Since deciding to exercise more I have been experiencing some minor leg cramps; charley horses usually at night. Now we all know that a healthy potassium level often prevents those nasty knots in the calf. So I thought I should make a quick surf to find some high potassium edibles.

The banana is the most obvious. Ripeness being the primary component of a good banana.

Papaya is another good source, I often combine them with other yummy fruits in a mid-morning Jamba Juice breakfast.

Don't you really enjoy finding out something you like is also good for you. Once again ripeness is a key with the avocado.

Next on the potassium hit parade, my favorite legume -- lentils, in all hues.

Spinach - just don't cook it, give it to me tender and raw.

But for me, it's really hard to get past the banana for a perfectly delectable source of K. Besides there are so many great banana pictures.

That's a laser engraved banana.

This is actually an eraser but nice colors!

In case you missed my words of wisdom the first few times - it really is all about the ripeness. 
Yes that is a statue, a life-size piece of art, 
well life-size for the woman not the banana.

IKEA Adventures

I had my first IKEA experience last week. Normally that would not be worth a blog post but when does anything normal make it to the blog? This is after all an adventure in observing the nearly normal, usually half-a-bubble-off happenings. Now I are not a shopper, like many males I do not have the shopping gene. Recently, however, I have observed that there are shoppers and there are closet shoppers. There are people, my friends among them, who do not have shopper in their DNA but they do have consumer hard-wired somewhere. I think its the nature/nurture thing or maybe just advertising propaganda.

Not me. I really find commercial outings distasteful, plus I have really been divesting for the past decade. But I needed a bed, with my bad back and the newly remodeled apartment, I just had to bite the Discover card and buy a bed. After some online research and a bewildering array of sales that seem to go on 24/7 and 365, I decided to try the land of unfinished Scandinavian excess. So I went to the local IKEA in Emeryville with the intention of buying a bed and only a bed. 

I put on my best anthropologist demeanor, prepared to observe the purchasing rituals of the americanus consumerosis, but I should have been better prepared. Like all wide-eyed field researchers I went into the wild unprepared with even the simplest of equipment. First of all, who would have thought that I needed a map . . .

I had no warning. My colleagues who are not shoppers have, as I, never been to the land of IKEA. Those who have had an IKEA experience thought nothing of allowing a virgin ikeadite to venture out alone. I think they were probably getting back at me for the time I told them it was OK to get the ground beetle ceviche in Honduras. Also probably why no one told me to "try the meatballs" while I was waiting in one of the many lines I encountered at IKEA.

Now less you think I was swallowed by the whale of housewares, I will tell you that I left the land of blue and yellow with only a purchase receipt for a bed, a mattress and a delivery invoice for the following day. Had that been it, as they say, you would not be reading this blog post. But no. After locating the bedroom corner of the IKEA wilderness and ferreting out the order form and golf pencil ritual; not to mention the local knowledge that the "bed" display room is different than the "mattress" room. Confident that I had followed the unwritten rules and traditions, I made my selection and communicated with a less than eager staffer in something I call Ikean English value added dialect. There was some walkie-talkie communication with someone in the warehouse which contained idiomatic expressions I could not decipher and hence the later to be revealed cultural clash.

No I ordered slacks and a table cloth.

The next day my mattress was delivered but not my slated platform base, instead I got two king box spring units, not my order. I called the IKEA hotline, got a real person with no accent, she understood the problem, quickly got me a return order reference number but we jointly decided I had better go back to the store and get the correct item code on the slated platform base. So I returned for part two of my IKEA adventure, found my way to the bed section, not the mattress room and discovered the secret hidden slated bed base code (Sultan Laxeby 001.259.72). I then proceeded to the customer service desk as instructed, only to find there is no customer service desk. Three blue&yellow consultations later, having visited the Information Kiosk, the Information Desk and finally the Return Room, I found a helpful person, who had to leave the Return Room to consult with the delivery manager who advised her to advise me that since I already had a apparently precious return order reference number . . . they would call me to arrange for a pick-up and delivery of my desired product.

This is where my IKEA adventure stands today, no call yet, mattress on the floor, slated platform bed base lingering in some cold, sterile warehouse awaiting the third act appropriately titled: Some Assembly Required.

UPDATE (3/29): Five days now and another long phone conversation initiated by me, I now await the alleged return call to schedule the exchange and new delivery.

UPDATE (3/30): Call came this morning. Delivery tomorrow, wonder if this time we got it right.

UPDATE (3/31): Nope, still haven't got all the parts I thought I had ordered.

UPDATE (4/1): Made a third trip to IKEA, vowed never to return and now need to get a friend to visit and help me put all the pieces together.

