Monday, October 31, 2005

Have A Proper Octember Terminus, Everyone!

If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, it seems that schools across the good ol' US of A are doing away with Halloween celebrations and festivities. They're being replaced with either nothing, or a more generic "Fall-o-ween". Why? Because a "full 30 percent" are objecting! So, of course, we must bow to the vocal minority. Since Halloween is the one holiday that isn't about a current religion, then it must be bad. (Which makes no sense. I mean, Halloween is currently about candy and dressing up. Easter is all about candy too! There's your Christian connection right there!) (Plus, Christ is one of the most well-documented zombies in all of literature, so there's your creepy factor! What else do you need? Let's put the cross in a cornfield, and Jesus could've been a scarecrow while he was hanging up to dry.) And candy is bad, since the sugar leads to hyperactivity in children. Since we can't discipline kids any more, then that's bad too. (Yeah, your kids are normally such angels as long as they're doped up on Ritalin or some other attitude-adjuster.) A full 30 percent of people aren't having their proper share of enjoyment on this single day! Something must be done about it! Or I'll sue!!!

I have a solution. I'd like to start a grassroots movement to bring back the true spirit of the day. The day when the veil between the world we inhabit and the world of the supernatural was at its thinnest. I'm talking about blood sacrifices. But only of the people who obtain their joy solely through denying it of others. They're probably the same people who hand out pennies on Halloween instead of chocolate. The same people who only have contests where everybody wins. (No point, then, is there?)

I've found a mascot for my cause. You just wait. We'll re-paganize all the holidays that were stolen. Why am I so sure? Here's my mascot:

We will not be stopped.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Halloween Colors By Rorschach

Feeling something of the spirit of All Hallow's, I saw this picture unfold to match the images in my mind as I made it. When I showed the picture to my wife, she described something completely different than what I saw. If you're so inclined, tell me what you see in this picture. I'll tell you what I see in the comments later on.

- Update -

Rather than try and describe it, I figured it'd be easier to just draw it. One hooded figure in the background with a skull for a face, holding a staff with a cow skull on it. Another (perhaps same) hooded skull-faced figure in the foreground reading a stone tablet wreathed in flames. I did enjoy the descriptions of what others saw, though. Received via comments and e-mail. Thanks for playing along!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Some Things Never Change

When I was young, I collected fossils. It was very easy to do, as the majority of the rocks around our house were brought up from the dynamite explosion needed to give our house a basement. Shale is great for holding fossils. I also collected rocks from our annual trips to the beach in Maine. I didn't really care about the water or the beach, but the rocks always caught my eye. (Especially the nifty mica-filled ones.) When I was older still, I brought back rocks from excursions to the Herkimer Diamond Mine. In short, I had several shoeboxes filled with rocks in my closet. And they stayed there for years, untouched and unappreciated, because I had moved out.

We went exploring again today, but this time much closer to home. We walked down to the golf course, and on the way back we bypassed the pavement and came through the desert. In my defense... my wife started it. She picked up an interesting piece of dried cane cholla cactus. (This isn't the piece, this is just a random graphic.) The stuff is very cool. Nature's wiffle. It was apparently used as a walking stick at one time because it's light, straight, and durable. (Hence the name "cane" cholla.)

We also found some Devil's Claw, a.k.a. Unicorn Plant. These are also very cool, because they do indeed look and feel like claws. The claw part is actually the seed pod, and its mode of distribution is to latch on to a passing large animal to be carried and deposited as it dries and the seeds fall out. (Take that, acorns!) These aren't soft, mushy plants here. Those are called claws for a reason. They're sharp, and they'll catch on your skin as easily as your clothes if you're not careful.

No, I did not get cut by one. I did, however, get a nice little cut on my thumb from a fishhook barrel cactus. How did it cut my thumb? Why, because I was dislodging one of its fruits, of course. They should call it a "meathook cactus" instead of a "fishhook". Fishhooks are small, and would be much more preferable to have tearing into your flesh. If you're into that kind of thing.

