and when running for president four years ago, named three government departments he would get rid of, Commerce, Education, and Energy. On stage, when he was asked about this, he listed Commerce and Education, and after an embarrassing pause said "Oops" as he could not remember Energy. Now he will be in charge of the department.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The best service

I use a dry cleaners and laundry business, and they are as perfect as can be. It is a one step process, dump the laundry on the counter and leave. The know my name and phone number, they will fix any missing button for about a $1, they never loose anything, and the bill will about $20 to $25 every 3 weeks. When I collect the laundry the next day they see me coming and have the bill rung up and the carousel revolving to get my order before I even enter the door.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The demise of the Peggy Martin rose

This weekend while it was cold, and the bees docile, I dug up the Peggy Martin rose. It had become hard to trim after the beehive was moved next to it, and became scruffy most of the time. It has gone to a new home, another gardener.

April 2015


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Case for Optimism

Article from  The Case for Optimism  by David Rothkopf

"The arc of history bends toward progress—and 2016 was no different."

Photograph by Mauricio Alejo

Monday, December 12, 2016

Free Food, or Garage Door Build

Pecans are $8 per lb, shelled, but look carefully in the outside picture and there is evidence of hundreds of pecans littering the ground. Food for squirrels through the winter.

There will be two pairs of garage doors opening inwards, about 2 by 1.2 m each.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nature is confused

The spring narcissus bulbs are coming up a month later than last year, and the summer caladium bulbs are still hanging in.  We expect a light frost in two days and the caladiums will be toast.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Cat

Late yesterday some raw chicken disappeared off the kitchen counter.  Our cat never gets on the counters, and there were no signs of her having thrown up after having eaten such a large piece.

We suspected another cat had got in from the garage or the cat door. Everything was now secure, the doors closed.

Later in the evening there was a clatter in the kitchen and I momentarily saw a black cat leave the kitchen. It was still in the house! It had been eating a can of cat food on the kitchen table. I managed to shoo the cat into the garage, it ran over the top of our cat, through the door. I opened the outside garage door, hoping it would leave.

No such luck. I got a flashlight and searched the garage, and found the cat, hiding under the table. This was the cat that had been terrorizing our cat in the garden for a few months.  It had no collar, but may have a chip. If I could catch it I could take in to a no-kill shelter, I could "permanently" remove it from our garden.

I donned gloves and a small blanket in which to wrap the cat, claws and all. I really needed a net. I tried for an hour to get him, but there was too many places to hide. For the cat this was a life-death struggle, for me less so.

Plan B is to borrow a trap.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Visitors from Argentina

It was Saturday, and there was a brief respite in the rain.  I was out the front and a car pulled up with three people.  A woman asked me if she could take a picture of the Yellow House. "Sure," I said, "You are most welcome too."

She took pictures and I could tell from what she said she would like to see inside, so I invited them in and we gave them a tour.  She said they were from Cordoba, Argentina, but currently living in Houston, and on the way to Austin. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Human History in six minutes

A clever display of the data of the last 100,000 years and 2,000 years from the American Museum of Natural History.

Human Population
Are you sure?  I only remember creating two of them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turkey one year later, a sad story

One year ago we were in Istanbul for Thanksgiving. Just before we left there was bombing in Ankara that killed 103.

Since then in Istanbul:

  • 12 January - 12 killed by suicide attack in Sultanahmet Square
  • 19 March - 5 killed in a suicide bombing in Beyoglu district
  • 07 June  - 12 killed in bus explosion
  • 28 June - 45 killed by suicide attack on Ataturk Airport
  • 15 July - 246 killed across Turkey in failed Coup d'état


Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas comes to the Blue House

The genie is out of the box

A compelling short video from William Perry, US Secretary of Defense 1994-1997, on why we must try our hardest to minimize the threat on nuclear weapons, an existential threat.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Canadian border

Unlike the Mexican border, the Canadian border is a more relaxed affair.  A long time ago I drove from Vermont into Quebec, and crossed the border at Stanstead, about a kilometer east of the Haskell Free Library that straddles the border. For more details see the Atlas Obscura article 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Angela Merkle - Always pragmatic

A carefully crafted message to Trump, not a 3 am tweet.

“Please accept my congratulations on your election as President of the United States of America.