500th Post

If I continue at my current blog rate, I will produce another hundred posts about every six months. So the 600th, 700th and 800th posts are really not that big of a deal. For that matter neither is today's offering, which just happens to be number five hundred. I decided to make this is a working celebration. A couple of weeks back I thought I would be interesting to notice what SEO tags (search engine optimization) I had used over the years. That, of course, led me to completely revamp my SEO labeling system. I have removed any stray tags that got used only once or twice and have consolidated several of the others.

So here today on the moment of my 500th blog post, I offer my current list of SEO tags, which do say a lot about what I have and haven't been writing about for these last 4+ years.

Right there at the top, of course, is poker with 75 tags and probably a few more if I had been really diligent and thorough in the early years. These days there are only one or two poker posts each year but in '07 I started this blog as a supplement to my poker media gigs. It makes sense then that poker shrink comes in second with 51 tags. I wrote a lot of articles on commercial poker websites using the Poker Shrink pseudonym.

Next comes the nexus of tags that indicate what I have been blogging about the last several years: politics [41], commentary [44], life [39], psychology [26], books [40] and writing [35]. I would imagine these will crawl ever higher on the list.

Back in '09 there were a lot of posts from my fourteen months on the road - my undomiciled period: travels [34] ranked high. I also like to acknowledge holidays [27] of all sorts, including birthdays, halloween, anniversaries and solstices of all kinds.

Earlier, while writing the poker book - Checking Raising the Devil [12] with Mike Matusow [30] and my co-author Amy Calistri [16], I also wrote quite a bit about Las Vegas [31] and the World Series of Poker [24].

Recently a range of life ponderings [27] have asserted themselves as I look out of the window at my Berkeley view [21]; I never get far from various forms of philosophy [17] both near and not so. And I often regale you with my life-long fondness for cats [18]. More recently, with prompting from a friend who also blogs, I have begun to tell more of my stories [27] - two academics walk into a fetish bar . . .

Wonder what will the next 500 bring?

M&M Monday - The End

Today marks the 11th and final installment of M&M Monday. My sugary artistry has run its course and quite frankly I have had enough candy treats to last the year. I have considered the potential for ice cream sculpture but decided instead to turn back to gazing out my window.

I make this decision only after experiencing one rather bizarre delusion the other morning when I sat down to my computer.

You just know that is going to melt in your hand.

I do want to provide you with a factoid of useful information you can take away from my chocolate revelries. How about this: The estimated amount of glucose used by an adult human brain each day, expressed in M&Ms: 250.
Art is web unsourced material

Recycled Political Observations

Someone said to me the other day: "Doesn't it frighten you that a major political party in the United States has been taken over my extremists."

I'm not proud of my answer, I think it was really low-hanging fruit but I couldn't resist. I, of course answered: "Which party?"

As expected he didn't think it was a particularly funny line and gave me an exasperated sigh coupled with a downturned slow shake of his head.

"No really, which party." OK, I was just rubbing it in at this point. Later and away from my much too seriously middle of the road lefty friend, I remembered that I had blogged about this back somewhere in the past. Today I recycle that post, in the hope that no one ever again attempts to draw me into a serious discussion about the merits of the two party system in this country.


Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
-Buffalo Springfield

For What It's Worth is the song by Messrs. Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and perhaps Dewey Martin and/or Bruce Palmer depending on the version you listen to and who was caught up in the last drug bust.

Just a small digression, when Buffalo Springfield broke up after about two years of revolving bass players and the aforementioned drug busts---Stephen Still hooked up with Graham Nash of the Hollies and David Crosby from the Byrds and formed a little band, they took in Neil Young and played some music. Jim Messina and Richie Furay joined forces and formed Poco. Jim Messina eventually teamed up with Kenny Loggins.

Meanwhile back at the topic of this here post: Paranoia Strikes Deep. That was the tagline for a Nov. 9 (2009) opinion piece in the NYTimes. The paranoia being discussed is that the Republican Party has or will be taken over by an extremist right wing. Whether this has or hasn't happened yet depends on just how left or right you already are and in particular (here comes the point) how paranoid you are about such a possibility. The article can be summarized with it's last two lines:

"The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here--and it's very bad for America."

In case you missed it, the lyrics from Buffalo Springfield are:

"Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. There's a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware."

The cultural distortion is that you can't tell if the guy with the gun is an extreme conservative, a paranoid libertarian or a fearful liberal who has decided to defend his turf. That it ain't exactly clear is why paranoia strikes deep but it starts when you're always afraid.

Random Whys ? ? ?

