Iraq: The faces of California’s War Dead

On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq

CA War Dead, Iraq

The toll can be told partly in who they left be­hind: nearly 300 chil­dren, more than 200 spouses, 35 brides and two grooms who nev­er made it to the al­tar.

In cit­ies and towns across the state, me­mori­als can be found for the 483 Cali­for­ni­ans who have died dur­ing the con­flict in Ir­aq.

Their faces and stor­ies are re­cor­ded here:
Iraq: The faces of California’s War Dead – California’s War Dead – Los Angeles Times.

See my post Thoughts on the end of the war in Iraq.


100,000 Dolphins Party Off Southern California Coast

Spotted off the coast of San Diego: an enormous swarm of short-beaked dolphins, about seven miles long and five miles wide. An estimated 100,000 dolphins swam together.

Why such an incredibly large group would show up in one location is a mystery.  Dolphins typically travel in groups of anywhere between 15 and 200, which are called pods — this is a “super mega pod.”

My guess is social media. Dolphins are social animals, communicate with one another with sounds and body language, and, who knows, maybe they have their own Internet. A dolphin tweeted, “Hey, a feast here & weather’s great! Let’s party!” and it went viral.

100,000 Dolphins Are Partying Without Us Off the Coast of California by Lindy West on Jezebel.

If the dolphins decide to come ashore, here’s what happens…

And there’s also this dolphin news…

Dolphin Approaches Hawaiian Divers For Help After Fishing Hook Embedded In Fin click link to see video

Life & Death


Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere

French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

First I find out I have heart disease and spend three days in the hospital. Then yesterday a big-ass asteroid nearly hits the earth, and at the same time a meteorite explodes over the Ural mountains in Russia injuring 1,000.

I go the pharmacy to pickup my new heart medications and I’m nearly hit walking across the parking lot by a guy in a BMW talking on his cell phone as he speeds along, oblivious to everything. I should have done a Ratso Rizzo on him: Hey! I’m walkin’ here!

I have to worry about my heart giving out, I have to dodge thoughtless drivers zipping through parking lots, and now I have to keep an eye on the sky for wayward meteors.

Trap-door-spider-catches-cricketDeath is nosing around, ready to jump out and snatch me away. I notice and begin to think about my own mortality. Something I’ve been avoiding. Who wants to think about their own demise, of The End?

Sure, I get a little paranoid. But now I’m really into this whole death thing. I’ve  already composed my last words: Wait a minute! I’m not done yet!

And I’ve come up with my preferred way to meet Death: At age 96, I’m shot in the back by a jealous husband as I walk home from my favorite bar.

Oh, just in case, my last thought is to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. My many sins washed away, I go straight to heaven. If there is no God, no harm done (see Pascal’s Wager).

We come from nothing, we are going back to nothing  — In the end what have we lost? Nothing!
Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

Chart compares the odds of dying in any given year from things like accidents, gun shot, choking, lightning, bee sting, fire…

death in america graphic

Oh, great. Heart disease is the number one cause of death — that’s the bullet I’m betting has my name on it.

Odds are also relatively good that one unlucky day an accident will get me — some asshole like that guy on the cell phone in the Walgreen’s parking lot will cause this horrific crash on the freeway, a scene right out of Red Asphalt, and I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time and air-expressed home to Jesus.

The least likely way I’ll be drop-kicked to heaven is by an asteroid or meteorite taking me out — the odds of that happening are about 75 million to one. See Death by Meteorite

montaigneAll our days travel toward death, and the last one reaches it.

Death of Ratso Rizzo Poor guy dies just as he realizes his dream of moving to Florida

Beer fans line up for the limited Pliny the Younger

Russian River Brewing Company host Alex McLaughlin, right (back to camera) handles a long line of patrons at the Russian River Brewing Company's brewpub in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Pliny the Elder (and Pliny the Younger) - a beer so sought after, so mysterious, that Taylor's market doesn't even keep it in its cooler. They hide it in the back and you have to ask for it by name. Pliny the Younger is even more rare -- brewed only two weeks a year, setting off a mad rush to try it at the Santa Rosa brew pub. The pub opened at 11 a.m., and people lined up for hours for a chance to drink Pliny the Younger, which is available only two weeks a year.

