Oct 132017

The fourth annual RiSE Lantern Festival on the Moapa Indian Reservation in the Mojave Desert some 35 miles north of Las Vegas a week ago was a particularly poignant event following the recent mass shooting.

According to their website, the goal of RiSE is to “elevates hope, ignites dreams, and creates memories” when ten thousand participants release their lit lanterns that have been inscribed with personal messages in unison in the desert to create beautiful memories.

The event is not cheap, as adult tickets cost $109 ($69 for children aged 3-10) – but each ticket provides you with two lanterns, a marking pen to inscribe your message on the paper lantern and a sitting mat.  No chairs, blankets, strollers, food or beverages are permitted – although bottled water is OK.  They have numerous food trucks scattered all over that are happy to sell you drinks (including beer and wine) and food, as well as stationary food/beverage kiosks around the venue.  Oh, and parking is another $25.

(I could not find at their home website or the RiSE Lantern Facebook page – which is accessible to all and has even more gorgeous photos and videos – who actually runs it, and if it’s a for-profit event or if some goes to a charity.)

Below is a Map of their venue

The center circle is the stage area & the flesh-colored bar is the single Entrance.

The gates open at 3 PM and multiple music shows begin at 3:30 and continue until the  launch of the lanterns, which  is at about 8:30, followed by a fireworks show.

The event has become so popular that they needed to add a second night – and both sold out this year.  So that’s some 20,000 paper lanterns scattered on the floor of the Moapa Indian Reservation – the site of the event in the Mojave.

According to the RiSE Lantern Festival website, the lanterns are 100% biodegradable, and they claim they scour the desert and retrieve every single one – plus any other trash they find along the way.  They also buy carbon offsets for every vehicle they use in the setup and cleanup of the festival.

I could not find how they lanterns are actually put together, but you’ll get an idea when watching the videos.  You can see they are quite large (I’d say 3 feet tall), and take 2-3 people to launch them.  They have a forest of Tiki torches lined up in each section that you use to ignite whatever the “propellant” is that creates the necessary hot air – but I couldn’t find what kind of material they use.

Just a small view of the thousands of Tiki Torches 

In its first year it got quite mixed reviews at Yelp – generally 4 & 5 stars for its stunning beauty and emotional uplift, but very low ratings for its logistical execution.  No doubt they’ve learned from their mistakes and have improved if they needed to add another night to accommodate an additional 10,000 people.

But let’s visually enjoy a very unique event with some photos and videos.




The first video is by a layperson.  I put it first because it provides a better idea of actually what goes on.

We’ll end with the two videos below that are professionally put together and are quite well done.


Oct 062017

My favorite time of year is here again – AUTUMN!

So once again you get my annual fall foliage portfolio.  And as always, it seems pretty logical the best way to begin our overview of the story behind fall’s phantasmagorical foliage fling is with … well, an overview of the vast verdant vegetation of the vales and vistas of Vermont.  (OK, OK – there probably are a few other states included – but that ruins my alliteration.)

So Just Try and Stop Me from Telling You Why Leaves Change Color

To understand why leaves change colors we need to realize that it’s part of a (hopefully) endless cycle.  Once a new leaf if fully formed, usually around June, the next thing a tree spends its energy on is setting the following year’s leaf buds.  The job of the leaves currently in place is to create and store food as carbohydrates/sugars necessary for that task.  And unlike us, trees are unique in that they’re able to manufacture their own food/energy, courtesy of photosynthesis.

Chlorophyll is the green pigmented chemical in leaves that uses the energy provided by the sun during the process of photosynthesis to convert water taken up by the roots and carbon dioxide taken from the air into sugars and starches – nutrients that the tree needs for growth – while giving off oxygen as a by-product.

But the chlorophyll that gives trees their green is not the only color pigment present in leaves all summer.  Working just as hard in the leaves are the carotenoids (carotene and xanthophyll).  These pigments are important in capturing light energy needed in the process of photosynthesis.  It’s just that the carotenoids are masked by the overpowering green of the chlorophyll during the summer months.