You know those amazingly efficient people who swarm into a kitchen, skim away the invisible construction dust, put down shelf paper and manage to put the glasses in the "correct cupboard" the first time? Those people who would rather you stay out of the way and just schlep the empty boxes and packing material out to the trash.

Why didn't I marry one of those people?

How did it get to be so late that the sun is still up long after 7 o'clock. I know there was that spring forward thing and I recognize that evenings up in Shasta were often obscured by grey clouds and snow showers but this feels like I have either fallen forward several months. 

Oh wait!

Why I have this panoramic view again, looking out on the bridges and cities of San Francisco Bay and the great wide Pacific beyond. Why that's the answer, nevermind.

Why are there so many flats roofs in rainy climates? From my 8th story perch, all the houses have slanted roofs. All the apartments roofs are flat. I can see the pools of rainwater as they build on those roofs, but two and only two of the maybe twenty flat roofs are pitched. The big apartment building just to the north actually has waves in its roof lake. Wouldn't just slightly pitched but enough to they shed the rain? Does this not seem like a construction no-brainer? All that sheathing, the super membranes, the sealant, caulking, flanges and tar; why not just a slight pitch?

Why not cant, I ask?

Robert Kennedy Jr. has said that using 3% of the state of Arizona for modern, high-intensity solar power would power the entire country. Now distribution is not addressed in that scenario but add the wind tunnel that is the entire midwest, the undersea turbines for nearly every coastal state and government subsidies being redirected from oil and coal to wind, sun and biomass and we have a clean solution to a very dirty problem.

And we don't have to wait ten years, a single bill in congress could turn the entire energy dependence issue around in our favor. A simple, elegant solution that benefits the American people, the environment and creates literally millions of jobs.

Why not? is the question. I think you know the "not" answer.

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis*

I must begin this post with an apology to my academic friends, in particular to the linguists in that group. I will be doing a popularized take on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis today, which will not be up to the standards of rigor expected in the ivy covered walls. I do this because I have experienced two real world examples of this linguist theory in my day-to-day wanderings over the past couple of months; each time in the unspoken regions of my mind I was thinking - Benjamin Lee Whorf.

First some background. Today the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is generally referred to as Linguistic Relativity. The theory states very simply that the differences in languages leads to differences in both human experience and thought. Meaning that those speaking (and thinking in) very different languages actually perceive the world differently. Or stated another way, language determines your worldview. That may seem intuitively obvious but I guarantee you that is only because you heard this theory first. Until very recently the predominate linguistic view on this issue was that thought precedes language and at the deepest level all humans think alike.

Perhaps an illustration is in order. Take the statement: John broke the window. Now in english there is an agent of the breakage, that would be John. But in some linguistic cultures agents are not part of the language. Ask a member of that culture about the sentence and they are likely to report something like: the window broke. Who did it is not relevant. Wait you say, so in those cultures John is not responsible? Who's going to pay to fix the window? Well it can be a lot more subtle than that.

Try this one - The orange and blue polar bear. You see him up there at the top, right? You know he is not really orange and blue, it's the light. But what if I told you that bears like that feed at low light; in the fall and spring there are long periods of low sun creating a lot of orange light and bluish shadows. So the statement - orange and blue bear refers not only to the colors but to the observable fact that at those times of day or night the bear might well be hunting for food and therefore more dangerous to cross paths with.

A white bear is a nuisance, a orange-blue bear can kill you. Same bear, different outcome. Good to know the local language and the worldview it conveys.

Yes, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity is a lot more complex than what I have explained. Believe me I know; I had a good friend who was all but obsessed with Whorf for many years and we all heard endless permutations and applications of Whorfian thought.

Now to the incident that prompted this rumination on Mr. Sapir and Mr. Whorf. I was in the Golden Bough bookstore in Mt. Shasta doing some lazy browsing. The staff person and a customer, who was obviously a friend were having a discussion about angels. It was clear to me that they were not going to resolve their differences because despite the fact that they were indeed both speaking english, they did not share a common worldview. I also noticed that their differing takes on reality were completely influenced by how they derived meaning from their own words. As I said they did not share a language in the sense that they assigned the same meaning to the words they were using.

At one point, perhaps 15 minutes into the debate, the staffer was shelving some books which brought him into my aisle and he said:

"What do you think, are there angels or not?"

I gave my dura mater a yawning flex and replied:

"Well I am currently working on a novel in which one of the main characters is an angel."

"So you believe angels are real," said the customer.

"Another one," grumbled the staffer.

"Actually I don't think angels are real, but neither do you," I said, directing my answer at the customer.

"Certainly I do," she protested.

"Well then why do you say believe in angels? Why is it a matter of faith and not fact?"

