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Friday, May 31, 2013

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

THE GOOD

Acting on an advertising supplement SWMBO received in the mail this week, we set out to explore Food City today.  This is a supermarket chain that tends to operate in and caters to areas with a large Hispanic population.  I was surprised to learn that the chain is part of the Basha's family of stores.  But SWMBO was struck by the low prices on produce.  Upon entering, it was like the supermercados we remembered from our days living in Mexico.  The produce was excellent and the prices were as low as my wife had hoped.  I was thrilled with the displays of spices in plastic bags at what I think are excellent prices.  SWMBO said the display on a rear wall of the store had everything any Mexican cook could want and there were many she had never heard of before.  So that was a great experience and one we will repeat.

THE BAD

I finally found a computer tech and he came to the house a couple of days ago and tried several fixes on my non-functioning PC.  He couldn't be sure of the problem but took the computer to his shop, promising a return this morning.  He said it appeared as if the video card needed to be replaced.  Today he was back and told me the bad news.  It's the motherboard that needs replacing.  There were a couple of swollen capacitors on it, probably because of their location next to the heat sink for the video card.  But he said fixing it would probably cost as much as buying a new computer.  Since I've had this one for 5 or 6 years or more, I asked him if he could build me one.  He said yes and that the price would be about $500.  Well that's probably cheaper than I would pay for one in a store so I told him to go ahead.  He said he'd probably have it done by Monday.  I like this guy, he appears to know what he's talking about and his shop is only a couple of blocks away so he'll be close if I have future problems.  So, actually that's kind of good and bad but I put it under the BAD heading.

THE UGLY

The weather.  It's 98 outside right now and supposed to top 100 in the next few days.  SWMBO is worried about the coming utility bills but we will survive.  I asked her this morning how she liked Phoenix so far, other than the heat.  She said she loved it and so do I.

Weather through the Midwest has been and continues to be really ugly.  Much worse than here with tornadoes occuring through many states.

And finally, just to stay with the theme of this post and I'll let you pick where you want to place it - today is the 83rd birthday of the man whose movie inspired the theme: Clint Eastwood.


Oh, no, that's how he looked way back when, even before that iconic movie.


Here's "the man with no name" from the Spaghetti-western that resurrected his career.

And here's how he looks today.


He made some good, maybe even great, movies in his day but after his performance at last year's Republican National Convention, I think maybe his day is . . . over.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I LOVE THURSDAYS!

Well, I loved this one anyway.  Judy and I each had doctor appointments with a new general practitioner.  He gave each of us a thorough examination and took down our medical history.  We both liked him.  

So wait a minute you're saying.  We each went to a doctor and for that I love Thursday?

Well, noooooo.  It was what came after the doctor visits.  I asked Judy what she wanted to do next and she said "I want some lunch!  And nothing fancy, just someplace to get a sandwich."

So we started out, not having any idea what we were looking for when I had an inspiration.  "How about Duck and Decanter?", I said.

Duck and Decanter is an old and famous sandwich shop which was launched in central Phoenix the year I first came to town.  The sandwiches are so good we once stopped there on our way to the airport and got our own airline food for our trip to England.  When we opened the bags on the plane we were the envy of the place.  We each had picked a sandwich called The Whole Thing - imported ham, oven roasted turkey breast and Italian dry salami.  The smell of garlic filled the airplane cabin and had mouths watering everywhere.

So today we went to "the Duck", as it is affectionately known.  I had today's special, the best Reuben sandwich I've had in years.

  
Accompanied by some great potato salad and a Smith's Nut Brown Ale from England.  Yummers for sure!

Now you see why I Love Thursdays.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WEDNESDAY

Once upon a time I tried to learn French.  I was a complete failure.  I was stumped by the Gallic way of spelling words with miles of vowels and consonants but only pronouncing a few of them.  What's up with that?

Then I moved to Mexico for five years and endeavored to learn Spanish.  I think it's a much easier language to learn, perhaps the easiest.  But I was living with mostly U.S. and Canadian ex-pats  and most of them didn't bother learning Spanish.  They just raised their voices as they continued speaking English, apparently surmising that volume would make them understood.

