Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Land of the Lost, Now Available On DVD

We went to the heart of Tucson today, in and amongst its towering skyscrapers. (That would be the four or five buildings that are greater than five stories.) One of the more colorful office buildings can be found on my better half's blog. The building in the picture above... well... I have no idea what it is. Other than being extremely cool. Absolutely fantastic prehistoric mural wrapped around the entire building. There were a lot of murals on buildings in the area, and some of the buildings are just plain colorful. Nothing quite like seeing an adobe building painted royal blue!

We also went to an art museum today on the Arizona University campus. Why? Because it was free. Good thing, too. See... I'm an art major. I enjoy making pictures of things that look like things. I will never understand cubism, and I will never understand the Rothkos and Jackson Pollacks of the world. Yeah, I know. I'm just jealous that I didn't think to call a dropcloth "art" first. This is not to say that the museum had such pieces. They had a faculty showing, and some of the faculty work was seemingly inspired by those giants of the art world. I should apply for a grant for this kind of thing. You too can drizzle paint onto canvas, or spritz it through a plastic spray gun, or sneeze it out on tile and be called "deep". (Instead of "someone who wastes paint".)

There was an extensive collection of religious art dating back to the 1500s. That was impressive. About a dozen very large paintings on wood, depicting Christ's life. I couldn't help but notice how much Christ's life is mirrored by reality game shows. I mean, think about it. His first test was to turn water into wine. Then he got to make the blind see. Then heal the lepers. Survive his temptations. Survive the Four Tops. (OK, I made that one up.) Convince people he's made out of bread and wine. Drag a big piece of wood in the hot sun, put on a spiky hat, and catch a spear without using his hands. What's he win?

Depends on how you define "win". I think he would've been happier with the home game.

After the museum, we saw an interesting human. He weighed roughly as much as my right arm, was about a foot taller than me, had some of his hair dyed red, was wearing canvas Keds laceless sneaker-things with a nifty blue checkered pattern, and he had a purse. Not a backpack, not a rucksack, a purse. Ah, art college. I didn't miss you.

Don't get me wrong. He can have the purse. He could wear his favorite ballerina costume and a tiara or a clown costume and bagpipes for all I care. If it makes him happy, go right ahead. The purse in question, however, did not match the shoes. That's a no-no.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Twinkle, Twinkle

The picture is my attempt at an altered sunset pic. Sunsets have altered me, so I thought it was only fair. You may have noticed I've developed a predilection for sunsets of late. It's largely due to the fact of the spectacular skies here in Arizona, but there's something more to it. Growing up in the wilds of upstate NY I saw my fair share of pretty cool sunsets. Not to mention some fantastic star-filled nights. When I moved to Long Island and worked nights, sunsets and stars became memories. (The latter because of the perpetual glowing orange haze in the night sky.) I wonder if not being able to see the stars at night has a negative psychological impact on people? I mean... looking up at a starry night sky can not only fill you with a sense of beauty and wonder, but it can also help you put things into perspective. (No bearing on the previous post.) Each star is unfathomably large, even more unfathomably distant, and may in fact have died out thousands of years ago but you're just seeing it right now. And on that distant glimmer in the depths of space there may have been or may yet be someone else looking up at the sky who in one far-flung year will see the tiny point of light that's our Sol... It can really center you and your place in the universe. However, if you couldn't see that every night, and be reminded of the vastness of the universe and the improbability of our own existence to even contemplate such a thing, what would happen?

What happens to you when you can't see the stars?

Friday, September 23, 2005


per-spec-tive (n)

1.a. A view or vista

b. A mental view or outlook: “It is useful occasionally to look at the past to gain a perspective on the present” (Fabian Linden).

2. The appearance of objects in depth as perceived by normal binocular vision.

3.a. The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole: a perspective of history; a need to view the problem in the proper perspective.

b. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view: the perspective of the displaced homemaker.

c. The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance: tried to keep my perspective throughout the crisis.

4. The technique of representing three-dimensional objects and depth relationships on a two-dimensional surface.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday, Mom! I won't tell everyone how old you are, don't worry. (Unless I get bribes or something.) (I'll split 'em with you. 80/20. Just like you taught me.) Have lots of cake and e-mail me a piece if you have any left. Extra frosting. Don't forget that when it's your birthday, it's perfectly legal and acceptable to beat the livin' snot out of the kids at school. And take their lunch money, too.