I never did get to tell them that the reason they would never agree was because they were not speaking the same language and did not share a worldview. It sounded like they were having a discussion but their beliefs did not encompass the possibility of the other person being right.

By the way, just in case the other two people from the other discussion that got me thinking about Sapir and Whorf, just in case they are reading this. There was a correct answer to the question you were debating. It was southwest. And I know one of you thinks they said that, so you should have won the argument. But when you stand on a hilltop and point due north and say "southwest" you can't be completely right; either your finger or your voice is mistaken. But then the entire discussion was about the meaning of direction and you two will never agreed on that. So much linguistic relativity.

Did you get lost just a bit in that last paragraph? Was it the obtuse nature of my writing or was it linguistic relativity?

Coming Home?

Home - 1. a house, apartment or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family or household.
             2. the place in which one's domestic affections are centered.

In one sense I am coming home today, that would be the the sense expressed in the first definition above. If any place can be called my usual residence in the past several years, then the Berkeley apartment qualifies. Today after 112 days of remodeling, I am moving back in. Pictures to follow soon.

Domestic affections is another thing entirely. I don't really know if I simply no longer feel such emotions or just currently have no interest in that direction. Semi-nomadic feels comfortable and not at all foreign as I had anticipated. This gives me something to ponder as I place my minimalist domestic stuff in the renewed space high up in the low clouds of Berkeley.

Remember Coming Home (Fonda, Voight, Dern) one of the first two major films that took on the subject of the Vietnam War. They both came out in 1978, less than three years after the U.S. exit from Vietnam; the other film was The Deer Hunter (DeNiro, Walken, Streep). The picture below is the one most remember from Coming Home, Fonda and the crippled veteran she falls in love with Jon Voight. The picture at the top is of Fonda and Bruce Dern, her husband; the other factor in the film's equation. I much preferred The Deer Hunter but no one would have got the reference if I titled this post - Searching for Bambi? 

Nevermind, nothing to see here, move along.

And yes the apartment is nearly 100% new, so what am I bitchin' about?

M&M Monday - Elections

It's one state, two state; red state, blue state for the 2008 Obama-McCain election above.

For any ardent red-staters, this is the 1984 Reagan-Mondale election. Only Minnesota and Washington D.C. marred your boy's sweep.

And for the blue-state crowd, the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater election map. Back in the days when labeling someone an 'extremist' actually was a bad thing. (Apparently they was a problem with Florida voting back then as well.)

And finally, my personal peering into the future to the 2012 confrontation between horses of an only slightly different color.

M&M Election Graphics by me

Google Art

If you haven't tried Google daily art as your cyber pencil-sharpening distraction, may I strongly recommend it. You probably use Google directly from your web browser and never actually go to google.com. If you did you would know that they change the art in and around the Google logo almost daily with different designs in different parts of the world. They honor birthdays, independence days, holidays great or small and just about anything else the logo staff down on the Google campus can come up with. Here are a few I've enjoyed in the last six months.

That one up at the top was on Cezanne's 172nd birthday (Yes, it is hard to fine the G-O-O-G-L-E sometimes).

New Year's Day 2011.

Katsushika Houkusai's birthday, I have an old fondness for this art piece.

One of several variations for Thanksgiving last year. I like the ones where you have to stretch to see the g o o g l e.

Bruce Lee's 70th birthday.

The 55th anniversary of Rosa Park's famous refusal to be moved. If you want to see more such art go to Google Doodles.

Happy St. Padraig's Day

We all choose what to celebrate,

. . . how to celebrate

. . . and with whom to celebrate,

choose wisely.

Tune Stuck in My Head

From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen.
-Cat Stevens

For three days those lyrics were stuck in my head. They come from an old Cat Stevens song called Father and Son. I checked the lyrics, they have nothing to do with why I the tune kept going round and round in my brain. No, I hadn't heard the song on an old oldies station. Sure I knew the song, I liked Cat Stevens back before he found his own fundamental way to the divine.

And I wasn't hearing the whole song, at times not even the music, just those eleven words. Was I silenced as a child - absolutely not. I, we were all encouraged to be vocal. I also learned early to watch, listen and observe before I acted or spoke.

I had two older brothers and growing up I got to observe them getting into all sorts of trouble. My oft learned lesson was - well don't do that or at least don't do it that way. I was always a good student of staying out of trouble. Which brings me to today's story, which has nothing to do with those lyrics.

I suppose I was about nine or ten; it was a Sunday afternoon, I came downstairs heading for the bathroom. I know it was a Sunday afternoon because my father was home. He was never home during the week, he was always at the pharmacy, which was only half a mile away but he was never actually home, except on Sunday afternoons. He was sitting in his chair with the Sunday Detroit Times unfurled in his hands.

