To Blog or Not to Blog

Lately there’s been a itch in my brain reminding me that it’s been a while since I blogged. And then I looked and am now officially aghast that it’s been like three weeks since I wrote anything. So the question I have to ask myself is “why?”   <– Now does the question mark go inside the quote mark or outside?

So why no bloggie? Sometimes I feel like I have nothing interesting to blog about. As if there are rules about being interesting.

Perhaps I am embarrassed about how many posts I have made about my vegetable garden, although I must say that it has been a very rewarding experience for me. I made some spaghetti sauce yesterday with some of my Brandywine tomatoes. Wow!

Perhaps another reason is that I am NOT a morning person, and since all the experts say that you need to post a blog by 12PM EST, I have to be fully functional–or, if you will, blogtional–by 8:30 AM at the latest. Now that I write this, I feel ridiculous. Most working people have to be functional by 8:30–so functional that they are already showered, dressed, fed and have commuted to work and are at their post, be it desk, construction site, or barrista bar.

On the other hand, I probably shouldn’t beat up on myself given that I am like a lot of other people who currently do not have a day job. And to be fair to myself, regardless of whether or not I am still in my jammies at 8 AM, I am busy working on one freelance thing or another. So, no more self-flagellation.

So, back on the horse, so to speak, here is a blog post, filed at 7:36 AM. Now time for another cup of java.


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The Zen of Record Playing

I know I’m going to sound like an old fart. So yes, official old fart alert! Read no further if you have zero tolerance for Boomer Nostalgia.

Still here? Awesome! Remember those things called “records”? The ones that they now call “vinyl”. I have been going through a little phase pulling out  the old records, aka “LP”s. By “old” I mean those from the 70s and 80s, before the rise of the CD. (Remember things called “CDs”?)

My record player (what was later called a “turntable”) is in our living room, just a few yards away from the kitchen, which I have been spending more time in lately, learning how to cook some new dishes while my overworked sweetheart slaves away at homework. She will have her masters degree next January–oh happy day break out the champagne high five until the palms bleed perform aerial acrobatics from ceiling mounted light fixtures lounge around in stunned rapture–but I digress.

There is a certain zen to playing a record.

Carefully pull the record out of its jacket by the edges so as not to sully the surface with finger oil (which would create a potential tar pit for dust). Many of my records are preserved in special aftermarket plastic sleeves to further protect them from the inevitable abrasion caused by pulling them out of a paper sleeve.

Then grab the Dishwasher. Pull the bottle of D4 out of its holder and line up a row of drops along the Dishwasher edge (marked by the arrow), then brush the bottom of the bottle along the row of drops to redistribute the fluid evenly across the brush.

Switch the turntable stylus to the raised position and move toward the platter to start the player spinning, then gently place the wet edge of the dishwasher upon the record’s radius, not hard enough to slow the 33 1/3 revolutions-per-minute rotation and ground any dirt into the grooves, but just enough to pick up any surface dirt. Then slowly rotate the brush away from its wet edge to pull the dirt away.

Now position the stylus above the outer edge and lower it.

Hear the low pop of the stylus as it lands, then some slight rumbling as it settles into the groove.

If you have reasonably decent speakers–mine are from Polk Audio–experience how lush the bass sounds, how smooth the midtones are, how creamy the high end is (if it was a well mastered album).

There is nothing hurried about putting on a record. It is a commitment for about 15 to 20 minutes of songs that play in the order that they were intended to be played. Nothing instant. No skipping around. If you absolutely must skip around, you have to take the time to line the stylus up with the gap between songs. If you have a steady hand, like the old DJs did, you can do this feat by hand without mechanically raising, moving, then lowering the stylus. If you don’t have a steady hand, you risk accidentally dropping and dragging the stylus and scratching the record.

With modern technology, you don’t have to commit to a record. You can skip around, rearrange songs, purchase only a few songs (if you pay for them at all). The consumption of songs has become almost trivial. iTunes forever changed the calculus of music consumption and commerce. Spotify has obliterated it.

I find it ironic that the sonic quality of most music consumed today is much less than even the humble old 33 1/3 RPM vinyl LP record. Back when CDs first hit the scene, we were all touting how superior its sound was to LPs. In many cases this was true. But now people don’t even listen much to CD-quality fidelity. The compression of digital music into MP3 (or AAC) format slightly degrades the signal, making it breathe less. The quality erodes further with streaming via services like Rhapsody, Spotify, and Pandora. This is ironic because the demand for video content progresses towards higher levels of resolution.

It’s possible that the quality of music audio fidelity was only the concern of audiophiles and musicians. Yet, a recent study showed that 94% of music listeners feel that sound quality “is crucial”. Go figure!