We also picked up a few rocks. Not many, and certainly not as many as I wanted to. But, as is usual for us, we were doing something for which we were not fully prepared. We had no bags with us other than our camera bags, but luckily yours truly had on his now-trademark cargo shorts with pockets aplenty. I did not, however, have my hat. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) Even though it's cooler, my shiny head can't be exposed to the Arizona sun for long. We carried our desert treasures back home. One of us will post pictures of the "before" and "after" shots of the stuff, as we plan on doing something artsy-craftsy with it all. We'll head out again sometime soon. And yes, I'll wear my hat.

Oh, in case you were wondering... we both had our eyes fully peeled and searching for rattlesnakes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Colossal Cave

I'm being all lazy with this one. My better half is working diligently on a detailed post, so rather than parrot her I'm posting a pic. To it, I will add only this: you have no idea how many shots I took of this insect with its wings closed, only to have it open them immediately following the shutter click. I think my patience was worth it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Today is my lovely wife's birthday. (Some of you know her as Stargazer.) So, this is where I get to say "Happy Birthday" to the most incredibly amazingly wonderful person in the world. She means more to me than I could possibly put into words, and we're going to celebrate that fact as well as her existence by eating lots and lots of cake. Probably ice cream, too. And cookies. Then, we'll go out for lunch.

If you're so inclined, you can leave her a birthday comment on her blog.

If you'll excuse me, we're off to listen to the coyotes sing "Happy Birthday" to her. Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


That would be "the fear of phobias." Go here if you don't believe me.

This post is for you, Hedley, my newest frequent visitor. I've been assured by half of my family that you're OK, but I'd just like to point out a few things so you understand why my first reaction to you was negative.

Your first comment ever on my site was: "Perhaps we should k*ll the first born son of every family!" Not a good way to make a first impression. Especially in a post about my father and brother. (Putting aside the fact that it was said by Taggart, not Hedley.)

Add to that that you wrote: "Violent?? Not really me, as far as a postal employee being laid off is not violent." Now, look at my archives prior to April 2005 and see where I worked. That's past tense. Then look at April 2005 and find out how I left. You're on your way to understanding why you weren't on the fast track to acceptance.

Then you asked: "What's another word for Thesaurus?" (I spelled it correctly. You did not.) I'd direct you to Steven Wright for that one, since he is the one who originally posed the question. See, one of the "fun" things with having an eidetic memory is that you can't remember things in an instant like those happy photographic memory-wielding people, but once a memory is triggered the whole thing plays back like a movie. Or in this case, a stand-up bit on television.

My point? It appeared to me as if you were trying to pass that off as your own in an attempt to sound intelligent. That's the kind of thing that makes me not like someone. (That and the comma-spliced, prepositional meanderings that make up your posts.)

So, no hard feelings. You just came out of the blue and did a whole slew of things that I plain old don't like. But now that we understand one another, I'm sure we'll get along just fine.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Casa Grande Ruins

We visited the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument the other day. Absolutely fascinating, and it was yet another moment in my life where I had more than a passing regret at not becoming an archaeologist. Present-day people generally anger me, but ancient people tend to fascinate me. This 35' tall structure, for example, was built around 1300 AD by people living in the middle of the friggin' desert. They didn't use bricks. It was part of a larger compound which was surrounded by seven-foot walls composed of the same material. The current theory is that the structure itself is a celestial calendar of some sort. This, in turn, was part of a larger community of walled-in compounds. One of the structures in center of the compounds was a ball court. Very. Friggin. Cool.

Oh, and that's my better half in the lower left corner of the picture. Just to give you a sense of scale. For those of you who don't know how tall she is, she is more than three apples high. For those of you who know that unit of measurement, enjoy the song.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When Is A Stick Not A Stick?

A thoroughly enjoyable day today. We went to Trail Dust Town with our friends Kathy and Dan. It's an old west-themed place, with little shops and restaurants and whatnot. Since it's off-season, it was relatively deserted. (Always a plus.) Lots of actual covered wagons, old stuff... very cool. Can't beat the price, either. (Free.)

After that we went to the Agua Caliente Park again. I'll probably post some pics of that in the next day or so. But the really interesting thing that happened today happened when we returned home from that...

