Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review - "Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold"

Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold by Jack Rudloe and Anne Rudloe. 2010. Financial Times Press, 251 pp. Hardcover.

Recently I saw an advertisement for Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold on the All-Jimmy Buffett news site The book seemed like an appropriate subject for Buffett news given the importance of the line "Smell those shrimp they're beginning to boil" in His song "Margaritaville" so I bought it.

The small dimensions of the book and the large font make it seem like the 251 printed pages would have been many fewer with a few adjustments. The book is divided into 11 chapters that cover almost every possible aspect of the ecology of shrimp you could ever imagine wanting to know. For me the two most interesting chapters were number 8 "Turtles, TEDS and Troubles" that covered the controversy (now largely non-existent) that raged over the requirement to put Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on shrimp nets, and chapter 9 "Wetlands and Real Estate" that delves into the issue of wetland loss and how it affects shrimp and almost every creature that is wetland related.

The bulk of the book deals with the ecology of the many species of shrimp, from their relationship with sea grass beds as foraging habitat, to the many ways shrimp can be cooked and served to the public. I had to chuckle when the authors included part of the quote by Benjamin Buford Blue (Bubba) in the movie Forrest Gump, where Bubba tells Forrest about all the ways you can prepare shrimp (and trivia fans be aware that Bubba mentions 21 different ways to fix shrimp).

I certainly learned a great deal about shrimp from this book which I guess was the point. My only disappointment was the repetition of information from one chapter to the next that happens occasionally. Once you read in chapter 1 about the "pink bodies glistening in the sun" as a net is pulled from the water, you simply don't need to read it again in every subsequent chapter - the bodies are still pink. Also, in trying to help distinguish one species of shrimp from the next, the authors get a tad bogged down with scientific names. That, however, is something on which most non-biologist readers won't pick up.

After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how my most favorite food item came to be. The next time I'm up on the Redneck Riviera of Florida (the Panhandle) and watch shrimp boats working the bay off Carrabelle, I'll be much more informed about what the shrimpers are doing and why, and more importantly about the future of the shrimp that they seek, thanks to the multitude of information packed into this little book.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Orleans Zephyr Baseball

Sunday I flew from Sarasota via Atlanta to New Orleans to watch the Triple AAA New Orleans Zephyrs (Florida Marlins affiliate) play the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate) at Zephyr Field in suburban New Orleans. New Orleans won the game 5-2.

Neither New Orleans or Memphis are tearing up the charts in their specific divisions of the Pacific Coast League but it was still a nice game to watch.

Before going to New Orleans I found a link on their website to the New Orleans Airport Hilton Hotel that gives special Zephyr fan rates. The regular nightly rate at the Hilton was $189 but they offered a "Zephyr Fan" rate (obtainable only through a link on the New Orleans Zephyrs website) of $89 a night. I grabbed that rate and spent the night.

The Hilton is directly across the street from the entrance to Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. Because of my status with Hilton they upgraded me to a suite and gave a free breakfast. On arrival I called the Hilton and got a shuttle ride to the hotel. However it is so close to the airport that you can easily walk it. On my return to the airport on Monday I did just that.

I thought the hotel had a free shuttle to Zephyr Field but learned that was wrong. Instead I rode with Service Cab for the 3 miles to and from the ball park and the Hilton. The fare, with tip, was $15.00. That might seem like a ton of money, however when I checked on a rental car, the cheapest one available was $94.00 a day. I thought this was probably because of the oil spill. However on getting to New Orleans I learned that more than 35,000 Lutherans were in town for a convention. No doubt they ate up a lot of the availability of cars as well.

I left the hotel about 5:00 for the 6:00 p.m. start of the game. On arrival at Zephyr Field I went first to the "Strike Zone" store where I purchased a Zephyr home field baseball cap. I also picked up a set of the 2010 Zephyr baseball cards for a friend of mine. Leaving the Strike Zone I went first to check out my seat. Excellent is the only word I can use to describe my seat.

I was one row back from the edge of the field, directly behind home plate. This is as good as my season ticket seat at McKechnie Field in Bradenton for the Bradenton Marauders.

After finding my seat I took off to explore the stadium and in the process discovered that not only can you get constant New Orleans jazz and Cajun zydeco music in the stadium you can also get red beans and rice and jambalaya for a meal! It doesn't get a hell of a lot better than that. The only downside to the stadium was the limited beer supply. Despite numerous beer outlets there was only one place where I could find real beer - anything other than Budweiser - for sale. That place had Stella Artois so I was a happy camper.

In my exploration I discovered the "Gator Den" down the right field line which is available for parties. The Gator Den even has a swimming pool in it and this evening the pool was filled with little kids.

The game was supposed to begin at 6:00 p.m. but some lightning in the area kept the game at bay until 6:30 when the first pitch was thrown.

The final score was 5-2 in favor of the Zephyrs. I didn't really have any dog in this fight so I wasn't much into heckling although I guess since the Zephyrs are the AAA team for the Florida Marlins I was there as a Marlins fan. The quality of play was, as you would expect from AAA level, very good. The highlight of the night was a towering home run way over the left field fence that was hit by Hector Luna, the Zephyrs third baseman. Hector's home runs was one of those classics where you hear the bat hit the ball and just know that the ball is out of the park. The only question is how far out of the park! Hector is from Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. He was born in 1980 so he was probably running around the streets of the town in March 1985 when Chris Haney and I found the first Dominican Republic record of Kirtland's Warbler just a few miles south of Monte Cristi along the Haitian border.