You will assume office at a time in which our countries are jointly facing many different challenges.

Germany’s ties with the United States of America are deeper than with any country outside of the European Union. Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.

Partnership with the United States is and will remain a keystone of German foreign policy, especially so that we can tackle the great challenges of our time: striving for economic and social well-being, working to develop far-sighted climate policy, pursuing the fight against terrorism, poverty, hunger, and disease, as well as protecting peace and freedom in the world.

In the years ahead as president, I wish you a sure hand, every success, and God’s blessing.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A world away in time and space from the New Ulm mini library

The Bibliophiles, 1879, by Luis Jimenez y Aranda

This scene is eleven years before the Yellow House was built, and 133 years before the mini library was built.

This painting is in the Costumbrismo style.    From Wikipedia:

A literary or pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, primarily in the Hispanic scene, and particularly in the 19th century. Costumbrismo is related both to artistic realism and to Romanticism, sharing the Romantic interest in expression as against simple representation and the romantic and realist focus on precise representation of particular times and places, rather than of humanity in the abstract. It is often satiric and even moralizing, but unlike proper realism does not usually offer or even imply any particular analysis of the society it depicts. When not satiric, its approach to quaint folkloric detail often has a romanticizing aspect.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Preparing for Winter

Pumpkin testing out her new home and heating pad for the winter. A spoiled feral cat. It required a new outlet in the adjacent garage, outside it is a safe 12 volts.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Pumpkin checks out her new home

Not yet landscaped, or with heating, but basic protection from the elements.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mosquito Repellent - Natural but it probably does not work

I had not seen this before, but outside the restaurant were two plastic bags filled with water, either side of the door. Some people say it works by confusing flies optically. I am not convinced.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

An infidel's quality time with the imam

In the Al-Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo. We had an excellent private guide and the imam showed us how to do the call to prayers, and we practiced in the echoing side chamber of the mosque.

Our guide gave him a little baksheesh.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Five simple true things

In Scientific American this month are "5 things we know to be true," a return to basics.  In the same magazine they feature "Entangled Black Holes," a more tenious subject.

  1. Evolution is the only reasonable explanation for the diversity of life
  2. Homeopathy has no basis in science
  3. Climate change conspiracy theories are ludicrous
  4. Vaccines do not cause Autism
  5. No credible evidence of alien visitations exist

Monday, October 31, 2016

The freedom of the internet and the planned misuse by the People's Republic of China's police state

From The Washington Post:

Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

It is the scenario contained in China’s ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.”

A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Deja Vu

Barry Goldwater, another scary person from 50 years ago, Goldwater was the republican candidate who lost badly to LBJ, the democratic president, in 1964.  See this vintage political advert, a Republican who agonized over Goldwater, from the LBJ campaign:

From Wikipedia:

Goldwater's provocative advocacy of aggressive tactics to prevent the spread of communism in Asia led to effective counterattacks from Lyndon B. Johnson and his supporters, who claimed that Goldwater's militancy would have dire consequences, possibly even nuclear war. In a May 1964 speech, Goldwater suggested that nuclear weapons should be treated more like conventional weapons and used in Vietnam, specifically that they should have been used at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to defoliate trees. Regarding Vietnam, Goldwater charged that Johnson's policy was devoid of "goal, course, or purpose", leaving "only sudden death in the jungles and the slow strangulation of freedom".

Goldwater's rhetoric on nuclear war was viewed by many as quite uncompromising, a view buttressed by off-hand comments such as, "Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin." He also advocated that field commanders in Vietnam and Europe should be given the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons (which he called "small conventional nuclear weapons") without presidential confirmation.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween Cat

The dark side of humanity. People have an unwanted pet, usually a cat, and dump it in the country. They are domesticated animals but some people think they will survive as a wild animal. Instead they starve, breed, and have a miserable life.

Here is the latest. We have already had it neutered and given a three year rabies shot. It loves people and would make a good pet. It is a dark tortoiseshell with yellow eyes, a Halloween cat.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump resources

Article from Sam Harris - As real as it gets

Music from 30 days, 30 songs - By Artists for a Trump-free America

Steven Colbert explains - One diagram explains every conspiracy against Donald Trump

Who will be president from the New York Times - Just hope it comes true