But with the coming of autumn, as daylight hours shorten and temperatures cool down, cells near the juncture of the leaf and its stem start to divide very rapidly.  This creates what is called an abscission layer.  This corky abscission layer of cells is the site where the leaf will eventually break from the tree and flutter to the ground.  That corky layer then serves to protect the branch through winter after the leaf leaves.

The rapid growth of that corky layer begins to physically block transport of nutrients needed by the leaf to manufacture the carbohydrates.  Consequently the photosynthesis that’s been creating chlorophyll (which is not a very stable chemical and has been rapidly broken down and replaced throughout the summer) ceases.

Once the chlorophyll is gone, the carotene and xanthophyll chemical pigments that have been present all summer long can now take center stage.

These carotenoids (carotene and xanthophyll) give their characteristic orange and yellow colors to not just leaves, but also to carrots, corn, canaries, and daffodils – as well as egg yolks, rutabagas, buttercups, and bananas.  And they account as the predominant color in about 15-30% of our tree species – typically the hardwood species of hickories, ash, maple, yellow poplar, aspen, birch, black cherry, sycamore, cottonwood, sassafras, and alder.

And the third class of color that trees have (the first two being chlorophyll and the carotenoids) are the reds and purples of anthocyanin.  But unlike the other two classes, anthocyanin has not been present in the leaves the whole summer.  The anthocyanins are created brand new –  just for autumn’s fall foliage!

Why the tree would expend its precious energy, when it’s shutting down for the winter, for the creation of a new product is not understood.  But we do know the brighter the sunlight during this period, the greater the production of anthocyanins – and the more brilliant the resulting reds and purples.  This pretty direct proportion of redness to sunlight exposure explains why the periphery of hardwood trees are bright red, while the foliage lower down and inside are the more typical oranges and yellows.

Anthocyanins also account for the coloring of cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums.  They are present in only about 10% of hardwood species – mainly maples, sourwood, sweetgums, dogwoods, tupelos, cherry trees and persimmons.

But in a few lucky areas — most famously New England — up to 70% of tree species are the type that produce the anthocyanin pigment.  That high concentration of a single color (the reds of anthocyanin) accounts for the intense but relatively brief autumnal color display in New England.  Whereas in most other areas that have a higher mix of tree varieties the colors may not be as intense, but the season lasts longer.

You can see where your particularly area is peak-wise with this Interactive Peak Color Map.  Just slide the circle on the bar to the date you want.

Click Me for the Map

Time to enjoy some of my new favorite photos of the fantasia of fall …

Drone View of Fall Foliage in Quebec


A Tree Allée in Germany 


Bears Rocks in West Virginia 


Drone View of Farm Fields Cut Through a Forest in Keene, Ontario

Fall Foliage in the Fog


Drone View of Winding Road Through the Bogata Forest in Romania


Swans Enjoying the Autumnal Splendors


We’ll see you again next year!

Sep 302017

Trump just this week announced his Tax Plan with its “giant, beautiful, massive tax cut”.  So, no doubt you were excited when Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor, Gary Cohn, told us that:

“…a typical family earning $100,000 with two children that has been a standard deductor … can expect a tax cut of about $1,000.”

Well, a couple of things I’d like to point out to you, Gary (can I call you Gary?  I like to call all my employees by their first name).  According to the latest Census Bureau’s figures, the median income in America is about $59,000.  That’s a pretty far cry from your “typical” six-figure income!

And Gary, this just shows how out of touch (or tone-deaf) with the average American family you are.  But that’s pretty de rigueur with the Trump administration, chockablock full with its millionaires and billionaires.

Oh, WRT Mr. Cohn, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs?

