Saturday, December 31, 2005

Quantum Disco

Happy New Year everyone! May your subatomic particles boogie like it's 1999! Don't get the quantum string confused with the confetti, or as sure as there's an event on the horizon you'll never clean it up.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Post-Holiday Stress Syndrome

Normally, the glare comes from the front of my head as well as the top. Now, however, the glare comes from the back and sides as well. My head is now the equivalent of fine grit sandpaper. I guess it's time to take up woodworking.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Arizona

It was 77 degrees, yet we had a fire going in the fireplace. It's all about the atmosphere. (Hello, meteor!) After snacks, a meal of stuffed shells and Wontar's Shepherd's Pie(tm) we went for a walk around the apartment complex. My mother and niece picked roughly 1/4 ton of grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and tangelos from the trees, while my nephew and father rode around on our trikkes. Presents were opened, oohs and aahs commenced. All in all, a darn fine day.

Oh, and this is my niece. She doesn't always make this face, but it's the one I chose to put up on the blog. Why? Because it'll get the best reaction from her when she realizes I've posted it for all the world to see. (Am I a cool uncle or what?)

Friday, December 23, 2005


New hats? Check.
New cowboy boots? Check.
Cool scenery? Check
70 degree weather two days before Christmas? Check
Prevent my brother from buying a godawful shirt and find him a better one? Check.
Picture of family with all their new finery? Priceless.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Perspective, Part XXXIV

This is a hill at the Saguaro Mountain National Park. It doesn't look all that impressive here, does it? Just a plain old, ordinary hill. Rocks, dirt, some cacti, nice blue sky... but nothing to write home about. Just a big ol' lump in the middle of the desert. Something you could just walk right up and over without so much as noticing it.

This is the view from the top of that pile of dirt. The eyebolt was left by some mountain climber or someone who rappelled from here after climbing up. (They even left a climbing glove, which is now a souvenir for my nephew.) It wasn't a difficult climb by any means, but it was a climb. Like climbing a ladder, though. Pretty easy. The cars in this picture were behind me in the previous one, just to give you an idea.

All in all, a great day. Nice to have the whole fam damily out here in the 76 degree weather for Christmas! No shovels required.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Government Employee-Inspired Rant

You may remember that I sent an e-mail complaint to TIGTA on Friday because someone from within the confines of the IRS was browsing this website. I explained to them who I was, the pertinent information, and that I had a ticket open with them from about six months ago. Here is their response in its entirety:

"What type of ticket do you have open? Who is it open with? What is a ticket?"

That was it. I'm not kidding. I really, really wish I were kidding. No opening, no apology, no course of action. Nada. Just three questions of rapidly diminishing length and intellect level. When someone who makes a good $50-$60K of my tax dollars as salary asks me what a ticket is, I tend to become a little bit miffed. Perturbed, even. I'd go so far to say that I was downright irked.

OK, I was pissed. Like the scene in Braveheart where all the Scotsmen are yelling and screaming and waving their weapons around and stuff? That was going on in my head. (Not the mooning, just the hordes of angry Scots.) When I get angry, I don't turn green. (Unfortunately, as that would be really, really cool.) My vocabulary goes into overdrive. Here's the first part of my response to TIGTA, wherein I answer their questions:

"Dear Unnamed TIGTA employee,

Thank you for your response. I will endeavor to answer your questions as you asked them.

I do not know the 'type of ticket' I have open. The type is whatever type that is created when someone makes an internet complaint regarding governmental employees going to non-work-related websites during their governmental tour of duty instead of performing their assigned tasks and job duties. You would, presumably, know what that is more than I since you work for TIGTA and I do not.

I do not know the name of the specific individual who last handled the ticket. He was a TIGTA investigator, and I spoke with him at length in May as I stated in my previous e-mail. The ticket, therefore, is open with TIGTA.

As for your question 'what is a ticket?'... traditionally it is a piece of paper with information on it, but has since been used as a euphemism for an active case. Perhaps you call it a 'case number', or perhaps you actually still use little pieces of paper which is why you did absolutely no research into this matter to determine that I have a six month old case to which this complaint needs to be associated."

It goes on like that, with the complexity of words increasing. "Wherewithal" and "apathetic" come up, and I know that whoever reads it is just going to skim over those words because they won't actually have meaning to the reader. They just create a momentarily furrowed brow and a slight buzzing noise in the head of the reader as he/she skims along looking to close the case without actually doing anything, and then head off to break number 147 of the day. Have to warm up for lunch, after all. I mean, really... why would an investigator be expected to investigate? That's not in the job description! I'm sure my complaint sounded all suspicious what with me using this strange lingo and secret code words. "What is this 'ticket' of which you speak? My mind holds no meaning for such words. You must be a sorceror! Avaunt, demon! You who have now forced me to use this 'ticket' word twice without my knowledge of its origin! I have been ensorcelled! I must wash the foul words from my mouth! Bring forth the sacramental cupcakes, ho-hos, doughnuts, bagels, cookies... more cupcakes..." *drool eat drool munch drool snack drool consume*

Your tax dollars at work. (And I really, really, really honestly and completely wish I was kidding.)