Ah.. but enough grousing! I’m going to put a record on and cook some dinner. Anybody heard of Gino Vannelli?



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Let’s Do This Again Next Year!

Now that we’re in mid-September, the little veggie garden I started is finally kicking out lots o veggies! Check it out. This is what I picked this past weekend. Still plenty on the way.


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The Real Reason There Are Less Jobs

I rarely like to get politcal, but the amount of campaign rhetoric being slung around about our unemployment crisis gets fatiguing, especially since it’s a smokescreen for what I consider to be the real reason so many people can’t find work:

Large corporations used the economic crisis as an excuse to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers so that they could replace them with offshore workers.

Most of the S&P 500 have recovered quite well from the Great Recession and are sitting on large stockpiles of cash. Here is a link to a Wall Street Journal article. Instead of using this money to hire back workers in the U.S., they have used it to invest in capital equipment and technology and/or setting up shop outside the U.S. The result is a leaner, meaner, and in many cases cheaper workforce which benefits the corporation’s financial statements which in turn makes stockholders happy.

The article states: The performance hasn’t translated into significant gains in U.S. employment. Many of the 1.1 million jobs the big companies added since 2007 were outside the U.S. So, too, was much of the $1.2 trillion added to corporate treasuries. Two-thirds of Apple Inc.’s $82 billion in cash and marketable securities as of Sept. 30 was held by foreign subsidiaries, for example.

While this is great news, of course, for investors, this is bad news for people back here in the U.S.  While the recovery has been great for large corporations, smaller companies continue to struggle. “It’s a real winners-versus-losers phenomenon,” says John Graham, a professor of finance at Duke University. This is most likely due to the lack of resources and infrastructure that smaller companies have. This makes them ripe pickings for buyouts by the bigger companies, leading to more layoffs.

Although companies and investors at the top of the food chain are “winning”, this success is short-sighted, in my opinion. Unless companies invest in workers here at home, people will have less money to spend, and the falloff in consumption will eventually take its toll on corporate revenues. Unfortunately, this may take longer than expected, given that consumption has gone up in other parts of the world. But lower consumption here has a cascading effect on smaller companies.

Perhaps the new normal in this country will be an overall lower standard of living?

My question for readers is this: What role should government play in providing incentives to companies of all sizes to create jobs here in the U.S.? Any ideas? Or should government be completely hand-off with the large multi-national corporations?

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Low And Slow May Be The Way To Go When It Comes To Dieting

Reposted from NPR’s food blog article. I’m curious what readers’ favorite low-glycemic foods are. Let me know!

Eating low-glycemic foods, or foods that take longer to digest, may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

Eating low-glycemic foods, or foods that take longer to digest, may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

If you’re dieting, you know you’ve got to count calories, carbs and fats. But if you really want to take off the weight and keep it off, you might want to pay more attention to the glycemic index, which is essentially a measure of how quickly foods are digested.

That’s because high glycemic foods cause a surge in blood sugar, followed by a crash. That biological reaction releases hormones that stimulate hunger and, according to David Ludwig of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, actually lower metabolism, adding up to a dismal recipe for people who want to lose weight and keep it off.

“One of the unfortunate aspects of weight loss maintenance is that it takes fewer and fewer calories to just stay the same,” Ludwig says. “As the body loses weight, it becomes more efficient and requires fewer calories,” making it harder and harder to continue losing and making it difficult to maintain weight loss without continually dieting. By some estimates, only 1 in 6 Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off after one year.

But Ludwig and colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that offers some tools you might use to fight back. Researchers compared the low-carb, low-fat and low-glycemic diets to see which one burned the most calories per day. The low-carb diet was the clear winner. The low-fat diet was the loser. But it was the diet in the middle, the low-glycemic index diet, that Ludwig suggests is more promising. It burned more calories per day than the low-fat diet and proved easier to stick to over the long term than the low-carb diet.

Mike Rogers, 43, was a participant who managed to keep off the 40 pounds he lost. He says the difference in the three diets was “enormous,” adding that “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”

Still trim, Rogers now eats far more fruits and vegetables than he did in the past, and, when it comes to carbohydrates, he opts for those with a lower glycemic index. That means brown rice versus white, whole grain pasta and steel cut oats instead of “quick-cooking” oats. He pretty much stays away from all processed foods.

Highly processed and refined foods, like packaged items, white bread, white rice, prepared breakfast cereals and crackers have a high glycemic index. “The body can digest these foods into sugar literally within moments after eating,” says Ludwig.

