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A cyberitic chat

It can be difficult, dealing with the cyberitic (if sybaritic, then why not cyberitic?) world.

I received this week a warning that Comcast’s servers had been hacked, and I should therefore change my password. I am grateful to my brain that I can remember my password, life being thusly iffy when you reach a certain age.

So I ventured to Comcast’s cyberitic place.

I notified the place that I should like to change my password. The place did not object, but it replied that I had to answer a question, a matter of security, the only way of proving who I allegedly am: “What is your favorite beverage?”  I believe this question was once upon a time posed to me to be used in case I did not seem to be who I am, and would therefore answer the question correctly, proving I was who I said I am and not an imposter. I answered, I suppose, accordingly. It was many years ago when I did this.

It now occurs to me that my favorite beverage lo those many years ago might have been bourbon. I cannot remember what I put as my favorite beverage those many years ago. I do not like the word “beverage.” It does not sound liquid, but rather like a condition, as in one might be in an advanced state of beverage, possibly of excessive belching.

But I digress. I tried “water.” This answer was not acceptable. Nor was “juice.” Or “vodka.” I tried others and eventually concluded that this was a futile cyberitic business. I saw a button that invited me to chat online with Comcast. This was help in the offing, just what I needed. A little help from my friends.

I clicked the button. A box appeared in which I was asked to describe the problem. Early on in life I ran across the axiom that “a problem well defined is a problem half solved.” Having tried over many years to implement this tidbit of wisdom, I discovered it was bullshit.

Nevertheless, I believe I described the problem as succinctly as possible. What follows is a transcript of my “chat.” I swear that the following is a relatively accurate replication of the transcript, which I have presented in italics because I like italics because they look fancy. (The arrows {>} are as they appeared in the chat transcript.)

Chat ID: 756C25AF-2B05-49BF-82D9-AFA881690AFF

Problem: Can’t remember answer to security question. Am I supposed to change my password or what?

Sukhraj> Hello STEPHEN & EDITH. Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Sukhraj. Please give me a moment to review your information.

STEPHEN & EDITH > My issue. Can’t remember answer to a security question. Am I supposed to change my password or what?

Sukhraj> My pleasure to have you on this chat!

Sukhraj> I understand that you want to access your Comcast account and need yur login information, am I correct?

Sukhraj> Please provide me the username you need a password reset for and also if you use it primarily for account management or email?

Sukhraj> Stephe,m Meanwhile, let me tell you about our Comcast Guarantee, we are available to answer your questions at your convenience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week either online or email.

Sukhraj>To better assist you, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Sukhraj> To protect your account I will need to verify some additional information. Would you please provide me with the last 4 digits of your social security number?

STEPHEN & EDITH > Look, we got an email saying we should change our passwrd because of an enormous security breach. Is that true or what?

Sukhraj> After some time you have to change your password just for your account security.

Sukhraj> So that nobody can hack your account.

STEPHEN & EDITH > Doesn’t answer the question.

Sukhraj> Once you ae able to login, you can change the Password/secret question under “User and Preferences” tab.

Sukhraj> May I know that are you able to login your Comcast account with your current user name and password?

STEPHEN & EDITH > Do you think you actually could anser yes or no tothe question? Has there been a security breach, just a yes or no will do.

Sukhraj> It is no true.

Sukhraj> Password reset up to you.

STEPHEN & EDITH > Thanks. I really cannot remember what my favorite beverage is. I prolly answered that question 13 years ago. Shall I keep trying because I really don’t want to give you numbers and stuff because who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Sukhraj> May I know that are you able to login your Comcast account with your current user name and password?

STEPHEN & EDITH > I am indeed, and I must say have been able to do so happily for many years. I’D RATHER NOT CHANGE.

Sukhraj> Your account is fully secured with Comcast.

Sukhraj> I hope you understand due to customer account security is Comcast top most policy.

STEPHEN & EDITH > Many thanks. Have a nice day.