Have a happy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rose Canyon Lake - Three Great Nouns That Taste Great Together

At about 7,000 or so feet, there's a lake on Mt. Lemmon. Rose Canyon Lake. It's the kind of place my brother would call heaven. Not a big lake, but it's stocked with trout and is in a pine forest. For those of you who live in or near a pine forest, that's not a big deal. We have cactus forests, and the scent of pine trees really hits me as one of those things you never realized you would miss if you moved 2,500 miles away from a place where pine is more abundant.

In any case, we took some pictures of the lake. This shot was one of my attempts at capturing the reflected sunlight on the water. I seemed to have angled the camera up a bit too much, though, and pointed it at the sun. At least, I hope that's what made the lines on the image. Either that, or I caught a brief moment of flux in the Matrix. Take your pills, everybody!

The second image is just me playing around with image filters. I just thought it looked cool.

Monday, September 19, 2005

There's Gold In Them Thar Walls

This one's for Matt, aka Kid Photo. It's a picture of one of the stone walls at about the 8,000 foot mark of Mt. Lemmon. The significance of this is that this is where we saw that the stone in the middle was iron pyrite. I wonder if the people building the wall did that on purpose? I mean, here we were looking out so far you could literally see another state, but if you stopped and looked at what was right in front of you you got to see something pretty cool as well.

There's probably a life lesson in that somewhere. Or a greeting card. A bumper sticker at the very least.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Deceive, Inveigle, and Obfuscate

Mysterious object spotted hovering over Tucson, AZ. This photo was snapped by a keen-eyed observer several thousand feet in the air on scenic Mt. Lemmon. Digital enhancement has proven inconclusive. Comments?

Friday, September 16, 2005


Not only did Jerf finally escape the evil eye and go to a better job, but he's officially engaged! A large woohoo and congrats from the west to the newly-engaged couple!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Arizonan Dust Devil

Yeah, I know. This is incredibly difficult to see. Let me provide some backstory first... Deb and I went out for a drive today. Because we can. We decided to head north, as previously we'd gone mostly south in our excursions. We now know that there's little in the way of a "quick trip" north of us, and will never do it again. Prior to reaching this conclusion, however, we got off the highway at the exit for Red Rock. I've seen some small towns before, and this is not the smallest. For the folks at home, though, this town made Mt. Vision look like a metropolis. (To be fair, though, the only landmark on that map of Mt. Vision is the cemetery. Creepy.)

The dust devil wasn't what made us pull over to take pictures. The cool dead tree was. (Not shown, sorry.) As odd as this sounds, we didn't notice the dust devil at first, because it was so big. We've seen them all around, and they're usually small yet dynamic. This one was neither. I've used some photoshop magic to make it more readily apparent (or redly apparent).

That grey line heading up from the mountains is the dust devil. It was big, to say the least.

After we saw the devil, we saw a field full of plants. Had no idea what they were, as they looked completely unfamiliar to both of us. The occasional white flower here and there, but mostly just dark green leaves. Then I saw something white that wasn't a flower, and my brain finally made my mouth say: "cotton!" We had never seen actual cotton plants before, so that was pretty cool. (No, we did not pick any, nor did we have any gin.)

At this point of my rambling, I'd like to point something out. We are now "Arizonans" as well as "Tucsonans". How boring. I want to know who decides the monikers given to state residents. "New Yorker" sounds active (as well as magazine-ish), but "Arizonan" is just... there. I'd rather be an "Arizoner". Sounds like I'm doing something. Same goes for "Tucsonan". Dull. Why not a "Tucsovite"?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Health Tip

After dozens of requests (OK, three), I've put together a calendar of what I think are the best sunset shots we've taken so far.

In other news, the triple digit temperatures seem to be over. The evening temperatures are in the mid-60s, which is great. The daytime temperatures are in the mid-90s, and are surprisingly comfortable. (Yeah, I know. "What have you done with the real Wontar?") To sound like a broken record: 95 here is nothing even remotely like 95 in New York. Whenever it's above 80 in New York, you need SCUBA gear.