It was dark, and I was walking back from the mailbox with one arm full of mail and the other laden with cameras, water, the usual. A car was coming towards me, so I took a wider turn than I normally would have. As I was walking and looking at the mail, I noticed a stick in the parking lot. I noticed it just as I put my foot down next to it, didn't really think much of it, and kept walking. After all, it's just a stick.

Three steps later, my brain made me stop walking. Something wasn't right here. I turned and looked at the stick. Here's a picture of it so you can share in the experience with me...

If you find yourself saying "hey, that's no stick!", you are absolutely correct. I thought it was a rattlesnake, but remember that it was dark, and the momentary flash didn't really help me make any determination. I went inside and calmly told my wife that I thought there was a rattlesnake outside. There is another species of snake here that looks like a rattlesnake without the rattle. And subsequently without all that pesky deadly venom and fangs and death and stuff.

Armed with a flashlight, Dan and I go outside to investigate. He's lived here a while and has seen a couple rattlesnakes, and sure enough, that's what it is.

Now, remember I said I was walking by the "stick"? Remember I'm wearing shorts, because the "no pants!" rule is still in effect. Here, without exaggeration on my part, is where my sneakered foot thundered past the "stick"...

Now we get to the point of "What the hell do we do?" We're probably supposed to call someone to safely and humanely remove it or whatever. But here's the thing... I grew up in the wilds of upstate New York. We don't call people. We take care of things ourselves. If you think someone is going to come and save your ass, you're sadly mistaken. You'll be dead two or three times over by the time help arrives. So, what did I do to the snake?

I drove over it. Repeatedly.

Dan stood at a safe distance and trained the flashlight on it. I got the handy dandy SUV O' Doom and crushed the bugger flat. I'm sorry, that may be wrong. I didn't care at that point. I'm still a little freaked out by the whole experience. If I hadn't been paying attention at all, or been distracted by the car that was coming my way, I could've quite easily stepped on the "stick". And the "stick" would've sunk it's fangs into my unprotected, hairy leg. Maybe I'd live, maybe not. I know what bee stings do to me, so I'm pretty sure my body has a fairly low tolerance for venom in general.

I'm glad to be able to type this story myself. It doesn't make me want to move, either. It just makes me appreciate the mountain view even more. I'm living where I want to, doing what I want to, and I'm with a person I love very dearly. It doesn't get any better than this.

It's just that, for the next few days anyway, I'm going to scream like a little girl whenever I see a twig.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy b-day to the one member of the family who has less hair than I do! (By rights, my brother should have less hair because he's older, but he doesn't. So he sucks.) Hopefully things go better this year! See, here's how Dad's 365th day since his last birthday went:

He was laid off from his job. A job where he has more experience than anyone else, any three or four people, including the owners. The owners who, I might add, were only able to start their business in the first place thanks to the help and guidance of my father. Their current business is also benefitting from some of Dad's equipment that's on extended loan. (The stuff ain't cheap, either.) But here's the kicker... my brother, who works at the same place, was the one who was informed he had to lay my father off. On the day before Dad's birthday, his own son gets to kick him out of the business that wouldn't even be there if not for him because the owners didn't have the grapes to do it.

Color me pissed.

I know that Dad would probably rather not go in there anyway. But it's the principle of the thing. I'm contemplating taking out a full-page ad in the beacon of news that is The Daily Star (local newspaper there) and let its readership know what kind of company it really is. (Remember, it's only slander if it's false!)

Oh, and if any of you think that Dad's too old and should be retired anyway... feel free to arm wrestle him. He'll probably even offer to reattach the limb for you after he's done. If you don't want to be called "Lefty", then just keep up with him on an "average" day. This isn't misguided daddy-worship talking here, either. I couldn't keep up with him 20 years ago when he was my age, and I can't keep up with him now.

So... happy birthday! (And keep reading the paper. The younger son is the sinister one, after all.) (Latin. It's a hoot!)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

At Night I Hear You Screaming

The moon is in hiding behind over-protective clouds. I pace in the blackness that streams through the windows. I walk the route with familiarity; I've navigated the darkness a thousand times before. You woke me up. Again. I can't remember the last time I had a decent night's rest. Why won't you stop? Every night I think it's the neighbors, or a dog, or a car. Then I realize it's you. Every night. At least you're quiet in the daylight. I guess you're sleeping. How nice for you. All comfy-cozy, curled up and tucked away in the dark corners of my mind. But at night... at night I hear you screaming.