Etc. (2) Of roses, spreading manure and poetry

DSC_0016 I have been spreading manure. I say this freely, knowing full well that those of inelegant minds will see this statement as an opportunity to characterize my entire career thus. Well, it may be true.

Nonetheless, I oversee 30 rose bushes, most of them floribunda, some tea, a few grandiflora and assorted (alleged) climbers. It may be of interest that one of these insists upon blooming in mid February, a show-off to be sure, but worthy of respect.

I have resisted quoting Gertrude Stein as to a rose is a something or other.

Speaking of poetry, I have received another issue of Poetry. This time the back cover poem is similar to the previous quote {Etc. (1)} in the sense I cannot make head nor tails of it. Perhaps that makes it edgy. Please do not tell me that poetry does not “mean.” Have had quite enough gibberish today.

And when

was the last time

with genuine sorrow

and longing to change

you got on your knees?

I could get some work done

here, I shrugged;

I had done it before.

Franz Wright

Pete Seeger

I do not know if ever there was a greater performer than Pete Seeger. Many more, even hundreds have had better voices. Many more could play a guitar or banjo better. But as a performer, committed to justice and equality, none come close to this man. Seeger’s greatness is on display in his 1967 Carnegie Hall Concert album, the best folk recording I have.

The Carnegie Hall concert was performed during the time of protest music, and Seeger was at the forefront, seeking justice, singing “We Shall Overcome.” From time to time, I like to listen to Seeger’s version of Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” It is a small punctuation mark of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time we should remember but one we all avoid as a miserable little cockroach of history.

There’s “Little Boxes,” a wonderful tune of social satire written by Malvina Reynolds and featured by a long list of artists on the TV series, “Weeds.”

And then there is the ballad of a war fought for freedom and equality, played by Seeger as “hillbilly flamenco,” a song all the much sadder because it was a song of the Spanish Civil War, a victory for fascism, “Viva La Quince Brigada.”

Seeger entertained with a tenor voice that did not often ring with power (he could easily make it do so), but with a gentle kindness. To listen to him was to hear the legacy of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie and the so many other voices this country has produced seeking justice.

I am tempted to say those voices are lost and simply history, but that would deny the sort of people we are. We seem to tolerate a great deal of injustice, but then there comes a point that Americans say enough.

When they had, Seeger always wasin the forefront, first in the faith that we shall overcome. We will miss that.

Moolah Gap

Took a ride last Thursday up Gunsight Pass in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. The DSCF1083sky island sprawls north and south east of the quaint village of Green Valley.

There is a road that goes west from Arizona 83 that leads through much of what is the Rosemont Ranch and soon to be Rosemont open pit copper mine. The mine site sits on the east slope of the Santa Ritas. Two great requirements for the mine — electricity and water — are on the other side of the Santa Ritas. A power and water line will have to be built leading from the west side of the mountain and mostly over Gunsight Pass, a peak of about 5,600 feet. The pass is toward the northern end of the mountain range just above Helvetia, the site of another mine and ranch.

Took the ride now because most likely will not be able to do so in near future. Once the Forest Service approves operation of the Rosemont, construction will begin and the road will be closed off to four-wheel traffic.

There’s little doubt that the project will be approved. The mine’s owner, Augusta Resources — a Canadian company — has been patiently doing what is required, managing jots and titles, courteous when jeered by opponents, contributing to the community as a good corporate citizen and praising the positives of copper mining while putting a smiley face on nasty mining byproducts like tailings and contaminated water.

The basic reason the project will be approved is that a 19th century law governs mining in America, and makes it mostly a holy writ and unqualified right to mine the land: The General Mining Act of 1872 signed by Ulysses S. Grant, my personal favorite alcoholic head of state. I like  Grant as much as anyone with a $50 bill, but he was a bit of a spendthrift with natural treasure. Of course the Congress of the United States merits direct blame, then as now rife with those who did not hesitate to ravage the land.DSCF1075

Once Augusta receives official approval, Tucson Electric will build a power line. Augusta will add a waterline. They will be built together, following generally the Santa Rita Road.