Gary Cohn, the former Goldman CEO and long-time banker is worth somewhere from $252 million to $611 million, according to a financial disclosure form released by the White House

But that didn’t stop Mr. Cohn from telling us how absolutely wonderful this supposed $1,000 tax saving is going to be:

If we allow a family to keep another $1,000 of their income, what does that mean? They can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take a family vacation, they can increase their lifestyle.

Well, of course Twitter had a field day with Gary “I’m-In-Touch-With-America” Cohn’s claim that we can remodel our kitchens or buy our families a new car or take them on a wonderful vacation with that $1,000 tax savings.  And I’m sure you all have seen or can imagine some of the examples – like a shot of the “typical” American family’s new car:

But we’re now in the ninth month of the flailing and failing Trump administration with no sign that they’re going to get their act together anytime soon ever.  And sadder still is there is no sign they even want to!

But since this post is supposed to be the dedicated “FUN” one for PoliticsPlus, I decided I’d take their challenge and see what I could do with $1,000 to remodel my kitchen.

You’ll be glad to learn that with just a “wee bit” of downsizing I had great success!  But as the old adage goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” – so let’s chow down!

First of all, to be successful with my $1,000 kitchen remodeling, courtesy of Trump’s “Tax Cut”, I had to scale back my expectations:

Fortunately I was able to actually afford the double-burner stove!

As far as the tasting proof goes, since it’s breakfast time when I’m posting this, how about some pancakes?


What about a hamburger for lunch?

And for supper?  Let’s have some fried shrimp and sautéed vegetables …

Or maybe some sushi …

Let’s finish off our dinner with a delicious strawberry shortcake!

And all of this was accomplished for UNDER $1,000!

See … Cohn was right!  Of course you’ll starve to death with the Trump Tax Cut Savings kitchen remodel job – but since their hopes of killing off Americans with Trumpcare fell through, I guess this is their fallback plan.

Bon Appétit!


Sep 292017

I suppose I could tell you my allergies have been acting up …

But I don’t have allergies.

Or maybe I’ve been having some GI problems …

But that wouldn’t be accurate.

The truth is I’ve been trying to come up with a topic – but had Bupkis

Until last night when one of Trump’s advisors stepped up and provided me with my topic!

But it’s evolved over time, and I want to get it right.  Plus I HAVE to core aerate the lawn today.  And if any of you have ever rented a core aerator … well, my condolences!

It’s my least favorite yard chore – and it’s a helluva a lot of work … especially turning the damn monster around.  I’ll be sore for a couple of days.

Sep 222017

While speaking to a group of African leaders during his United Nations fiasco tour, Trump decides he would just create a new country out of whole cloth: the non-existent nation of Nambia.

It’s not clear if he was thinking of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, or if he was creating a portmanteau of Namibia, an actual nation in southwestern Africa, and Zambia in the northeast.

Who am I trying to kid?  Trump can’t – or at least doesn’t read – and the only foreign country he would even have a chance of finding on a world map is Russia.  Amirite?

At any rate, Twitter had a field day with the new nation of Nambia.

And of course he got to know Prince Akeem Joffer because Nambia is a neighbor to Zamunda

So here is Trump with his new BFF – Prince Akeem Joffer

And here’s a shot of the Prince Joffer leaving the UN during the recent General Assembly gathering


(There were rumors swirling around at the United Nations that the Prince of Nambia was planning on marrying the Princess of Pambia.  And they agreed that they would jointly rule their new country of Nambia-Pambia.)

So let’s enjoy a few of the Twitter bon mots recognizing the new nation of Nambia …


And you can bet that Trump could stand in the dead-center of Nambia, shoot someone and not lose one supporter.

And of course his Trumpkins give him high praise …


While we may not give it the attention it deserves, at least most of us do enjoy its leading export …

Of course the awful pending Graham-Cassidy healthcare charade couldn’t escape comparison …

Nor could we forget how Hillary actually won the popular vote …

But the actual county of Namibia couldn’t pass up the chance to troll Trump – and they did so with a poster …

Why, I myself just got an email from a barrister in the new nation of Nambia informing me that a distant cousin recently died and left me millions in gold.  But unfortunately with all the turmoil in neighboring countries he is not able directly to transfer the funds to me.

