Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Many more photos, and many more to come. Arizona is cool, even though it's supposed to hit 106 tomorrow. (Yikes!)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Verbal Sequence - Not A Real Thought

Ever read the fine print on a commercial? I don't mean the paragraph of crap at the end of a car commercial, I mean the disclaimer-type stuff that's there when the commercial starts. For example, I saw a car commercial yesterday. (For the shoeboxy Scion, I believe.) It showed the wee bitty car, then the car getting hit by lightning and changing colors, followed by another bolt that turned into a robot. Something like that, anyway. In another, the teeny car is ingested by a large, red, very sketchy bulldog. At the bottom of the screen were the words: "Animation sequence - not a real car." Really? You mean my car won't turn funky colors (other than "scorched black") if it gets hit by lightning, and I don't have to live in terror of gigantic animated canines eating me and my car? Phew! That was close!

Are people really that stupid now? Do they expect to go outside and see lightning-born robots coming up out of the ground, and giant poorly-animated creatures running around just because they saw it on television? Will people really sue the car company if lightning doesn't turn their car a funky blue, or fails to attract Clifford? Is that why reality TV is so popular? People don't have to tear asunder that veil that separates fantasy from reality. It's all "real"! I guess the next step will be a similar disclaimer stamped on every frame of every movie. "Ewok sequence - not a real downfall of any Empire", "Underwater sequence - not a real Black Lagoon", "Actors in costume - not a real planet of apes"... so many possibilities, so little sense.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Grey Void Fill

I found a grey hair today. "But Wontar," you say, "you're bald! Your head is all stubbly-shaven, and you look like a roll-on." That is correct, but my chin is not bald. So, not only did I get to go prematurely bald, I get to go prematurely grey. This can mean only one thing: when my beard goes fully grey, I get to grow it all long and scraggly like a wizard. Then I can finally walk around with my big pointy hat, slam my walking stick on the ground, and tell people they cannot pass! I may have to run out and get some hair dye just to speed up the process.

In unrelated news, we've been availing ourselves of the exceptionally cool Today, we got about ten cubic feet of styrofoam packing peanuts. In metric terms, that equates to a big-ass box full. When you consider that seven cubic feet goes for about $40, that's a pretty cool thing to get for free. Very handy for the eBay stuff, and handy for packing for our impending move. I think we'll soon be down to whatever we can strap on our backs and/or lash to the car. We're getting pretty damned efficient with this whole moving thing.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Like It's Not Hot Enough?

I was looking out our sliding glass kitchen door today at about 10 A.M., and saw what looked like a large dust storm in the mountains. We have a dust storm warning in effect, and we've had some really spectacularly large storms here, so it was logical at the time. I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture:

However, as I watched the storm the slow-to-acclimatize brain cells in my head said: "That doesn't look like a dust storm." So I continued to look, and the brain continued to churn. I came to the painfully slow realization that I was staring at not a dust storm, but a forest fire. Or "mountain fire", to be technically accurate. Deb agreed with me, so I marked the day on the calendar for future reference, then we leapt into action!

I got on the phone. Yes, you read that correctly. I actually picked up the phone and initiated a call to a non-family member. That's two marks on the ol' calendar.

The number we found for the first fire department offered a busy signal. I don't know about you, but there's no fire department anywhere that should ever, ever, ever have a busy signal. Ever. Glad that I was not currently on fire, I called another fire department. I was transferred once, and it seems that I was the first to report the fire. So I've earned my Smokey the Bear badge or whatever. The fire which now looked something like this:

I was told they'd send someone right out. In my mind, that meant helicopters and all sorts of sirens and stuff. As of now, two hours later, we've neither seen nor heard a thing in the form of fire-prevention-type stuff. Yes, wildfires are natural, and even necessary at times. But when it hasn't rained since August, "wildfire" is a pretty scary concept to me and shouldn't be left unattended.

Now, I'm off to watch the news. If anything changes, I'll update the post.

-Update- Well, we're still here. Never saw a single helicopter or fire-related vehicle or person, but it's out. If I were to guess, I'd say that the strong winds actually blew the fire back on itself until it had nothing left to consume. Either that, or there were firefighters up there that I just couldn't see. In any event, no more smoke, no more fire.

Monday, May 15, 2006

They're Baaaaack!

Yeah, TIGTA is back. Still don't know why, but at least they're consistent in wasting our taxpayer dollars. That's good to know, I guess. And yes, I post about it so they know I know. That's a nice, paranoid-sounding sentence, but I put it out there anyway. You'd think a letter from a Senator would make them stop, but I guess I'm just too damn popular. You know... if you like my stuff so much, the least you could do is buy a T-shirt or something. I mean, if you're so intent on wasting government funds, at least get serious about it! Get a couple of colorful canvases to put up in your cubicle, a mug for your coffee, a tile to use as a coaster for the mug, a mouse pad, clock, and calendar! Go to town, man! Order in bulk for your next softball game or whatever it is that you do. (Bowling, full-contact badminton, lawn dart catching, whatever.)