It is an easy trip going up the east slope. The dirt road poses no obstacles until you reach the summit. Beyond this point, the track is less a road and more a rocky gully. It is easy to slip-slide away. Sharp rocks dot the track like thumbs. My Forester, which would well be named Rocinante, came down the treacherous west side with only slight travail. It would be much more difficult climbing, the rise is steep, and the track is seriously narrow at various points.

Thus, the construction of the power and water lines will not be a walk in the park. It will be necessary to pump the water up and over the mountain. I once thought that the sight of a power line running up the north end of the Santa Ritas would be an ugly blemish seen from 1-19. But not to worry. It will be seen only by a few present and future souls in  Sahuarita.

Green Valley residents won’t see it. Which is only fair because the gentle folk of that unincorporated town have already contributed a generous portion of their water allotment to the cause of Rosemont copper mining, at a price of course. And are already treated to an enormous open pit copper mine right next to them — the Sierrita Mine operated by Freeport McMoRan.

I have heard that it will cost Augusta Resources a billion or so dollars to build the mine. A few years ago when I took the mine tour, our tour leader, who was a mining engineer, said it would take only a couple years to pay back that cost. The supposed 20-year life of the project allegedly would produce $10 billion. That is, of course, an estimate based upon the current price of copper, a commodity subject to marketplace caprice.

Someone has argued that billions in revenue and 450 high-paying jobs over 20 years amounted to too little money to justify construction of the mine. Seems odd, that reasoning. Reminds me of a story variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and W. C. Fields: Guy asks a woman if she will sleep with him for a million. She says oh yes!  He then says how about for a dollar. She says what do you think I am? That, he says, has been established; now we’re just haggling over price.

When it comes to money, Augusta seems a bit of an odd duck. For years it has produced little or no revenue, mostly none. According to Yahoo Finance, it has a debt of more than $92 million. Its stock price hovers at $1.25 per share. A little less than half of the company’s stock is held by institutions or mutual funds. “Show me the money,” does not apply to Augusta, ain’t none. But no one questions that there will be lots of cash when Augusta gets its green light. Nonetheless, it seems a keen shell game; company makes no money, stock’s hardly worth spit and is half-owned by a bunch of distant corporations who don’t even tap their feet, waiting to get paid. But billions will come. How does you get in this game? My dog can blow on the dice as well as the next guy.

It’s a burning question, how to get in on the Big Moolah? There is a certainly a Moolah gap, between those who have created the odd duck and us little people who get to stand by and watch very big shovels scoop the earth.

For example, I notice a fellow calling himself a mining engineer has written an article that appeared last week (January 17, 2014) on the editorial page of the Arizona Daily Star. He contends a whole lot of us little people are going to cash in on the Rosemont action. He crows loudly. Here is what that mining engineer Dave Elfor says is how little people will clean up:

“What waitress wouldn’t want a $20 tip from a Rosemont employee taking his/her family out to dinner? And will that waitress spend her $20 tip? Absolutely, and someone else gets a piece of the action. And how many local government employees will receive income from the $19 million a year received as tax revenue?”

Now there’s a boon if ever there was one! Great glorious happy Andy Jackson, $20 for a happy flush waitress. But there is answer to that rhetorical question, “What waitress wouldn’t want a $20 tip”?. The answer is: the waitress who served a customer that ran up a bill of more than $600. That $20 amounts to a 3 percent tip. Not a whole lot of goody-goody gumdrops in that notion, is there. You might expect the waitress to spit some epithets and tear up the $20 and throws it in the tipper’s copper-tainted face. So instead of the grateful waitress, she’s hopping mad that Mr. Rosemont employee is a rich and miserable cheapskate. The $19 million a year that Mr. Elfor considers such a munificent sum of money amounts to a 2.77 of Augusta’s anticipated yearly revenue. It’s no secret how little people remain little.