Russian River Brewing Company host Alex McLaughlin, right (back to camera), handles a long line of patrons Wednesday, Feb. 6. The Santa Rosa brewpub opened at 11 a.m. and people lined up for hours for a chance to drink Pliny the Younger, a legendary India pale ale that’s available only two weeks a year. Photo by Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee

Great article in today’s The Sacramento Bee about incredible demand, and sheer madness, for a seasonal craft beer called Pliny the YoungerBeer fans line up for the limited Pliny the Younger – Food & Wine – The Sacramento Bee. Some beer connoisseurs call Pliny the Younger “the perfect beer.” The challenge is getting your hands on a glass of Pliny the Younger, or even the Russian River Brewing Co.’s other popular beer, Pliny the Elder (brewed year-round).

Here’s an excerpt…

You could be in and out of the Russian River Brewing Co. in an hour. Or you could wait, as many have, for up to seven hours, in a line that stretches down the sidewalk on Fourth Street, around the corner and into oblivion.

Due to the enthusiasm — no, the madness — that accompanies Pliny the Younger, an India pale ale that’s available for just two weeks at the beginning of February every year, the brewery has had to post a list of expectations and rules.

Here, for example, is No. 6: “If you have a compelling reason for not waiting like everyone else, you will have to take that up with the 300 folks in line BEHIND you. Good luck with that!”

A 10 oz. glass of Pliny the Younger beer at the Russian River Brewing Company's brewpub in Santa Rosa.

A 10 oz. glass of Pliny the Younger beer.

Beer aficionados know it as a triple IPA – meaning Pliny the Younger has triple the amount of hops in a regular IPA, which pushes the limits of flavor, intensity and alcohol content. The name Pliny refers to the Roman author and naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundus – Pliny the Elder – whom many credit with having a hand in creating the botanical name for hops, a key ingredient in beer. Pliny the Younger is his nephew.

The hype, the long waits, the obsession. It’s all very real and, in this case, makes perfect sense. Pliny the Younger is impossibly clean, crisp and smooth for a beer that’s 10.8 percent alcohol. The hops — a maestro’s blend of six kinds — offer a pleasing bitterness without being harsh or chewy. The beautifully balanced beer has an intense taste, but it’s also subtle. There’s a hint of fruitiness without being sweet.

The last day for the Pliny the Younger until 2014 is Thursday. If you miss it, the pub serves many other highly regarded beers with national reputations, several of which have provocative names like Sanctification, Perdition, Damnation and Consecration.

And for the diehards who wait too long to seek out the greatness and mystique of Pliny the Younger, there’s no more fitting name than a seasonal beer the pub will release soon: Procrastination.

Read the SacBee article by Blair Anthony Robertson here
Check out the Beertone (named for the color guide, Pantone).

Beertone features 200 different kinds of beer with a color swatch representing each variety. The color tabs are packed with particulars for the beer connoisseur, including brewery info, alcohol content, a flavor description, and detailed color information—think RGB, CMYK, HTML, and SRM (the beer color scale).

Created by the self-described “Swiss Guy” (Daniel Eugster) and “Brazilian Guy” (Alexander Michelbach), Beertone is currently offered for Swiss beers only, but it’s rumored Brazilian and German versions are on the horizon.

Source: Webdesigner Depot


World’s Longest Word, World’s Weirdest Words

Wandering around the Web, I came across what’s called the world’s longest word.

I believe this really is the world’s longest word, even though I haven’t seen it. Well, I haven’t seen the whole word end to end.

This word contains 189,819 letters. It’s so long that stretched out in one long line, it would be like looking down an arrow-straight desert highway that disappears into a distant horizon.

If I were to show this word to you here, you’d be scrolling and scrolling and scrolling for I don’t know how long before you got to the tail end, the last letter.

This word is so incredibly long it takes approximately three-and-a-half hours to pronounce.