Soon I may start screaming with you.

It's ironic that I write an insomnia story six months after my last bout. Don't worry. This isn't autobiographical. Just something that was inspired by the picture. The picture was made by a nifty little application called Apophysis. If you're like me and you think it's cool when art and math collide, then check it out.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Now I Do Count The Clock That Tells The Time...

I love this picture. Not just because of the person in the foreground, but because it evokes such a positive mood. One that quite adequately represents how we both feel since leaving New York. Calm, relaxed, reflective. Even at peace, if you ignore our minor rants now and then. (Hey, you can take the New Yorker out of New York...) We miss our friends and family, but we do not miss working at a place we hated so we could afford to live there so we could keep working and feeling physically ill and sleepless the whole time to boot. What a bonus! The whole time we were working, we were denying ourselves the moments and experiences depicted in this picture. Living to work isn't living at all. I'd hesitate to even call it existing.

I woke up with a headache and nosebleed this morning. Chalk it up to the extra-dry weather. (Sorry friends and family in the soggy east coast!) But it just reminded me that this is how I felt every single day not so long ago, and I just accepted it. No, thank you. Never again. I'll sell both kidneys and whatever other organs it takes if that's what's required to keep us from being used and abused again. I will not be the one who solves the problems and writes the pretty words so the boss' boss' boss can get the credit ever, ever again. I will not help any organization that treats the people who do all the work with such obscene apathy and ignorance, and heaps rewards upon those who are stil trying to master the art of blinking and breathing concurrently.

It's been six months since I left that place. I feel so much better, because I finally feel alive. The fact that the person in the picture is with me certainly adds to the experience. To my friends who are still there, I fervently wish that you find a better place than that. Because you deserve to be happy, not miserable and chewed up.

If you'll excuse me, I want to go look at the stars with Stargazer...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Just Another Fish In The Clouds - Where Reflection and Opacity Collide

Strange things happening in my slice of the interweb. The other day, someone at the Albany Medical Center (in NY) did a search for "Wontar". This concerns me, because if a disease has been named after me and nobody's told me, I'm going to be extremely upset. And it better be one of them there flesh-eating viruses or something of that ilk, too. I want the phrase "I've been diagnosed with Wontar Virus" to be followed by gasps of horror, not snickering. Or Three Musketeering.

I've also had a visitor who was looking up vampire sightings. I guess it's the time of year for that sort of thing, so I apologize that you only found reference to vampire geese. If anyone is interested, I can provide a lengthy dissertation as to why I prefer werewolves over vampires, and why the former could eradicate the latter with ease. But then, I'm weird like that.

But the best part is that there are still a few people who search for my site... by typing in the entire web address. Yep. Different people will bring up their favorite search engine, type in my entire "www..." and hit "search". They're not looking for references to my site. They're looking for the site itself. The site whose address they just friggin' typed in to the search box and will spend the next few moments scrolling through a list of links to find the address they just typed in. I laugh at them primarily because even though I don't know who they are, I know where they work. Ah, the baby steps of dabbling in the black arts of technology! Better sprinkle a circle of salt around yourself first. The computer demons might come in and get you!

As for the fish, I just liked that shot. Just enough sky reflected, just enough of the fish came through... neat effect.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Agua Caliente!

Soy el Chupacabra! No, wait...

We went to the Roy P. Drachman - Agua Caliente Park on Sunday. If you ever visit Tucson, it's one of them there "must see" places to add to your list. Bring a camera or two, as you'll need it. (It wasn't easy to pick shots for this post.) It's also free, so if you pack a picnic you'd have yourself a fantastic day of photography, phood, and phun!

Ducks, turtles, blue heron, weird mutant bugs, fish... lots of nifty animals present. Not so many screaming humans, which was good. Any day where my human contact quotient is low is a good one in my book!

The plants were also quite cool. Especially the ones that looked as if they could eat you. Because, really, what better way is there to teach a healthy respect for nature than abject terror coupled with high-pitched girly screams as a tree rips you limb from limb? (Pun intended.)