The trip up and down the mountain did not take long. Stopped for lunch on the way down. Sat on the edge of the mountain like rich waiters with $20 tips, the vast Sonoran Desert looming before us, the Sierrita Mine in the distance rising like Ozymandias, a sprawling enormous pile of dead dirt.

I dined on bottled water, cold chicken and chocolate chip cookies. A four wheel truck came by going up the mountain, two young men in the front with a couple kids in the rear cab. It was not too long before we saw the truck coming down, but in reverse, backing down. Must have run into an impassable obstacle. The driver found a wide spot to turn around and came by on his way down. I waved. They nodded.

It’s good that it’s not a popular route. When the Forest Service finally gives its approval, this place will be overrun with construction crews, lots of workers with jobs and 20-dollar bills for tips. After they’re gone, the open pit Rosemont Mine will operate much out of sight and out of mind. And for 20 years, the big tips will just roll in.

It was a beautiful winter day on the western slope of the Santa Rita Mountains, high above the Moolah Gap.


There but for fortune

About a week ago I watched a Sunday Morning lead story I had taped on a whim. It aired on Dec. 22. The story is about counterfeiting wines. Back in the day, I knew quite a bit about wine so I was interested. You can see it here: (It did not play when I used Safari, but did fine with Chrome.  Also, you have to watch a commercial because it’s CBS.)

The story centers on Bill Koch, the younger Koch — His older brothers spend millions to promote and elect very conservative politicians.

To say that Koch the Younger is a wine aficionado understates the case. He has collected 40,000 bottles. He was swindled by a couple people and the story tells how he was bilked, who did it, how much it cost and how pissed Koch is — spending millions to seek revenge, yada yada yada, breaks my heart.

As you watch this video, take note of the priceless art in his Palm Beach House, the fact that he has all this billionaire stuff scattered over who knows how many homes. Check out the freaking wine cellar. Take a good gander at the old wine bottles supposedly issued by Thomas Jefferson. Koch the Younger makes Croesus seem a pauper.

Then you can consider the real story not told in this video. The man is an American who lives among more than 40 million fellow citizens who use and need food stamps. Some 1.3 million of Koch the Younger’s fellow Americans lost their jobless benefits this month because some members of Congress think they’re just shiftless sonsabitches and need a prod to get to work.

Since 1979, the top 1 percent wage earners in the U.S. saw their income increase 256 percent. At the same time, the tax on that income dropped from about 75 percent to less than 40 percent. These numbers come from the book, “Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. They are political scientists, Hacker at Yale, Pierson at Cal Berkeley. You can watch a Moyers interview with them here

In any event, that Koch video made me wonder. Then it made me kind of sick as I tried to remember the lyrics to “There But For Fortune.”



If one is resolute, does one still need resolutions?


Welcome, 2014. While this is ostensibly a holiday that celebrates the new year, it is in fact the Day of Constant Collegiate Football.

I herewith bear the gift of NO — silent, that is — gridiron gab and color commentary.

Thus, if you watch television on this Day of Constant Collegiate Football, you must turn off the sound and listen to the 1812 Overture instead. Or anything except the two guys who allegedly tell you what’s what. I also favor Bach and Scarlatti while watching gladiators of the gridiron butt heads over real estate. It dampens the sound of concussion.

So I offer here all the play-by-play and color commentary that you will need to watch one bowl game after the other. I guarantee that after reading this dialogue, you will need no verbal narrative description of what you see right before your eyes. This dialogue is one size fits all.

Play-by-Play guy: And Jones of the Mighty Mucklucks sweeps the end through a really big hole; he’s at the 49, the 40, the 35, and a touchdown! So it’s Mucklucks 6, Mudhens nothing. That was some run.

