Sunday, July 31, 2005

Annie Get Your Apples

Peachy goodness

Apple goodness

We went to the enchanting Apple Annie's Orchard today in scenic Willcox. We picked peaches, apples, and also visited their vegetable place for some fresh veggies.

For those of you who know me and fear that I may have been abducted by aliens and replaced with a replicant, don't worry. I'm not going to eat any of the peaches or apples. The veggies in question are: corn, hot peppers, onion, and green beans. (The latter being
consumed exclusively by my lovely wife.)

Here's something interesting for those of you who have never seen a peach tree up close:

Some sort of icky sap stuff, leaking all over the place, making amber for the next Jurassic Park movie or something. (Jurassic Orchard? Kind of a mix between Jurassic Park and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.)

Quite a nice day, and significantly cooler than Tucson. On the way back, I got to drive through one of Arizona's dreaded monsoons. Fear! Panic! Terror! Summer shower! Er... yeah. It rained fairly hard for about 10 minutes, which means I had to slow from 80 to about 55. Oh the humanity! I could still see not only the car in front of me, but the semi in front of him. All with that damnable space cushion. We got home, and that particular storm had made the news. (!?!) I drove past a few cars that had pulled over to the shoulder, and one that was off in the median. Not kidding. Maybe I'm missing something. I think these people would shriek uncontrollably if they had to drive through a light flurry of snow, much less a blizzard where the only thing you can see is snow. Pulling over for rain strikes me as funny. (Especially since the people who pulled over didn't even go as far as the overpass, where they would've at least been out of the scary, scary rain.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

My Boss is Weird

I'm slacking off. (No, that's not another pantsless reference.) Working for oneself is time consuming, but since I do most of that work on the computer there isn't much of an excuse for not posting. Oh! I know! The boss will see me if I'm blogging and not working! (Get it? Self employed? Makes it almost impossible to file a sexual harassment suit against your employer.) Been doing some designing of banners and stuff, some shameless self-promoting of the online stores... you know, all the stuff I need to do to keep the boss happy. I've even dusted off an old book I started to write, way back when. Yes, write. Not read. Before my creativity was dammed (and damned) and diverted by a job almost everyone I met told me I shouldn't be in. (He says, ending his sentence in a preposition.) It's interesting to read my style of writing from over ten years ago, and see how it's changed. The characters are kind of waking up in my head, too. I'll get moments where a scene just pops into my head, and I have to type it out for inclusion. (I don't scribble things down. I type them out. Because I want to be able to read them later on.) For the curious, it's a horror story. Even though it's a horror story, it has nothing to do with my former employer. Go figure.

I come from a long line of self-employed people. Both sets of grandparents were self-employed, my parents were self-employed... I know it takes a lot of hard work and all that kind of stuff. Those who know me know I am capapble of hard work. The part that's going to take some getting used to is actually feeling rewarded for the hard work. Thirteen years of negative conditioning to rail against, after all.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Strawberry Schubert

I don't know why I was reminded of this, but I'm going to share a childhood memory with you. It's one of those memories that explains a little bit about why I am the way I am. (Thank you, Popeye.) (Shuup, Loopy.)

I have no idea how old I was, so I'm going to say that I was 8. Just because. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas. (Wait, some clarity does occur in this recollection. Just wait for it.) The usual holiday pattern was to first go to one grandparents' house for the meal or whatever, and then scoot over to the other grandparents' house for a while. This particular holiday, though, both sets of grandparents were in the same house. The memory is of the moment that my father's parents came into my mother's parents' house. My father's father (Grandpa M) was, for whatever reason, obscured from the view of my mother's father (Grandpa J). When Grandpa J finally saw Grandpa M, he remarked: "Well, I didn't see you there! What are ya, hidin'?" Without missing a beat, Grandpa M responded: "No, I'm Handel."

If you laughed at that, I'm shocked and a little scared for you. For those who don't understand the joke, Haydn was a composer, as was Handel. My grandfather was also a composer as well as a piano teacher. But that's not the point. The point is that he heard something, thought of a funny response, knew damn well that the listener wasn't going to get it, but said it anyway. I got it, though. (Don't ask me how. I guess when half of your grandparents are piano teachers, you pick up on the names of composers.) It's that kind of wit that's in my brain now. I can't even begin to tell you how many people I've met over the years must think I'm an idiot, because I take long pauses to respond to anything they say. It's not because I'm slow. It's because I have to get all (or at least most of) the jokes and ridiculously outlandish comparative analogies out of the way before I can respond. Unless, of course, I know the listener does what I do. Then it's anything goes. (And other Cole Porter songs.) Think I'm kidding? Just ask my poor wife. She said something yesterday that, in my mind, sparked the words and music from that disco classic "Love Machine" by The Miracles. No, I don't know why. No, I can't get it to stop. Yes, that's why I'm a huge fan of MST3K. Yes, that's why most people could never understand Jerf and I when we were having a conversation.