I had my vocabulary of a couple of hundred words which enabled me to fill my car with gasoline, order in restaurants and shop in grocery stores.  But if, for example, the water heater broke - I was lost again.  Once something did happen to our water system and a couple of big guys from the city were about to turn off our supply because we were "using too much".  I made them understand that they should wait a moment while I ran down the block to a neighborhood market and return with my Mexican friend who was fluent in both English and Spanish.

All of this confessional venting comes about because I was looking at the title of this post:  WEDNESDAY.  Now think about it.  Shouldn't that be spelled Whensday?  Or even Wensday?  That's how we pronounce it.  Not Wed-ness-day.

And don't even get me started on FEBRUARY!



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A RECOMMENDATION

Aha!  Whilst using SWMBO's laptop (yes, my pc is ailing again) I discovered the blog of one Natalie Darbeloff of London, England.  (Or U.K. if you prefer)  It is called Blaugustine and it reveals a woman of inventiveness - a writer and illustrator and general experimenter.  I shall add it to the blog roll on the right and invite you to investigate the workings of her mind.

Thank you, Lucy, revealing her to me.

TUESDAY


Monday, May 27, 2013

MEMORIAL DAY 2013

Always remember "the boys".


I hung the flag at our new front entrance in Phoenix this morning.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A VERY HAPPY THURSDAY

SWMBO and I visited the Arizona Science Center yesterday afternoon specifically to see the traveling exhibit "DaVinci - the Genius."  It was well worth it.  


There were huge reproductions of pages from DaVinci's drawings - anatomical and mechanical.  His skill is an artist was unequaled.  But his creative mind must have been constantly busy.


Many of his ideas predicted inventions that would be made hundreds of years into the future.  This is a forerunner of today's helicopter.  Many of his ideas never worked in his lifetime but the science that was involved came into play and was developed much later.

And then there was one of his most famous paintings.


The Mona Lisa.  This, of course, is a reproduction.  We saw the real thing at the Louvre in Paris back in the 1980's.  I don't think we knew though that a photographer was given exclusive permission to photograph the painting, unframed, some years back and used today's technology, including infrared photography to determine the actual pigments and oils used by DaVinci to create the masterpiece.  Fascinating display with many different views of the Mona Lisa.

That took up much of the afternoon and since this is Arizona Restaurant Week featuring prix fixe meals at dozens of restaurants, we had made a reservation at one of our favorites - Tomaso's.  Dinner began with some crusty bread, garlic butter and/or a Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil dip.


Accompanied, of course, by wine - an Argentine Malbec for the lady, a Tuscan blend for me.

Then - the appetizers.  Mine was an Italian pasta selection with an incredible parmesan cheese sauce.  SWMBO chose a delicious crab cake and a Portobello mushroom.  Mine disappeared before I remembered the camera and I've somehow lost a shot I took of hers.

But I DID get pictures of her humongous butterflied pork chop with pasta and my plate, which included lamb, petite filet and sausage over risotto.



She brought perhaps better than half of hers home.  I, typically, ate all of mine!

But there's more!  This was a three course dinner and desserts were the finishing touch, accompanied by tiny cups of espresso.


Mine was a foamy-stuffed profiterole drowned in chocolate with a couple of strawberry wedges on the side.  (And, by the way, I wasn't sloppy - the kitchen had painted the serving plate with chocolate!)


But just to prove that Mother Knows Best, SWMBO finished her meal with a delicious pistachio gelato.

Everything was delicious and it was a fantastic day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

YUMMY MUSHROOMS & SHADE SCREENS

I made Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms for our dinner last night.  They were pretty darned good.  The recipe comes from Gourmet but I found it at good old Smitten Kitchen's website.  You can find a link to Deb's webpage on the right side of my page and you'll find lots of great recipes there.

The BRD was here yesterday to hang two sun blinds on our patio for us.  We drafted her because she has similar blinds on her own patio that she hung herself.  She did a great job and the blinds should help keep the heat down in the house as the living room windows face southwest.  Hopefully it will help keep the electric bill down some, too.