It's also significantly cooler here. Autumn has hit the foothills, and it's great! It was in the mid-80s when these pictures were taken, but has since cooled off even more. It was 59 last night when we went to bed, and it's a surprisingly chilly 65 as I type this. When you stop to consider that 65 is 50 degrees cooler than it was in July, that's pretty freaky.

Also, here's one for my family as well as those of you in significantly cooler climes... Sunday night it was about 60 degrees. Someone had their fireplace going. They sell bundles of firewood at the grocery store for anywhere between 50 cents to one dollar per piece. Do the math on that one and get back to me, family! I've got a couple of acres of woods that could be turned into greenbacks ASAP! As long as the trees don't attack, that is.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tohono Chul Park

I had never seen an orange dragonfly until we moved to Arizona. They've got orange ones and blue ones, and they're extremely cool.

This particular one was photographed at the Tohono Chul Park. My apologies for the blurriness. Had I known these things existed, there may have been a different totem animal in my life a decade ago. (Nah, monkeys are better.)

There were a plethora of butterflies there as well. Not a ton, but close. Some hummingbirds, bees, and this sort of black and orange wasp thing that was as big as my head. It's an interesting sensation to see something like that and know that it has the very real ability to kill me (allergic), yet still be fascinated by it.

The whole place was spectacular, despite it being autumn and most of the plants were "spent". (That either means they're tired, or they're currency. I didn't want to test either theory with a cactus.)

The last shot is a little snippet of a streambed. I just enjoyed the variety of colors, as the streams of my youth are pretty much grey and brown.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, worth far more than the five bucks it cost us to get in. The only negative part is that some flesh-headed idiot left his hat in the car, so now the giant shiny dome of skin on top of his head is hotter than normal. And throbbing in time with his pulse.

Tomorrow's post may be something about the number of hits my site receives because this post contains the words "hot" and "throbbing". Google does not discern.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm A Hack For Evolution

I would like to start a movement. Not anything profound like an art movement, but a movement for the sake of humans as a species. (I know, I know; that's exceptionally odd from someone who has no lost love for the species in question.) You can join the movement too, if you'd like. Let me tell you what it is first before you start sending donations... I want to do away with stupid warning labels. As a corollary of this, I want those who cannot figure out the proper usage of products to suffer the consequences without the right to filing a frivolous lawsuit. Granted, some warning labels offer up some fine entertainment. But the fact that some idiot actually had to spray Windex in his or her eyes in order for the "Do not spray in eyes" legend to appear on every bottle is alarming. Primarily because these people continue to breed. When a box of matches says "Caution: Contents may catch fire" and sleeping pills say: "Warning: May cause Drowsiness" something is very, very wrong and it needs to be fixed. Either that, or I'm the stupid one who is blissfully unaware enough to actually want my matches to burn and my sleeping pills to make me sleepy. Even more frightening is when a package of peanuts contains the dire message: "Warning: contains peanuts"! It damn well better! If I'm allergic to peanuts and I go to the store and buy a bunch of products with Mr. Goddamn Peanut on them, then I fully expect to take the express train to Deadsville. Should I sue somebody if I, replete in the knowledge of my bee sting allergy, shove a beehive in my pants and then go kayaking*? No! I deserve what I got.

Manufacturers would print less crap on their labels, saving on ink. They could either pocket the difference or pass the savings on to the consumer. The living, un-scarred ones, with no chemical burns and whatnot.

If you want to contribute to the movement... go write to a politician. Preferably one who can read.

*We all have to go some time. It may as well be funny.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

If You Put Words In My Mouth, I'll Make You Eat Them

This may be a long post. Just giving fair warning.

Deb and I signed up at when we first moved out here. They pay for you to read e-mails and give you cash back when you buy stuff through them. Deb had received two checks from them, and I was supposed to get one from them in a couple of days. I say "supposed to" because they have since cancelled our accounts. Why? According to the oh-so-helpful Sandy, their terms of agreement say that you cannot have two people at the same mailing address in the program. I don't know why this is a rule, and yes we should have printed out the whole of the terms and read it. But here's the thing... the accounts were cancelled scant hours before I was due a check. In the five months prior to this, they've had our names and addresses, and never once was it questioned. Not while the money was going in their direction, anyway. Here's my response to Sandy:

So for six months we were allowed to buy things through you, each of us spending money freely, but when it came time to request a payment our accounts are cancelled. Coincidentally, cancelled only hours before I was due a payment from you. How terribly convenient for you.