Here's the best example I can give, given our limited experience in AZ... yesterday I started coughing. Typical symptom #1 of me getting a cold, which would then turn into an infection of some sort, which would invariably mean that I can't do much of anything except exist for about 2-3 weeks. I went to bed last night with all manner of scenarios of previous illnesses playing through my head. Today, the cough was gone. Dried up. Vanished. That has never, ever happened to me before. I have a pathetic immune system. My wife has been literally scared by how quickly I am overcome and incapacitated by a cold/infection/plague. To have it go away in less than two weeks is tantamount to a miracle, but a day?

Open letter to family: MOVE! The weather is literally killing you! Slowly, inexorably, killing you. And every year you're less resilient. MOVE!!!

I'm done now. We're off to hit the pool. Hopefully it won't break.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dial-up Beware! Sunset pics ahead!

Last night's sunset, tonight's sunset, and tonight's sunset part deux. In that order.

Survey Says...

As some of you know, when Deb and I moved we started signing up for a bunch of online survey things. And by "bunch" I mean "a whole friggin' lot of 'em." We have since culled the herd to the few that actually provide tangible benefits. GoZing is the only one to provide actual cash in dollar amounts. So far, I've made $20 in two months at about $1 per five minutes of time. Pretty cool.

So, if you're interested, click the thing. It'll be moving to the sidebar shortly.

Better Than Skittles

Apparently, we got the apartment that has the highest incidence of rainbows in all of Arizona. Don't quote me on this, primarily because I'm making it up. I just find it fascinating that about once a week we look out our front door and find a rainbow staring back at us. Sometimes two. (And they stare... oh, believe me... they stare. Curse you, Roy, you lousy refractive bastard! Making poor little Judy Garland sing to you while hallucinating and listening to Pink Floyd. That's not right!)

Sometimes I turn the filters off, just so you get a brief glimpse of what it's like to be in my head. Be glad you're on the outside.

Oh yeah. "Roy", as in "ROY G BIV". Not Scheider. (Though he has delivered some colorful performances.) (Ba-bing!) Great mnemonic device for remembering the colors of the rainbow. (Thanks Dad!)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pennies From Heaven

Dear Comcast (and everyone else who doesn't know this),

My blood is boiling again. Why? Because I looked at Comcast's website, that's why. There's a simple rule regarding websites that more people should follow: if you can't make a good one, you should not have one. It is not true that a business in today's world must have a website. If you have a website that sucks, that's worse than having no website at all. Also, if you have a website, it needs to be proofread. By someone else. I've had errors in my webpages. Everyone does. Get a proofreader, but preferably someone who has a grasp of the English language.

This leads me to the reason for my boiling blood. I quote: "Fees vary and are applied everytime. Call your local cable billing office for specific information." Not only do you have a decided lack of information on your website and try to make up for it by telling people to call you but you have the infuriatingly common "everytime" error. If you don't think that's an error, here's the answer for you: "'Every time' is always two separate words."

Done. End of story. Just because you see other people doing it doesn't make it correct. Worry about what's right instead of what other people are doing. (See also: every day/everyday.

I'd be happy to proofread your website at my consultant's fee. Or knock a few bucks off of my bill. Whatever.

So remember these freebies: if you can't put the information on your site, don't tease people with the promise of an answer and smack them with a phone; and crack open a dictionary.



Monday, September 05, 2005

Bang the Gavel Slowly

Internet auction juggernaut eBay kinda screwed up, in my opinion. And that opinion is shared by many who buy & sell there. (Judging by eBay's forums.) See, in the post-Katrina aftermath, eBay sprang into action by offering charity auctions and things of that nature, along with donating $250,000. Which sounds lovely on the surface of it. Except that their charity auctions have to go through their middleman organization, which takes 2.9% of the total auction amount. Plus eBay is still charging both listing and final value fees. In other words, they're counting on the sellers to step up their selling efforts, rake in the fees, and just "donate" what they collect. All the while still counting it as profit and taking a nice tax write-off.