My point? Um... my brain is funny. Or something.

It's Not The Heat, It's The Lack Of Pants

Since the long-awaited monsoon season is upon us, I've made an observation. I've heard, as I'm sure you have, the saying "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." Well, from the first time I heard that phrase, I laughed at it. I'm a person who got uncomfortably hot if the room was above 62 degrees. In my mind, no amount of moisture was going to change that.

And then I moved somewhere where the humidity was in the single digits to low teens.

As if by magic, I could now tolerate 80 and 90 degree weather. Even triple digits aren't so bad, as long as I've got my super-cool hat on.

Now, however, it's humid. As I write this, we have 64% humidity. Bleagh. It was literally 20 degrees cooler today than it's been in a while (88 instead of 108), and it felt ten times worse. (For the mathematically-minded, that's one unit of worse for every two degrees F.)

There are, however, positive aspects of this increased humidity...

Saw this out our front window this evening. Not bad.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Spoke with Lenny today. She's been worried about me, as all moms apparently are. (Yes, Lenny is a she. No, Lenny is not my mom. She just thinks she is.) She is one of a small group of people who I wish I could just pick up and move out here and go: "See? You can live like this! It doesn't have to suck! You can make money doing what you enjoy, rather than being miserable!" Unfortunately, she works for an organization that doesn't have a clue how to actually reward good people. It can't even recognize good ones from bad ones. Bah and good riddance.

So, after my digression, it was good to speak with her and a couple other people who shall remain anonymous. (Just in case I get any more unwelcome visitors.) I do miss them. A lot. But I don't miss the place, because I hate what it did to me. And would have continued to do to me as long as I allowed it. Enough = way more than enough.

On that note, this is what our sunsets often look like:

Copies are available in the lobby. (Shameless plug, I know. Oh well.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005


That orange thing is the moon, by the way. You probably guessed that, but just in case. Lightning, thunder, and a tiny bit of rain. Thunderstorms in the desert. Neat huh?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I Wish I Could Play the Bagpipes

James Doohan died today, and it made me sad. Silly to be sad for someone I've never met, and whom I know only through a single role. But dammit, it's Scotty! Relics is one of if not my favorite Next Gen episode. Why? Because Scotty is in it. When we went to the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, what did I take a picture of? The phasers? No. The costumes? No. Spock's ears? No. It was the computer Scotty spoke to in Star Trek IV. "Computer? Hello computer." Say those three words in a fake Scottish accent, and you'll detect the Trek fans from the regular people.

Star Trek was not a large part of my childhood, primarily because we weren't able to see it. (No cable in the woods. Still.) I played a lot of catch-up in my post-college years. Sure, the original series is "campy" by today's standards. But it wasn't a western, and that's significant. The show inspired more people to do more things than I could possibly list, but on a personal level it does something pretty darn special for me. Watch Star Trek with Deb. We both enjoy the shows thoroughly, play "who can name that episode faster", and have ridiculously geeky conversations and then laugh about it.

So, silly as it may be, thanks Mr. Doohan. For making me laugh when I hear the words: "It's green."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

That's Not Love in the Air

Lightning, baby. Pretty cool stuff. (And, ok, this isn't the best animated gif ever. But it was taken with my digital camera shooting 60-second clip avi files. I'm surprised I got anything at all.)