As I passed the kitchen, my mother came out and said something to me; I have no idea what she said but I am reminded of a cartoon character who opens her mouth and some off key trombone notes come out - you know just noize. It probably began: "Timothy, why didn't you do this" or "Have you done that." It was mean, she was being a nag and I didn't deserve it. I don't know if my parents were having a little tiff or if she was just looking for a target to bitch at. But I was in the line of fire.

Problem was, without thinking I said: "Don't you snap at me! I got all A's on my report card."

Now, nothing wrong with that response but the way I said it - it came out way too sassy. We did not use that tone with adults. Talking back to adults was a mortal sin in our house. I wanted to swallow the words as soon as they came out. My content was fine. My delivery, however, had just turned this into a potential shit storm for me and all I had been doing was just walking by.

There was a long moment of silence, a long moment. Then my father brought the two sides of his paper together, turned the edge of the next page and open it up again and kept on reading without saying a word. My mother stared at him, turned with the loudest silence I had ever heard and headed back into the kitchen.

As it turned out I had invoked the magic words - good grades and not just good grades - perfect grades. All three of us knew my mother was just bitching to bitch, but she had picked the wrong target and my father was not going to take the bait and deflect her foul mood onto me. I was just passing through on the way to the bathroom.

So maybe there is a little something there from the Cat Stevens' song. The lyrics tell a story of a father giving advice to his son; advice the son is not going to take. Well I heard my father's unspoken advice that day; I heard it and I remembered it.

If you're doing your job and getting it right, don't take shit from anyone that isn't yours to begin with. I didn't and I don't. Thanks Dad.

M&M Monday - M&M World

There is an M&M World in of all places - Las Vegas. In fact, it's on the strip, right next door to the MGM Grand Casino. The key feature is the chocolate wall.

Yes they have many more colors and even flavors than what you can get in the normal course of human events. M&M World is not a regular stop on my visits to Vegas, not like the MGM lions or one of several poker rooms but I think next time I will make a pilgrimage if only to find new material for my art. 

You do know what is number #2 influence, after children's sweet tooths, that really keeps M&M sales going?

Oh and I guess I should mention - today is Pi Day!

Art is unsourced from the web

A Disappointing Anniversary

I'm annoyed today. It will pass but today I am annoyed. You see it was a full year ago that I moved into the Berkeley co-op apartment with the truly spectacular view. True the decor left something to be desired but I have low expectations in those areas. There was much debate about remodeling, I was against it. My position was - you don't put money into the place until you are ready to sell. But my voice was advisory only, I did not have a vote.

Then in the late fall a decision was made to move ahead with a complete top-to-bottom remodel. I moved everything out and vacated the space on December 8th. The completion deadline was spoken of as being "the end of the year," now I have enough real estate experience to know that any date a contractor gives you should be multiplied by at least a factor of two. So I expected perhaps late January and would have been only mildly surprised by a February return date.

Well today is the one year anniversary of moving into the apartment and now over three months since I moved out and as you might guess I am not back in yet and expect it will minimally be another week or two even three before I do get back in and even then I expect there will be half a dozen pick-up items that won't be done and will take several more weeks or even months to finish.

Grumble. Mumble. Like a frustrated cheetah when the antelope gets away.

I'm annoyed today. It will pass.

Traffic Jam at the Top of the World

I do sometimes write short pieces that come to rest other places than this blog. I am going to be doing a bit more of that in the coming months. Here is a bit of Himalayan fiction I wrote that my good friend Pauly used in the March edition of his blogzine Truckin'

I call it Traffic Jam at the Top of the World - offered for your enjoyment.

About Truckin': "The contributors at Truckin' write for the love of self-expression, which is a clever way of saying that they generated these stories for free. I'm amazed at their collective bold leap of faith, because the scribes exposed their inner souls to you. With that in mind, please spread the word about your favorite stories. Good karma and many blessings will come your way for exposing new readers to our amazing writers."

A Cat of a Different Color

Let's call this a topical picture dump for this month. I offer these without comment either from the Humane Society or the proprietors of the NYC salon that charges $400 for a feline dye job.

He doesn't seem to be sharing the obvious vibes of peace and love.

Envy is not often associated with cats.

No cats were harmed during the making of these photos; no hallucinogens were used either by the photographers or the fur stylists.

You have to go to sleep sometime.

Apparently they breed.

Care to try out your skills in a claw-free environment?
Why? Because sometimes I like to know my blog content drives Michael crazy with the sheer level of the mundane I can achieve.