Here’s how the word starts: Methionylalanylthreonylserylarginylglycylalanylserylarginylcysteinylproly…

Yeah, I’m disappointed too. This mile-long word is the chemical name for titan – a human protein that, as its name implies, is the largest known protein. [Titans were a race of giants in Greek mythology; various large things have been named after the Titans — RMS Titanic, for example].

So the word titan, spelled with five letters, and [insert world’s longest word here], spelled with 189,819 letters, mean basically the same thing? That’s crazy!

But in a way, it makes sense. The world’s longest word mimics the titanic protein it represents – a long, long, long string of molecules. It is what it is.

By the way, my favorite long, long, long word is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia noun fear of long words

Strange, Wondrous, Rarely Used Words

Outside of technical, scientific and medical terms, we rarely if ever use extra-long, multi-syllable words. Words like horbgorbling, mautuolypea, ozoamblyrosis just don’t come easily to mind. Spellcheckers don’t recognize them; most dictionaries don’t list them. These obscure words are difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to spell.

And if you should use such fancy, five-dollar words, only a tiny, tiny fraction of the population has the wide-ranging vocabulary to comprehend what you’re saying. Which in the case of ozoamblyrosis is too bad as that word means loss of sexual appetite because your partner has unpleasant body odor.  Ask someone you’ve just met socially if he or she has ever suffered from ozoamblyrosis – there’s a great conversation starter! (Though they may, against all odds, know what ozoamblyrosis means and complain that your question is not only rude and inappropriate but ostrobogulous as well).

Our quirky English language has plenty of words that are strange and wondrous in spelling – such as zenzizenzizenzic (meaning the eighth power of a number), and strange and wondrous in meaning: a retromingent is an animal that urinates backwards, as lions and raccoons do.

The strangest single word that I’m aware of is spangchew, which apparently means to throw a frog into the air, a concept so weird that you wonder why anyone would ever feel the need to coin a word for it.
Richard Watson Todd, Much Ado About English

Would you like to be a sesquipedalian (one who uses big words)? Check out – “Type in what you’re looking for and we’ll hook you up with the lengthiest words we can think of.” People will think you’re sooo smart ‘cause you use such BIG words! Why don’t you drop the pretense and get down here with us and watch Honey Boo Boo.

Short words get all the action – easy to say, easy to spell, instantly understandable. Short words are so handy they often have more than one meaning. The simple word set has 126 meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participal adjective. (Source: Bill Bryson, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words). Short words are broad and general in meaning; long words are pin-point precise and unique.

If obscure English words fascinate you – words like chankings, dishabillophobia, or philodox – may I suggest Charles Harrington Elster’s There’s A Word for It! A Grandiloquent Guide to Life.
chankings  food that you spit out, such as seeds and pits
dishabillophobia  fear of undressing in front of someone
philodox  someone in love with his or her own opinions

See & Hear the World’s Longest Word!

Want to see the world’s longest word in its entirety? You can download a 65KB text file of the word here.

Or you can watch this guy take three-and-a-half hours to read out loud the word in its entirety. Watch the flower bloom and wilt as he goes on and on, seemingly without a pause. You’ll see the guy’s beard grow as the pronunciation drones relentlessly pass an hour, two hours, three. You have to wonder if he was able to do this reading in one take!
Just click on the photo to view video and kill an entire afternoon. 

longest word video link

Giant Potato On the Move in L.A.

Screenshot via Idaho Potato Commission

It’s not the largest item to get hauled around the streets of Los Angeles, but that massive 6-ton, 28-foot-long potato that was hanging out in Pasadena earlier this week (next to a giant fork, of course) will be on the move again today in L.A. as it makes its way to the Original Farmers’ Market for a weekend of fall fun.

Created for the Idaho Potato Commission, the giant potato is due to hit the road in Huntington Beach at 2 p.m. today, according to City News Service. The potato is being transported via a customized truck, but, unlike last Friday’s haul of the space shuttle Endeavour, will not require closed roads or trees to come down.

The potato’s scheduled route is the 405 Freeway north to the 10 Freeway to Fairfax. The spud is due to arrive at around 3 p.m. at the Farmers’ Market at Third and Fairfax, where it will stay put for the weekend for the venue’s 78th Annual Fall Festival.

via The Giant Potato Will Be On the Move Today in L.A.: LAist.