The story doesn't end here. Not at all. But that's all I'm going to share at the moment. Sorry. Just needed to vent.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tagged by Tarragon

Not to be confused with "bruised by basil", "socked by sage" or "pummeled by paprika". Tarragon has tagged me, and in good blog form I must respond. So, in no particular order, here they are:

I confess... funyuns with chunky peanut butter and a tall glass of milk equates one of the finest snack food combinations in the free world. (No, I'm not kidding, and I don't care if you think it's disgusting.)

I confess... at the ripe old age of 35, I still play with Legos. A lot.

I confess... becoming ordained was an extremely special and life-altering event to me not for any religious significance, but because of the other people involved.

I confess... when I was four years old, I was convinced I was an alien because I was so different from everyone else in my class. I could read.

I confess... art school was the best and the worst experience mainly because it was then that I discovered that I wasn't as good as everyone had been telling me I was. I finally had to work at it.

There you go. Tidbits aplenty for your dining and dancing enjoyment.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm Over It

I received a hit on my site today that came from within the confines of my former employer. They haven't bothered me for nearly six months. I'll admit that, at first, I was filled with my usual legendary rage. I mean like... force-you-to-drink-a-milkshake, then-force-you-to-swallow-a-few-starving moray-eels-and watch-them-eat-you-from-the-inside-out angry. (Why a milkshake? Gives the stomach acids something else to work on so it doesn't hurt the eels. Duh.) (And I know, morays are huge and you couldn't really swallow one much less a few. I don't delve too deeply into zoology when I'm pissed.)

I calmed down a bit, and sent an e-mail with all the particulars to my buddies at TIGTA. I even did more of their damn jobs for them and told them how to stop it from happening again. Seemed like old times, really. Telling people who get paid a hell of a lot more than me how the job should've been handled six months ago... I'll never be sure how to put that on a resume.

But you know what? As an average Joe Taxpayer, I'm still quite livid that my tax dollars are being wasted by some schmuck surfing through websites instead of doing his or her damn job. And when TIGTA calls, and I know they will, I'm going to have to once again explain how I know what I know, and explain what I meant in my explanation to someone with the computer skills of one of the Montgolfier brothers. (As for me knowing who the Montgolfier brothers are, all I can say is: "Thanks Tennessee Tuxedo!")

However, at the end of the day and the beginning of the next, I'm over 2,500 miles away from all of it. I get to look out the window and see a mountain, it's a crisp 50 degrees, there are fall colors and hummingbirds all around... my joints don't hurt, my head doesn't hurt, and I actually fall asleep on a regular basis without taking anything to do so, people don't pester me 10 hours a day so I can actually go to the bathroom during the day if I need to... I've even lost weight.

So look at my site all you want. Print it out. Hell, copy it longhand, since you probably can't fathom the sorcery that is the "print" icon. Waste all the taxpayer dollars you want. Keep that picture of me up in the guard booth. But here's a tip: you're going to have to change it. Because I have this neat thing going on now that I rarely had inside that building. It's called a "smile".

Oh yeah. Sorry, Tarragon. I'll get to the tag thingy. I just really needed to vent first.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Baby It's Cold Outside

We went to Mexico on Monday. Our second trip, and it surprises me how quickly we adapt. The first time, I was riddled with trepidation about going. I'm not a "people person" by any means, so I don't like the thought of crowds. I also do not speak Spanish, and I think it's arrogant of me to go to a country and not speak their language or even have a passing familiarity with it. (Sure, the merchants all speak English for their livelihood, but that's not my point.) I felt bad and even more out of place. I had also heard many a story about beggars and street urchins, so I was picturing all sorts of thievery and squalor. So basically, my first trip to Mexico equated to me being an anti-social, linguistically-challenged, hyperactive guard dog in 100 degree heat. Not a lot of fun for me.

The recent trip was better. Not because I've had a crash course in Spanish, and certainly not because I've received lots of therapy or lots of drugs to counteract my anti-social tendencies. The main reason it was better for me was because it was about 50 degrees cooler this time around. The temperature was in the 50-55 degree range. Despite the balmy December temps, I saw more than one person wearing a heavy winter jacket. I'm talking the big, puffy, Michelin Man-type jacket. Zipped. I grew up in upstate New York. The weather there now is about -10 to -20. Without the wind chill. At those temperatures, parts of your body will break off if you're not careful. To see people dressed as if they're going off on a polar expedition when it was 55 out... well, that's just good comedy right there. All I needed to see to make it better would have been a sled dog pulled by chihuahuas. I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and feeling a bit warm. (Stupid pants.) More than one merchant wanted me to buy a jacket. I laughed. To be honest, I wished I could have laughed, made my eyes glow, and said: "No necesito una chaqueta. Soy el chupacabra!" But that's mostly because of the whole anti-social thing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I Swear It's Not The Heat

In my continuing discovery that a little Photoshop goes a long way, I give you "Faith". Which is much more concise than calling it: "This is what happens when you select a filter and say 'Ooooh... that's cooool!'".