Attendance at the game was about 3,000 but it seemed like many fewer people than that. The upper deck of the stadium was almost vacant and there didn't seem to be that many people in the lower deck where I was. I asked the woman selling Stella Artois if the Sunday night crowd was typical. She said that on Friday and Saturday nights the stadium is usually packed but on Sunday night few come to the game.

Those of us who came out saw an interesting game. I wish I lived closer to New Orleans for several reasons. One of them would be to have season tickets to watch these almost-Marlins play 70 home games each summer. At least I'm glad I was able to watch them once.

Flying on Air Tran Airways

This past Sunday I flew from Sarasota to New Orleans (via Atlanta) to attend a New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA) minor league baseball game. The cheapest option available was to fly from Sarasota to New Orleans on Air Tran Airways (this was even cheaper than taking the Southwest nonstop from Tampa to New Orleans). Being retired I went for the cheapest alternative and I was not disappointed.

Air Tran flies a fleet of two-engine Boeing 717 (pictured above) and Boeing 737-800 series aircraft. Air Tran's route system is decidedly eastern but they provide service to some of the larger cities on the west coast (and of course to Las Vegas). For the tropical traveler, they have recently begun service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Montego Bay Jamaica, and to Cancun.

Air Tran's genesis came about when ValuJet Airlines flight 592 augured its way into the Everglades just after take off from Miami on May 11, 1996. The crash occurred because some cargo that shouldn't have been on the plane was on the plane and the cargo exploded not long after take off. ValuJet's name was pretty well trashed because of the circumstances leading up to the crash and the traveling public flocked away from ValuJet after that day. Rather than fold the airline, its management simply changed the name of ValuJet to Air Tran and its been in the air ever since.

My first segment Sunday morning lifted off full from Sarasota at 11:05 a.m, about 10 minutes early. I had upgraded to First Class for $39 dollars. We arrived in Atlanta 10 minutes early where I had a 2 1/2 hour lay over until my outbound flight at 3:20 eastern time. Luckily when I stepped from the plane in Atlanta a flight to New Orleans was boarding at the next gate. Had we not gotten in early this connection would not have been possible. There was room available in First on this earlier flight and away I went, having spent about 7 minutes in the Atlanta airport. We arrived New Orleans early.

Yesterday I returned from New Orleans via Atlanta to Sarasota. Just like on Sunday the flights were full, they left the gates early, the planes arrived early and everything went smoothly. I thought I had flown Air Tran before but realized in flight last evening that I had been on ValuJet before it became Air Tran. Thus, Air Tran was a life airline - the 201st commercial airline I have flown.

Although the four segment flight on Air Tran is a very small sample size, I have to say I was impressed by it and will most certainly fly the airline again. Not only was the fare cheap, and the flights early, but the people working for Air Tran seemed to actually be happy and seemed to actually enjoy having you on their plane. Fly on Delta, United or American airlines a few times and you'll understand my example.

If you haven't been on Air Tran I'd suggest you give them a try. If your experience is like mine was this weekend you'll likely not be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dylan Ratigan Throws Tea Bag Anarchist Off His MSNBC Show

GO DYLAN!!!!!!

The Ten Commandments - Republican Style

I. Thou shalt talk about Christian principles, but not live by them.

II. Thou shalt attack opponents personally when you can't win on policies..

III. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, but be in favor of the death penalty.

IV. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, and put guns in the hands of school children.

V. Thou shalt give lip service to democracy while taking away civil liberties.

VI. Profit is the Lord Thy God, thou shalt not put the people's interest above those of your corporate contributors.

VII. Thou shalt make sure fetuses have health coverage, but leave children and babies behind.

VIII. Thou shalt bear false witness against your opponents and liberals, and demonize them.

IX. Thou shalt run on a moderate platform, and then enact right-wing policies as soon as possible.

X. Thou shalt call the media liberal, so that people forget that the media is owned by corporations with a conservative fiscal agenda.

Friday, July 2, 2010

When Your Meniscus is Repaired

My orthopedic surgeon took pictures of his work as he performed surgery a week ago to repair my torn meniscus. I'm sure he did it to satisfy his lawyers should there be a complaint of post-surgical malpractice. There was also the advantage of the pictures being taken to satisfy the curiosity of a patient who is a biologist.

Dr. Oettinger took at least 12 pictures of my meniscus while he was conducting the surgery. He conducted the surgery using an arthroscope.

He gave me the pictures last week and explained what the images showed.

The purpose of the surgery was to "clear away" the torn portions of the meniscus - the "cushion" of cartilage between the femur, and the tibia and fibia below it. In the upper left image you can see the end of the arthroscope and the "knife" part of the scope, and if you look closely you can see the "knife" cutting away portions of the torn cartilage.

In the lower right image you can see a bunch of material that looks almost like angel hair pasta where I ripped the meniscus. That material is the tear along the edge of the meniscus. In the lower left image you can see where the meniscus was cleared away of the stuff "floating" in the lower right image.

Its been a little over a week since the surgery. I still have some pain in the area of the lateral incision and I'm still limping. However in a week or so I hope I don't even remember the pain and discomfort that came from tearing the cartilage in the first place.