So... until you stop wasting money, I'm going to keep tilting at this particular windmill. I'm good at that. No matter how you slice it, you're wrong to continue to do the exact opposite of what your mission statement claims.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was established under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 to provide independent oversight of IRS activities. TIGTA promotes the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of the internal revenue laws. It is also committed to the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lunch Date

Deb and I went on a date today. Something every couple should do now and then. We went out to lunch, and then actually saw a movie in one of them there moving picture theaters. (We haven't been to a theater since "Return of the King" was out.) (No, I'm not kidding.) Lunch was OK. Just "OK". Mainly because the place we visited just changed its menu and got rid of a bunch of stuff we actually liked. Bummer. The movie was what you'd expect us to see for an afternoon's post-eating entertainment: Silent Hill. Nothing helps the digestion better than a spooky gore-fest! Neither of us had ever played the game on which the film was based. We just went because it looked icky and creepy. It didn't disappoint in that regard. Or any regard, really. Great special effects, an actual plot, and buckets of blood. The ending was a tad ambiguous, (Remember Tad Ambiguous? Played varsity football in high school, C student...) but all in all it was worth the price of a matinee. As opposed to the price of a manatee, which is just not fair to the placid sea cow and its sense of self-worth.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Learned Something Today

I learned that no matter how calm my voice, no matter how expressionless my demeanor, no matter how I assure my wife that there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to panic... the phrase "Get me the fire extinguisher" just pushes all that calming stuff right out the window.

We were having some friends over for a BBQ today. They had not yet arrived, and I went outside and started the grill. It's electric (boogie woogie), and all I had to do was plug it in and turn up the temperature setting. No lighter fluid, no flames, just the magic that is a heating element. At least, that's what's supposed to happen. Seems that there was some grease in there that got just a tad bit too hot, and decided to burst into flames. To say that it produced a little smoke would be equivalent to say that the ocean is somewhat damp. The BBQ has a lid which significantly cut down on the amount of oxygen the fire was getting. The only bad thing is that there are holes elsewhere that let enough air get in to keep the fire burning. (Stop singing.) The smoke kept billowing, the fire kept going, so I calmly asked my lovely wife to please remain calm and to get the fire extinguisher for me. "What?!?!?" Please dear, just calmly and sedately obtain the fire extinguisher for me. "Why?!?!? What?!?!? What's wrong?!?!?!" She was in 'action mode', weight shifted to the balls of her feet, ready to leap in whatever direction necessary to confront/flee from the danger, eyes darting, nose testing the air for telltale signs of burned flesh and/or wood.

"Just get the damn fire extinguisher!", says the coughing husband, all calmness gone as smoke blows around him like a friggin' London fog. (Yes, a rain coat.)

Leaping with catlike agility, she grabbed the fire extinguisher, threw it up in the air in a graceful arc, did a forward one-handed handspring into a double somersault ending in a split, caught the fire extinguisher, then handed it to me. I stopped for a moment to applaud her flair for the dramatic, pulled the pin off of the extinguisher, and took off the BBQ lid.

Those of you who are still reading might stop here and say "But Wontar, we all saw that fine Ron Howard movie 'Backdraft', and we know what happens when you suddenly introduce a whole lotta oxygen to a smoky fire!" Yep. A quick burst of flames neatly singed some of the more flammable hairs on my left arm, and also released some nice thick smoke into my face. Yummy!

One quick blast of the fire extinguisher, and it was all over. Well, the fire was out. The smoke lingered for a while.

The hamburgers had a strange taste. Not sure why. No no no... we cooked them in the toaster oven. The BBQ is officially out of service, Deb has calmed down, and I still smell like a briquet. So pretty much back to normal here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I Blame My Parents

We were waiting in line at the bank today. A man was at the ATM performing a transaction. (No, not "ATM machine"! If you say "ATM machine" please remove your own tongue. Thanks!) While performing the transaction, his cell phone rang. He answered it, took his money out of the machine, and walked away. Five seconds later, the ATM beeped. The screen read: "Would you like to perform another transaction?" I sighed, hit the "No" key, and out popped the man's ATM card. Then yours truly tore out of the place to catch the guy and give him his card back. It was 97 friggin degrees today, and I'm running in a parking lot in the middle of the day? What the hell is wrong with me?

Just one more reason why cell phones are bad. If the decision ever needs to be made between "answer cell phone" and "let strangers take all of my money out of my bank account", the cell phone should lose every time. Unless, of course, your bank account has less in it than it'd cost to get a new cell phone.

So... thank mom and dad! If not for your upbringing, Deb and I could've absconded with ill-gotten booty today!