I also made two new stores. One for the lion pic and one for this testament to something I lack. For that matter, I lack a lion as well, so I guess they have that in common.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


A little Photoshop goes a long way, turning one of the stone lions guarding the entrance to the grotto near the San Xavier del Bac Mission into something trippy.

No Photoshop needed as two crosses play Pong with the moon.

Somewhat anticlimactic for my 200th post, huh?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How To Scare A Telemarketer

Those of you who know me know that I despise the telephone. (For those of you who don't know me: I despise the telephone.) Our number is on the "Do Not Call" list, but that seems to mean less and less. Today, we were subjected to several calls by someone whose number was unknown to us and who refused to leave a message on the machine. If they leave a message, I give them points for being professional. If they do not, they're in the express lane to earning my hatred. About the fifth time they called, my better half picked up the phone and hung up on them, which she repeated the following call.

The seventh time, I answered:

"What... is... it?" (Never "hello". "Hello" is for people who are at least pretending to be polite, and we were way beyond that point already.)

"Hello? Could I speak with De.." stammered Sally Outsource. She did not get to finish the next syllable.

"No you may not. Can I speak with your supervisor?" Countered the angry Wontar.

Insert puzzled pause here. "Could I please speak with..." Oh, Sally. You're not making it any better for yourself by ignoring me.

"No, you may not! Can I speak with your supervisor now!" interrupted the increasingly-angry Wontar.

"If I could just..." Sally, Sally, Sally! If you were in the same room as me, I'd be shoving your head in the garbage disposal. Feet first, of course. Good thing you're outsourced.

"No! I either talk to your supervisor by the time I count to thirty, or you'll hear from my attorney. Your choice. Supervisor, or attorney? Do you understand me?" These words, said through clenched teeth, have significant impact. Wontar smash! Wontar hate puny phone person! Wontar melt phone with burning rage!

There was a squeak, and the phone went dead. She hung up. Yep. She hung up on me, rather than get a supervisor. It wouldn't surprise me that she doesn't have a supervisor, or the equally likely possibility that she didn't understand enough English to know what the hell I was saying. She just knew I wasn't the person she wanted and I was extremely pissed off.

Either way, the phone has stopped ringing. So I don't really care.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Suitable for wrapping presents. Or pasts. Whichever.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Don't Drain Your Pasta In A Calendar

We bought a Christmas tree earlier today. We thought the trees would be fresher than the ones in NY, because we assumed they'd be fresh-cut from the mountains of AZ. We were half right. The trees were fresher, but they came from North Carolina. Odd.

We had the TV on while putting the lights on the tree. Doing so made me come up with the following question: Could someone please tell me why "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" was on today? It's December 3rd! Are the Valentine's Day specials going to start airing next week so we can start with the St. Patrick's Day parade on the 26th? There are enough Christmas specials out there. Why the hell would they put a New Year's special on in the beginning of December?

All I know is that I want to see a Boxing Day special this year. It's long overdue.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wanted: Title

It's a story about witches. No pointy-black-hat-flying-on-broom witches, and not glamorous twenty-something witches who do good deeds. These witches are ordinary. Sweatpants in the supermarket ordinary. They were chosen because of their everyday appearance. Yes, I said "chosen". They didn't set out to be witches. They thought it was a social event. Something fun they learned as a group. Like a Tupperware party. They learn some tricks, and the ones with real aptitude get taken away, separated from the herd, and are forced to do one last trick. They think it's going to be a big deal. I guess it is, but certainly not like they expect. They're told they're going to do something for runaway teens. Sounds noble, doesn't it? Nothing noble about what happened to those kids, good intentions or not.

One runaway and one witch-wannabe in a room. One spell later, and one of them is dead and the other changed forever. The dead one? The witch. Seems the amount of power used in the spell is too much for the caster to bear. The target of the spell, the runaway, is no longer human. No, not a monster. Not exactly. The teenage runaway is gone, and is replaced by a dog. Never the same breed, but never a big dog either. Never understood that part. There were some special things about the dogs, too. They always had a star-shaped patch of fur somewhere. Never understood that, either. One last thing about the dogs, other than being as smart as humans. Well, as smart as human runaways at least. The other thing that makes these dogs special is that they can astral project. When they do, they are no longer dogs, but human teenagers again.

Yeah, I know. It sounds like some lousy TV show or crappy movie. But I know this is all true...

I'm one of the dogs.