Trust me, these 100 degree days can heat up the house, even with air conditioning.

And it's only May!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

OKLAHOMA




There's some irony there in that line about "...the wind comes sweepin' down the plain..."

Monday, May 20, 2013

TAKE THE A TRAIN

There's a lengthy and interesting article in the Sunday edition of the New York Times about the decaying railroad lines in Pakistan.  The problem seems to be one of funding disappearing as more and more shipping went to different modes of transportation.  That coupled with a country rent by militias and warlords and the Taliban and the tracks are rusting and trains are running later and later and passengers are leaving in droves to ride buses.  The last time the railroad, which was created by the British in the days of the Raj, made a profit was 1974.  That's nearly 40 years ago!  The destruction of the rail industry seems to echo much that has gone wrong in Pakistan.  

The wealthy and the military center around Lahore, on the Indian border, but their lavish social events have to be held in secure compounds even there.

But the railroads.  I remember reading Paul Theroux' wondrous tales of traveling to mysterious corners of the world on some of those trains that used to run from the Khyber Pass all the way to the former capital and largest city of Karachi, on the Arabian Sea.  But now the railcars are hot and dirty and less used and always late.

I couldn't help wondering if this is the future of Amtrak in the United States.  Much of the freight shipping business has left the trains here for trucks.  We hear of a crumbling infrastructure here, too.  Can Amtrak be far behind the wasting railroads of Pakistan?

I have ridden Amtrak trains . . . up the California coastline, from New York to Washington, D.C. on the Metroliner, and even before it was Amtrak, taking to the rails between Minneapolis and Bismarck, North Dakota.  When I was a very young lad, the train still stopped at the depot in Stanley, my very small home town, and occasionally I would ride it to Minot, a mere 60 mile trek.

I have ridden trains in Mexico (decidedly NOT a good experience) and through Europe (a grand experience).  I remember a wonderful meal served on a white table cloth covered table between Innsbruck, Austria, and Florence, Italy.  My memory seems to tell me there was even a flower in a vase on the table and I'm sure wine was served.  Somewhere I have a photo of SWMBO and I standing outside a railcar with a sign proclaiming it "The Orient Express".  It wasn't the train of fame but one of many that have borrowed that title.

All of which is to say that I would hate to see Amtrak go the fate of the Pakistani trains.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NEW FRIENDS AND A NEW WORLD

I'd like to start today's post with a musical selection.  Feel free to sing along.




Now what, you may ask, possessed me to play the national anthem of Canada today?  Well I'll tell you.

As you know we have fairly recently moved to Phoenix, Arizona from our previous home about 100 miles to the northwest.  We moved to a community that has homes both rented and lived in by their owners.  We're renters but one of our next door neighbors lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and only comes to this home half a dozen or so times a year for a week or two at a time.  The second time I met him we had a nice conversation which culminated in him giving me a key to his house and asking if I'd mind keeping an eye on it for him when he's back in Canada.  I was somewhat stunned but readily agreed to do that.  

He was heading back north that day and I've done walk-throughs a couple of times, just checking to make sure everything is all right.

He and his wife arrived back again yesterday and last evening invited us over for a "nightcap".  Well, sure.

So SWMBO and I went over and were surprised to be presented with gifts for watching over their property.


That is a nice jug of 100 percent pure Canadian maple syrup!  The lady of the house presented it in a familiar purple and gold bag which she described as Canadian wrapping paper.


Crown Royal Canadian whisky is a favorite of SWMBO so she was doubly pleased.

And there was MORE!


A bottle of red wine - a four grape blend of California wines.  Red wine is my favorite so I'll appreciate that.

So, to our new friends D and C, we say thank you!  Now, you may wish to play that sound clip again.  Or you can go on to the next little surprise.

That took place at our nearby grocery store this afternoon.  I stopped for a couple of things and was flabbergasted by a huge crowd just inside the door.  Then I recognized Arizona's newest sports star, Brittney Griner, at a table signing autographs.