I do not require a response. Quite frankly, I'm weary of dealing with your organization. This may just be for the best.

Sandy replied thus:

I do suggest you read the Terms of Membership for anything you sign up for in the future. They are listed for a reason.

To her credit, I laughed. Not the kind of laugh you want to hear coming from me, but it was a laugh. You want to get sarcastic with an anti-social ex-New Yorker who generally hates people who breathe? Not a good idea, Sandy.

Thanks so much for the advice. Thanks also for responding, even though I said you didn't have to. Actually, I expected you to do the exact opposite of what I asked, because it's what I've come to expect from your organization.

I would've suggested something called a "database" which cross-checks your user information and prevents such things from occuring in the future. However, I know you won't implement such a thing, as it would be counter-productive to your organization's goals. Mainly because it would help people, and also it would prevent you from bilking more people. Since profit is far, far more important than customer service, I know where your priorities lie.

Once again, you do not need to respond. That being said, I look forward to your response.

Apparently I made Sandy cry, because the response to that was from Mike the Manager.

Thank you for your technical advice. Rest assured, that our highly trained and incredibly experienced IT staff has thoroughly considered how we deal with duplicate accounts. You aren't considering such things as legitimate duplicate names (with over a million members, people DO share the same name). Furthermore, displaying an error message during signup such as "someone is already using that name" would only encourage people who ARE trying to take advantage of our system to hide themselves better, such as adding a fake middle initial, etc.

Now, if you're still reading this, thank you very much. But I'd like you to look at what I said before Mike gave me this information. You'll notice that nowhere in there did I say the word "name". I did say "database", which apparently to him is the same as "name". Maybe they wear database tags at all their office, or he's been to the desert on a horse with no database. Whatever. My response to the noun-challenged Mike:

Thanks for your response. I'm sure your IT staff is capable, and I'm well aware that people share the same name. You'll note that I did not make the name correlation in my messages. In the snippet of your user agreement Sandy provided, the second point was "mailing address", not name. Run a cross check first by zip, then by address. Not name. But I'm not going to go into "geek mode" here.

I've not heard from either of them again. It fills me with a great sadness. Mainly because I think the two of them are the only ones involved in the business, and I just called one or both of them an idiot because they engage in linear thinking. Logic is good, but assuming is bad. Like the old saying goes... when you assume you make an ass out of you, but leave me out of it.

There is a point after all of this: stay away from inboxdollars. And I don't mean just because of this incident. We were going to cancel anyway, after we received our checks. The best one by far is

Times like this, I wish my high school had a debate team. Just so I could see people cry. Yes, I'm a cruel, sadistic, sarcastic prick. But my wife loves me, so I win. So there.

Semptember Is Gone, And With It My Youth

Whilst driving around along the more deserted desert roads in Tucson this evening, a funny thing happened. I was doing five miles over the 40 MPH speed limit on a very dark and twisty road. I was watching for animals as I was anticipating sudden turns on this road I'd never navigated. (We saw a wee coyote, but that's not really part of this story.) A car came up behind us, tailgated us for a while, and passed as soon as the lines on the road were dotted in his favor. He soon zoomed out of sight. (When he passed, he came dangerously close to the coyote. So I guess it's part of the story after all.) What words do I hear come out of my mouth when all this happened?

"What the hell are you driving so fast for?"

I may just as well have added: "Ya damn kids! With your hula hoops and your loud rock 'n' roll music! Get the hell off my lawn before I take a switch to ya!"

Don't get me wrong. I've certainly done my share of reckless driving. I just didn't realize that I had gone so quickly from my reckless driving days to the days of sitting on the front porch and muttering obscenities interspersed with Cab Calloway lyrics at the neighbors because my Geritol hasn't yet kicked in.

On the plus side though, I guess I'm that much closer to driving my HoverRound recklessly. That's something.