The thunderstorms are forecast for the next 10 days, so I guess the overdue monsoon season is here. We'll try to get better lightning pictures without getting electrocuted. That's a line we don't want to cross. I'm also toying with the idea of setting up the webcam to just flat-out record the next one. Depends on how fast the storm is. This one was very powerful, but over in minutes. By the time we realized it was raining, got the cameras, looked outside... it had already pretty much gone away. Such is the power of a mountain/desert thunderstorm, I guess.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Comcast, Capitalism, and a Casino

We trundled off to the casino yesterday with our friends. None of us did well, but we had our shirts as well as the cars that brought us, so I guess it wasn't so bad. One thing that's missing from the casino here that I got so used to seeing in our trips to Atlantic City: oxygen tanks. Specifically, oxygen tanks strapped to the 800 year old blue hair riding around in a power chair, with a hole cut in the oxygen mask to allow for easier smoking. Haven't seen that, and part of me misses the sight. The negative from this trip (apart from losing): RC cola. While I prefer Pepsi over Coke, I can drink either without a fuss. Yes I can tell the difference. Anybody can tell the difference. People who say they taste the same are either lying, stupid, or smoke 8 packs a day so their sense of taste is gone. This particular casino purveys RC cola to those possessed of a non-alcoholic thirst. RC cola tastes like it was mixed in a 10 year old plastic pail used to collect coins, and the occasional ash. Those who have seen me eat know that when I drink soda I don't do it lightly. A one-liter bottle is easily polished off, and a 2-liter could go if I'm thirsty. I didn't even drink half of this RC glasslet. Ick.

As for capitalism, I've made a bunch of new stuff at cafepress. And I can say with no small amount of pride (and a greater amount of joy) that I've actually sold something there! Woohoo! (And no, it wasn't to a family member. So there.) Just click on the cafepress link to see what's there. I'm making more stuff all the time, too. Nothing beats working for yourself!

Ah, ComCast. I'll spare you the details, but give you something to think about. For those of you who don't pay bills online, do you deduct the price of the stamp from what you're sending? Paying bills online is faster, and costs less by not only the price of the stamp, but in the price of the postal worker, the gas in the postal worker's vehicle, time... you get the idea. Now, if a company claims to have an online bill paying feature, yet can't get it to work, would you deduct the price of the stamp from your bill? A bill that you would normally pay online? Or do you just gladly pay the $5 extra a year because the company can't be bothered to fix its website? If enough people deducted the cost of the stamp from what they owed, the company would notice.

Why, look! A windmill! I've seen those before... somewhere... Gotta go change my name to "Don".

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's Funny to Me

I don't like to discuss politics or things political. I just don't. Sure, I exploded over the presidential election, but that was pretty much it from me politics-wise. But here's something from Wil Wheaton (yes, that Wil Wheaton) that just needed to be shared. Yep, violence in video games is a worthwhile crusade. You go Hillary. Violent video games are what made me the madman I am today. The hours of playing Jumpman taught me to leap off of ladders. Hell, Seven Cities of Gold taught me that it was OK to wipe out entire Indian villages. (That's back when we could still call them "Indians", and not "Native Americans".) (And Native Americans aren't "native", but that's a whole other thing.) Video games and the violence contained therein are a release, not an actuator. The piddling amount of violence in those early video games kept me from eviscerating fellow schoolmates. As the graphics got better, so did I. Even during my years working in the Den of Stupid, I played video games. (Thank you Morrowind, for keeping me out of an institution!) As for the sex in video games... hey, if that's all they're doing, then good. If they figure out how to view it, then that means they're developing a job skill. Besides, if parents are really concerned, then maybe they shouldn't buy the games little Timmy cries about without looking at them first. Just a thought. But what the hell do I know. I don't have kids.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Caller Beware, and Other Stuff

We've been receiving phone calls from a mystery organization. They're a mystery, because they never leave a message. The caller ID had a name that meant nothing to us. All we know is that they're in Ogden, Utah. Whoever they are, they're persistent. The calls would start at about 8:30 am, and stop at around 7:00 pm. Most of the time, we ignore them. If they don't want to leave a message, then it's not important. But the other day, this place called us four times before noon. If it's so damned important to call so many damn times, how friggin' hard is it to say who you are and what the hell you want? So... Deb and I agreed that we'd answer the next one. Her version of how she was going to handle the call was decidedly much more pleasant than what I had running through my head.

The phone rang, the caller ID said it was the mystery company, and I answered it. What follows is a transcript of that conversation.

(phone rings) Me: "What?" (Not "hello", not "hi", but "What?" This momentarily stunned the Ogdenite or Ogdonian or Obelisk or whatever the hell they call people from Ogden.)

Timmy the Phone Jockey: "Um.. can I speak with Deborah?"

Me: "No. Can I speak with your manager please?"

Timmy: "Um... sure, if you want."

(Followed by questions to his co-workers as to whether or not a manger is around. He finally found one and explained that he didn't know what the problem was, just that I had asked to speak to a manager.)