Fortunately all I have to do to release those millions to me is execute a wire transfer to him of $…





Sep 082017

Sadly, there will be no “Friday Fun” this week either, because I’m not in the mood.

As I had said, I didn’t do one last week because I was heading up to my Mom’s for a pill caddy restocking and looking forward to a mini-reunion w/ my brother and sister-in-law, who were flying in from Tampa.

But sadly, we had a very tragic Labor Day reunion.  Mom & I learned that my brother’s PCP is sure his unexplained 75# weight loss over the past 9-10 months is due to cancer – but she hasn’t found the primary site yet.

But worse is that my sister-in-law passed away.

My brother said that my sister-in-law didn’t feel that well on their flight up last Friday, and Mom and I didn’t actually see her until lunch on Saturday.  She told me then that she was up all night w/ chest pain radiating to her scapula accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

I immediately said those are pretty classic symptoms for an MI and you need to go to the ER and I mean right now!  But she refused saying that she felt much better now, and she actually did eat a good lunch.  I tried several times to convince her to go – but she refused.

In late afternoon my brother came down and said his wife was still nauseated w/ vomiting – but no chest pain.  I asked if I could try again to convince her to go, and he said, “You know how stubborn she can be.”

I told him we had nothing to lose.  She needs to be in the ER NOW and she’s not.  If she refuses my suggestion we’re at the same place as we are now.  He agreed it’s worth a try, and this time she agreed.

My brother took her to the nearest ER where they diagnosed atrial fib (which they were able to convert), but a CT scan showed a volvulus (twisting) of her hiatal hernia that needed emergency surgery that they were not able to do.  So they transferred her by ambulance to the U. of Iowa Hospital.  (Iowa City is only an hour away from where I grew up.)

She got there ~ 1 AM on Sunday morning, and they repeated a bunch of tests and studies, and said she did NOT need surgery and dismissed her ~ 10 AM.

When they got back she still felt nauseated and had persistent vomiting.  I didn’t see her again until Monday noon when she came down briefly to say “Hello” to our aunt and her sister (my pseudo-aunt from the KCMO Metro who went back to Illinois w/ her sister for an extended visit after a wedding on August 12th; I brought her back home w/ me yesterday).

At that time, my sister-in-law told me then that she was going to go straight to the ER from the airport when they got home from their 6 PM flight.  I told her I thought it was a good idea.  She only stayed a couple of minutes because she felt so ill.

Mom and I didn’t see her again until I loaded up their rental car for them, and she again said she was going to go straight to the ER from the airport.

But when they landed, she didn’t.

She told my brother that she was feeling better and decided she’d wait until the morning so she could see her PCP.

Later on that night she came into my brother’s study, said I think I’m having a heart attack, keeled over and died.  My brother tried doing CPR while calling 911, and the police and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, but to no avail.

What a tragedy!  I have no idea if things might have been different if she had actually gone to the ER straight from the airport or not – but it literally makes me sick to think about it.

Now my brother is faced w/ a diagnosis of cancer, loss of his wife and Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida (although it looks like it’s going to head more toward the east coast than the Gulf coast).

Poor gut can’t catch a break.

Her three boys from her first marriage (her first husband died at a relatively young age) are in Iowa, Illinois and one in the Tampa metro, have been very helpful and my brother has largely deferred to their wishes.

She’ll be cremated and the ashes transferred to Iowa for a funeral service a week from this Saturday in the Waterloo area.  I’ll go up for it, but Mom is not sure if she’ll make the two-hour drive w/ me for it.

She has a plot next to her first husband, but I don’t know if the ashes will be buried their or in a columbarium.

My Dad passed away on September 10, 1962, so Labor Day has never been one of my favorite holidays.  Even more so now.