Low-glycemic foods tend to be natural foods like most vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. They actually wend their way slowly through the body’s digestion system, using up more energy and burning more calories in the process. And, best of all, says Ludwig, they actually “increase the metabolic rate and decrease hunger, giving us a biological advantage” in losing and maintaining weight.

Ludwig is quick to caution that his study was short and not conclusive. He’s working now to design a long-term study that looks at diet and weight loss maintenance over a number of years.

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the low-glycemic diet is hard to follow. In large part, that’s because there are many factors that affect how the body digests food, including the combination of food we eat, food preparation, whether vegetables and fruits are ripe, and our individual differences in how we digest food.

And eating too many low-glycemic foods that are also high in calories, sugar or saturated fats can be problematic.

Dubost urges moderation of carbs and fats. But equally important, she says, is a “part of the equation often ignored”: exercise. She points to research that shows people who were successful in maintaining their weight a year after losing it added a significant ingredient to their daily regimen: at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every single day.

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Veggie Garden Update

Here’s an update on my veggie garden. As you may know, this is my first attempt to grow veggies, so I am probably making every mistake in the book, but that’s how one learns, right? That and many YouTube videos. In my case, I usually have to make mistakes twice before I get it, so who knows what next year’s garden will look like.

Here’s a tally of what I did and what I got:

  • Peas – Purchased starts from Flower World in Maltby. They were labled “sugar or snap” peas, so I’m not really sure what I got. They did quite well and were the first things ready. They’re all done now and I pulled them.
  • Lettuce – Also from Flower World. Butter Crunch grew quite tall. Great Lakes Head not so much. Both varieties were somewhat bitter so I am going to go with Romaine next year.
  • Pole Beans – Also from Flower World and transplanted on the same day. It’s early September and I finally have beans!! Picked my first handful a couple of days ago. Not many beans on such a large plant, but perhaps it is too dense?

  • Tomatoes – Purchased Brandywine starts from Molbaks. as well as Green Zebra and Yellow Pear starts from the local PCC. I finally have three ripe Yellow Pear tomatoes. I am still waiting for everything else.

  • Cucumbers – Purchased starts from PCC. They have gotten quite huge but have yet to turn green. A few have turned gold and I finally picked one yesterday. They taste pretty good but are still a bit underripe.

  • Carrots and Beets – Both planted from seed. These have grown very slowly and I lost most of them. Perhaps it’s the soil. Or maybe when in full sun they got too hot?

  • Zucchini – Planted from seed. I planted these pretty late; the plants are steadily growing but have yet to flower.


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A Seattle Hidden Treasure

I have been on blogging holiday lately, so I thought I’d come out of hibernation with something tongue-in-cheek. Merrilyn and I had happy hour at this awesome Mexican restaurant on Roosevent called COA. (We had one of those Living Social coupons.) As we subsequently walked the neighborhood, we found this hidden treasure. Feast your eyes!

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How do you Feel About Legalizing Marijuana?

Merrilyn and I are on the road heading for a week in Tahoe. On the way down, we stayed a couple nights with friends in the Weed/Mt. Shasta area. First evening at a local brewery I noticed the following art on the wall. (Sorry for the poor camera work.)

Obviously this was meant to depict a product that is fully legal and part of legitimate commerce. It got me thinking about the upcoming ballot measure in Washington state where people vote on whether to legalize pot. So I’m putting some questions out to my readers:

  • Do you think marijuana should be legalized?
  • If so, how do you think it should be regulated?
  • Do you think legalization would have any impact on the drug wars? If so, how?
  • Do you think legalization would lead to increased drug abuse overall?
  • Assuming that a legalized, regulated product would generate a lot of tax revenue, how should that tax revenue be allocated?
  • And just for kicks, how would you describe your political leanings overall? Conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, anarchist?

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Another Project Wrapped Up

Mission accomplished! I have finished off another music project and it feels good. Scott Burnett and I collaborated on a “light instrumental jazz” CD called “A Glass of Summer” and we had our CD Release Party last Saturday. Thank you to all who came out all the way to Duvall to party with us. We had a great time!

I just put the CD up for sale on my website The introductory price per CD for this first batch is $8 (plus shipping). We will have some music downloads available soon and it will be available on iTunes in a couple of weeks. Here’s a video sampler of the songs on the CD. Enjoy!

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Top 10 GMO Foods to Avoid

Too busy this week to come up with some original material, this article from caught my eye. This is for all of us foodies out there that want to avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs). Notice one corporation keeps popping up on the list. I consider Monsanto to be one of the most evil corporations in the world, and I don’t use the word “evil” lightly.

Article by Elizabeth Renter

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be ensured the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they’ve been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it’s sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can’t be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products contain growth hormones, with as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto’s health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

Additional Sources:


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