"But it's sensible business!" you might say. Well, yes, on paper it's textbook business management. In actuality, your success is due largely to the fact that so many people use the service. When a situation arises wherein you can show that you're not just a fee-happy monopoly that's nothing more than a glorified bulletin board and will actually contribute some of your $307.2 million in earnings as of July (expected revenue for the quarter: 4.3 Billion with a B) back to people who literally have nothing... ah, but I guess people who have nothing don't have anything to sell on eBay, so they're not really worth helping. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

This may bore the pants off of most of you, but we do a lot on eBay. Lately, though, they're just pissing me off. Which is why I was happy to discover that Yahoo auctions are free. Yep. No listing fees, no final value fees, nothing. If you look at my auctions, you see that the page even shows up better. No extra fees for the thumbnail images, either. (That page would've cost me about $15 to set up on eBay. Before the final value fees.

My point? Profit is fine. It's great. But where do you draw the line between "profit" and "gouging"? Think about that when you next get gas for your car.

And speaking of profit and spending all of your money on gas... if you're in the mood to do some holiday shopping (yes, I said it. It's September and I said it.) I am now the proud owner of an online store. I don't mean cafepress stuff, either. Kitchen stuff, binoculars, leather jackets, gadgets... neat! There's a ton of stuff. (But no butterflies.) If you look at the prices, you see I did the opposite of what a traditional businessman would do. I made my prices low. I guess I should change the name to "Crazy Wontar's", huh?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Corporate Charity, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy

I did not intend to post anything about the post-hurricane madness. (And it is madness.) This is just something to put here so people remember it months from now. It's an article from CNN that lists what certain U.S. companies are donating to the relief effort. My personal favorites: Ford Motor Credit Company will allow victims to defer up to two car payments; and my buddies at ComCast are offering ten milliion dollars' worth of advertising. Note that Ford isn't contributing any money, just deferring them receiving money from people who have lost everything. Including the damn car! What's Ford going to do... repossess it? Better get some SCUBA gear. And to be fair to ComCast, they are contributing $50k in addition to the advertising. Because, really, advertising isn't going to be of much use to people who don't have food, much less electricity, television, homes... Love it. In that list, only one thing impresses me:

"Papa Johns franchisee owner Keith Sullens in Houston is using his location in Reliant Stadium, which is adjacent to the Astrodome, to provide up to 10,000 Pizzas to people arriving at the Astrodome from the Superdome. He is also offering 150 delivery jobs open across the Houston area to people evacuated from New Orleans as a chance for them to get back on their feet."

Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and all the other big businesses are contributing gristle and less than table scraps compared to the obscene amounts of money they make gouging the consumer. But this one guy, one single franchise owner and not the owner of Papa Johns uber-entity, is doing something with meaning. Actually putting himself in the "that could've been me" mindset and responding in a way that befits his means.

I went through an apartment fire, and I was numb for a long time after. My experience in no way compares to what's going on there. Not even fractionally. I cannot begin to imagine what these people are going through. And this is what corporate America does to help them? "Sorry you lost everything, and your entire family died. But you can hold off on that car payment for two whole months! Just watch some TV for a while!" Bastards, one and all.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Even Our Name Says Merry Christmas

Showers are generally good things. They keep you clean, they get rid of nasty germs, they're occasionally good for singing, and sometimes you even get ideas in the shower. Sometimes those ideas are repeatable to a PG-13 audience. Sometimes not. I was struck with an idea today while scrubbing away the evil in the shower. (For those of you with visual imaginations, tell yourselves I was scrubbing the walls.)

I need to lose weight. Swimming is a good start, but I need some sort of motivation. Mainly because I have a very strong desire to go hiking and exploring in the desert, and I know that I am physically not up to that challenge without having my heart burst like a diseased appendix. So, the idea came into my head, and I acted upon it right then and there.

I shaved.

For the first time in... seven years? Eight?... my chin is visible. As is my upper lip. I'm officially bald on both poles of my globular head. Most people wouldn't recognize me. Deb has never seen me clean-shaven, either. The point is that I'm going to remain clean-shaven until I lose weight. This probably doesn't make sense to people without beards or facial hair, or possibly only makes sense to me. But it will be a daily reminder that I've got to do something in order to get my facial hair back.

Oh. In case you're saying "but you'll just get used to how you look!"... not a chance in hell. I started shaving when I was 13. Had a full beard from age 17 until mid-20s, and then a goatee from then on. In the past 18 years the total amount of time my chin has been naked is roughly three weeks, maybe four. I need my facial hair to hide my "ass chin". (Not my term, but appropriate.)

No, I'm not posting a picture. Maybe after I lose weight, but not before.