Colorguy: Without question, it was a tremendous run. If the Mudhens don’t play better defense, they could lose this game. Defense is the name of the game

PBP: Here’s the kick, and it’s good. Mucklucks 7, Mudhens nothing. That was some kick.

C: Without question. The kicker used his right foot, and it went through the uprights. If the Mucklucks continue to score this way, they might just win this game. Offense is the name of the game. Of course if they don’t and Mudhens score more, the lucks will lose. You have to score points.

PBP: So here’s the kickoff, Smith of the Mudhens fumbles the catch! The ball is loose, but the Mudhens recover. The hens caught a break. Catching breaks of the name of the game.

C: Without question, If the Mudhens don’t hold on to the ball, it could cost them points. That’s the problem with the ball, it’s oblong. Hard to hold. It bounces funny. If they don’t hold on to it, they just might not win. It happens when you don’t score more points. Scoring is the name of the game.

PBP: Michaels fades back to pass, it’s very long. And Whitless catches it. A 70-yard score. What a great play.

C: Without question. If Whitless can catch more of those, the Hens could win this thing.

PBP: Michaels is over the center. It’s a long count….

C: Look for the Hens to run or pass. Unless it’s fourth and long. They might kick. Is it fourth and long?

PBP: It’s first and 10.

C: Without question, it’s a run or a pass.

You also might like Vivaldi, and I have nothing against the Rolling Stones or Shawn Colvin. Or Keith Jarrett, Gershwin, Hank Williams or Puff the Magic Dragon.


Four legs, good! Two legs, better!

You probably remember in Animal Farm the pigs’ campaign for revolution included a damnation of two-legged oppressors — old MacDonald, I think. I’m relying on memory here.  When they take over the farm, it is not long before the pigs proclaim that four legs are good, but two legs are better.

The allegory leaped to my mind as I read the story today of China’s celebration of Chairman Mao’s 120th birthday. No one can doubt that Mao would view the onslaught of capitalist running-dogs in command of the so-called People’s Republic with a disapproving eye. But this paragraph from the LA Times story by Julie Makinen with a Beijing dateline is beyond the pale:

“In Mao’s hometown of Shaoshan, a solid gold Mao statue on a 3-foot tall jade base — said to cost more than $16 million — went on display this week. Leading up to the anniversary, a caravan of 120 camels was marched from Mongolia to Shaoshan over the course of 200 days to build anticipation for the event.”

Maestro, a drumroll for Mr. Orwell if you please.




El Indio, 3355 S. 6th Ave.


I order one of two dishes on El Indio’s menu. Usually, it’s a red chile burro enchilada style. Extra sauce please, Josefina. Just to mix it up, I’ll order the cocido.

The red chile is consistently excellent. The beef is tender. The red chile gravy is superb, a celebration of the red with a small bite and flavor. How they do it is one of the vexing mysteries of the ages, conundrum that eludes me still in old age.

The red enchilada sauce — of which there can never be too much — soothes the soul.

There are other dishes that include the red chile. Fried eggs on the side, a sort of red chile salad dish and the red chile plate with beans and rice are all rewarding choices.

The cocido is as it should be, a flavorful cabbage-broth reduction that requires a great deal of time to cook down. Hence the name of this vegetable-beef soup: cooked. The great length of time required to make this soup as a rule destroys the corn-on-the-cob pieces. But it also forces the other vegetables, zucchini, potatoes, green beans and such, also to meld the flavors.

The beef needs only be chunks of chuck roast. It also is cooked until it is forced in submission and becomes tender. A word about fat in this soup: If you are Jack Sprat, order something else or go elsewhere. There should be some fat in this soup because it is necessary to round out the flavor. It does not mean that it should be excessively laden with fat. There is a balance, and El Indio’s kitchen strikes it well.

I have heard that the chile relleno and carne asada are very good at El Indio. I am inclined to believe these reports. Moreover, there are daily lunch specials that include three courses. But I have never tried them. I know I should vary the routine, but I can’t resist the red.