Billy the Manager: "Can I help you sir?"

Me: "Yes you can. I want you to put this number on your 'do not call' list. I have no idea what company you are with, and I really don't care at this point. All I know is that you call repeatedly and never leave a message. If you call this number again, you will be hearing from my attorney."

Billy the Manager: "Yes sir!"

Me: "Thank you." (click.)

They have not called again.

Have I mentioned lately that I hate the phone? Hate it with a passion. If you haven't done so already, sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry to stop most telemarketers. If you sign up for something, though, they have a right to call you if you provide your phone number. However, when either of us sign up for things, we always check the "e-mail only" contact preference. Seems it's easier to get someone to dial a phone than to compose something in writing. Even when you ask for writing, you get calls. Bastards.

Which leads me to this...

Typos leap off the page at me and stab me in the eye. (Not literally, as that would be bad.) I received the statement for my credit card. I read the bill and said: "Oh no!" Not because of the balance, but because of the following fragment found at the very end of the bill: " and your done". (Note: I put the period outside of the quotes because they didn't have one at all.) I guess I should really be happy. I've never had a done before, but now I do. I should go out on the balcony and yell "The done is mine!"

See... Amazon got its start by selling books. Books! Books with words in them and stuff. It's bad enough watching the English language die a long, slow, languishing death. Watching it be thrashed about by a purveyor of books is inexcuseable.

Yes, I e-mailed them. I doubt they'll respond. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Somebody Call Michael Martin Murphey

Yes, I said Michael Martin Murphey. Go run to your CD compilation of "AM Hits of the 70s" if you don't know who I mean.

Deb and I went out for lunch today to celebrate, and also stopped by the post office. When we got out of the car at the post office, we said: "Gee, it's awfully cloudy over there." Followed shortly by: "That's smoke!"

(These shots aren't from the post office, in case you were wondering.) There's a wildfire burning in the Coronado National Forest, and we could see it. Well, we could see the smoke. Saw the actual edge of the fire as a line of smoke, but never any flames. We did, of course, hop in the car and try and go see it. Never got closer than these pictures, because we were sidetracked by something else we'd been meaning to see. (More on that tomorrow.)

Pretty cool, huh? You tell me what other couple you know who celebrates their anniversary by actively seeking out a forest fire!

Segundo Aniversario Feliz!

Happy Anniversary to the most wonderfully amazing person in the entire world! She's put up with me for years, and we've shared some pretty amazing adventures together. From Alaska to New York to Florida to Arizona and most everything in between. She's made the unbearable bearable, the boring exciting, and the exciting spectacular. I am, without a doubt, the luckiest man in the world.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I'm the Daddy of the MACDaddy

Before anyone overreacts... it's a lyric. Stop it.

We did the unthinkable today. The other night we saw one of them there late night infomercials about making money. (Yeah, I know. Bear with me.) This one dealt with making money in the stock market. It was free, it was close, and it killed a couple hours in the afternoon, so why not? So, today we went to the lovely Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, and saw the STAR trader spiel. It was actually quite well done. I expected the sales pitch, and we got it right off the bat. But not in a sneaky way. He was very up-front about it all, and I give him a lot of credit for that. One thing I didn't expect, though, was to actually learn something. I fully expected them to do everything to entice us to pay for the seminar, but never actually provide us with any useful information. I was wrong. The guy was roughly my age, and he showed a room that was jam-packed with less than two dozen people what to look for, and stressed that you could find it all online.

Now... a moment of digression. The room this thing was in was large. Large. It had two chandeliers, roughly the dimensions of your average sofa. This was a training room that we would've killed for. They had 30 chairs set up in there, and the room could have easily fit 250 more. (I'm being conservative.) Deb and I were laughing, because it was such a huge room, and here's this tiny pocket of people who are either insomniacs or know people who are and they all had three hours to kill.

It made sense, though, which kinda scares me. I've never given a hoot about the stock market before, but this was different. Show me computers, show me charts, and tell me I can figure it out by looking at it this way... and damn if it didn't make sense. So he was either a hypnotist, or correct. (Or I'm just an idiot.) (But Deb figured it out too, so there.)

We got home, and it took some digging but I actually found a free program that makes the charts and stuff. It's fascinating. So now, 10 years after the fact, I understand Ray. (Two people will get that. Everyone else just keep on going.)