LA hauls in new monuments

First, this spring, the LA County Museum of Art hauls a massive, 340-ton boulder from the desert near Riverside to LACMA’s new art installation, called Levitating Mass.

The museum is next door to the famous La Brea Tar Pits (one of my favorite LA attractions), and not far from Beverly Hills.

Over the course of 12 nights, the granite rock, slung from a giant transporter, moved at 8 mph along a winding 105-mile route to LA.

I joined the crowds gawking at the rock when it stopped for the day near my home. I wondered, “What’s the attraction? It’s just a big rock.” Wrapped in protective plastic, you could only see its shape.

But I was overwhelmed by the sheer logistics of moving such a massive object.

It reminded me of the ancient Egyptians building the pyramids.

The teardrop-shaped, two-stories-high rock is so heavy and bulky it took a specially built flatbed trailer the length of a football field to transport. 

Was I like the Egyptian peasants, thinking that the rich & powerful were mad, that all the resources spent hauling massive stones around could be put to much better use making life better for the suffering underclass?

But I guess man does not live by bread alone, and the poor will always be among us. Art lifts our spirits and feeds a deeper hunger, or so I’m told.

Then last week the nearly 300,000-lbs. space shuttle Endeavor creeps along the boulevards of south LA — where “the snakes hang low,” life is difficult and most people live in poverty — in a three-day trip from LAX to the California Science Center in downtown LA. (see following post).

Now we have a 6-ton potato moving 30 or 40 miles — this time along LA freeways and not side streets — to the Original Farmers Market, smack dab in the center of Los Angeles, close to the museum where the gargantuan rock guards the entrance to the art museum and the fake wooly mammoths flounder in the bubbling tar pits.

I have to say that the Farmers Market is my all time favorite LA attraction. A Sunday afternoon spent at the Farmers Market is about as good as life gets. If you were to ask me, what terrorist attack in LA would most piss you off? my first thought would be the Farmers Market.

A giant potato, with huge slabs of butter and dozens of gallons of sour cream & chives …  the incredible food stalls at the Farmers Market, just thinking of the scrumptious smells makes my mouth water … now that satisfies hunger! You can’t eat a giant rock or a space shuttle.

How are they going to bake that giant potato?

Click for LA Times story on the Original Farmers Market

See my Oct. 13 post ENDEAVOR’S LA JOURNEY

Endeavour’s L.A. journey

One of the greatest spectacles in the history of Los Angeles is underway!
The parade of the space shuttle Endeavor through the city is as magnificent and awe-inspiring as the grand triumphs of the Caesars in Ancient Rome. Crowds of people cheer Endeavor as the shuttle, still bearing the scars from its travels through outer space, crawls through neighborhoods and business districts, dwarfing everything in its path. “Not a once-in-a-lifetime event, a ONCE event!”


LOS ANGELES — At every turn of Endeavour’s stop-and-go commute through urban streets, a constellation of spectators trailed along as the space shuttle ploddingly nosed past stores, schools, churches and front yards.

LA Times photo

Having escaped out of Earth’s atmosphere two dozen times, Endeavour’s slow-speed trek Saturday to its retirement center took it through the working class streets of southern Los Angeles.

In an instant, the shuttle crossings became part of history.

Along the 12-mile course, people marveled at the engineering. Some rooted for Endeavour when it appeared it might clip a light post. Others wondered if it could just hurry up to its destination, the Science Center museum in downtown LA.

Great photos at (2) Endeavour’s two-day L.A. journey.

Endeavor crosses the 405 Frwy at Manchester, towed by a pick-up truck (Toyota flimed a commercial of its Tundra pick-up truck hauling the 300,000 lbs. shuttle across the freeway overpass). Over the shuttle’s left wing is the famous giant doughnut atop Randy’s Donuts! LA Times photo

Yumm! Donuts! You have to be a true Angeleno to appreciate this photo: to remember seeing the giant donut as a kid and to have logged way too many hours on the 405, a perpetually traffic-clogged freeway. This is so LA!