Oh yeah. MACD is one of the charts. Speaking of some of those letters, we had the unfortunate necessity to eat at McDonald's before this shindig. Ugh. Haven't eaten McDonald's food since... January? And no fast food since March. It's official. My stomach can't stand that crap. That doesn't make me sad, as I don't miss it. (Pizza, yes.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Too Much For A T-Shirt

I was talking with my brother today, and the discussion turned to our grandmother. (My mother's mother.) She and my grandfather owned a little grocery store/deli, and my grandmother worked there every day. "Worked" being far too small a term for what she did. Preparing enough food to feed an army, cleaning, working the register, doing the books... she did all that and then some. It was rare for her to take off, even on holidays. Holidays were the days that she spent cooking food for the police/fire departments so they'd have turkey dinners. She finally reached a point in her life when she realized that she had spent decades of her existence for other people, and finally started doing things for herself. She lost weight, she redecorated her house, and was coming to the realization that she could actually have a little fun in life. Sure, she still got up at 4am after going to bed at 1am, but she was enjoying it just a little bit more. Then one morning just like any other, she woke up, got out of bed, and died. Just like that. In probably as much time as it took me to type that, if not for you to read it.

Discussing this bit of nearly-18-years-gone history led me to say: "That's the way I want to die, but it is not the way I want to live." (While that saying will fit on a T-shirt, the explanation will not.) I saw my parents doing the same thing, but they stopped. Now with hindsight being what it is, I saw Deb and I doing the same thing. Spending ridiculously long hours working our collective asses off... all for nothing.

Every day I wake up and I see our mountain view, and I am glad. Glad that I didn't have a stroke or heart attack before I was 40, because that's certainly where I was headed. Glad that we got out of jobs that were stealing more than a small part of our souls and a large part of our happiness. We will still fight our battles here and there, but it's on our own time and our own terms. We still encounter idiots, but they don't have so much control over our lives.

In short: work is not worth dying for, but life is certainly worth living. Sure, that's more of a fortune cookie phrase than a T-shirt, but I'm working on it.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

"Hey ya damn kids! Get the hell off my lawn!"

Or probably more appropriately for this guy: "Hey ya damn kids! Get the hell off my horse!"

Love this guy. No, I'm sure he doesn't dress like this every day. But I bet he wishes he could.
I thought he deserved his own post.

If you want to read more about Zeke, go here.

Friday, July 01, 2005


If you're really observant, you noticed I got rid of the ComCast link. (If you actually noticed that, I'm impressed.) I'm angry with ComCast specifically, and cable companies in general. The part that made me angry is only partially due to ComCast, but they're bearing the brunt of my rage right now. See, I hate the phone. Hate it. I'd rather sit bare-assed on a cactus in 120 degree heat than talk on the phone in an air conditioned room. (I apologize for the mental image, but I trust my point is made.) On three separate occasions this week, for three very different things, I've been to websites to contact people at businesses for one reason or another. Now, I'm a geek. I understand websites to a certain degree and I appreciate a good one when I see it. I'm also of the opinion that if you have a business in this day and age, you need to have a decent website. Not just a website, but a decent website. Not every website can have every bit of information on it, so a decent business website must also have some sort of e-mail link on it. Whether it opens an embedded message system or opens your e-mail application... doesn't matter. It just needs to be there. One such site this week had me digging through no less than four pages and four domains before I could find a link to send my e-mail. By that time my question had become a rant. My bank's website has an e-mail link, and I sent them a question this week as well. They replied to me via e-mail... with a canned response that told me to call someone. Nope. If I send you an e-mail and you send me a message that tells me to call, then you just took a huge step closer to losing me as a customer. If you don't have the capacity to solve a problem via e-mail, then don't put the link on the page. Bastards.

As for ComCast... their website sucks. My first e-mail communication with them was to tell them that their website was abysmal. They've got a racket as far as their pricing is concerned, because they really don't have competition. For my readers in the Long Island area, I tell you honestly that Cablevision kicks ass. If for no other reason than they do not charge extra if you have more than one computer and would like each computer to have its own IP address. (I know at least two of you understand my rage over this.)

I'm getting to the point where I'm going to start an online petition about cable companies. Nationwide. I know they have the technology to do certain things, but they just don't bother. Even though it would greatly increase their customer base. (Out here, anyway.) If anybody in the cable biz wants to e-mail me for some free ideas, go for it.

Until then, I'm shopping for a better deal. Too bad it means we'll have to move to get it. Friggin' monopoly.