The 22 year old woman was the first overall pick in the WNBA women's basketball draft this year, going to the Phoenix Mercury.  Brittney is 6 feet 8 inches tall.  With an arm span of 86 inches she was the first NCAA basketball player to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots in her college career.

Just last month she acknowledged that she was gay.  But judging by the throng of people lined up to get her autograph today that won't hurt her popularity in Phoenix.


I hope you're all having as good a weekend as I am.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

RUN-AROUND THURSDAY

SWMBO had a doctor appointment in Chandler this morning.  I was the chauffer.  Afterwards we visited Mimi's Cafe . . .


. . . where we each enjoyed Eggs Benedict.


SWMBO said it felt special to have Eggs Benedict in a restaurant on a Thursday morning!

Then we came home and I dropped her to put her feet up and relax while I ran out to do some errands.

By the way, I WON THE POWERBALL last night!

Well . . . not the big one.  But I did get three numbers which earned me seven dollars.  I cashed my ticket, got one more set of numbers for the next game and pocketed a five-spot.  Now for that big one on Saturday night!  I definitely have a use for that half a billion dollars.  Well, I guess it's only around 350 million if you take a one-time cash payment.  But still.

While out and about I found a correct digital cable for my computer monitor today so I'm back in business, full screen.



And I stopped in at Arizona Mills . . a huge outlet mall in Tempe.  Here's an overhead view.


You can get an idea of the size of it if you compare it with the cars parked all around it or on the adjacent streets.  I went inside at Entry Seven, which is where a multiple screen theatre complex is located, right next to an IMAX theatre which advertises a six-story tall screen.  Just past the theatres is a huge food court with many restaurants AND a full-scale carousel.


If you're looking for a nice quiet meal, this is NOT the place.  But it's fun to watch the kids enjoying themselves at full volume.

There are at least 185 stores and many restaurants in the mall.  I only covered a very small part of it but the legs weren't having any more today.

And if you were wondering after yesterday's post, it's still hot today.  But the weatherman says tomorrow the mercury will peak at only 96 degrees and Saturday will be positively cool at 93!  If you're around Lake Tahoe, in California or Nevada, today, it's snowing!  Eat your heart out!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

HELLO OUT THERE

Yes, I've been missing.  Computer problems again.  After some difficulty and various try and fail, try and succeed, try and fail again, I think I have narrowed down my problems to a faulty digital cable running between my computer and my monitor.  So I'm using an analog cable right now which is less than perfect but it works.  My screen is narrowed by about an inch and a quarter on each side and the fonts are a little fuzzy but it works.  So here I am.

It has been warm here.  At a little after 5 p.m., it's 98 outside right now.  The high was 101 earlier.  It's been hovering right around 100 degrees every day for about a week.  And this is only May.  There will come a slight monsoon season sometime this summer, as I recall, but I can't tell you when.  And it may be more dust storms than actual rain.

So the heat is on and we put up with it.  It is still pleasant to sit out on the patio in the mornings and so I do.  We've had another problem with tiny red ants.  But our gardener says they don't damage the plants but SWMBO has been waging war with them with Spectracide, Triazicide and I have contributed Andron.  They seemed to be largely defeated this morning though there were still some wandering in confused circles.

A Gila woodpecker has been hammering away at our tallest palm tree and appears to have built a nest.  I can hear him (hell, the whole neighborhood can hear him) screaming from time to time.  I'm not sure if that's a call to a prospective mate or just frustration on his part.

And yesterday morning one of the several mockingbirds who seem to have taken possession of our neighborhood was going through his entire litany of song atop a neighbor's roof.  They have an amazing number of different calls and songs.  

Then there are sparrows and finches and the monotonous mourning doves.  And a starling or two and who knows what else.  Perhaps I'll name this residence Birdland!  I wonder what the birds would think if I began blasting out some Dizzy Gillespie tunes at them.  I wonder what our neighbors would think.  Perhaps that's not such a good idea.

Best leave the entertainment to the birds.

As mundane as this post is . . it's good to be back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

DREAMING AND SINGING

I was out staring at the clouds the other evening as the sun set.




It may have been my cocktail but the more I looked, the more I saw.


If you look closely, and let your mind wander a bit, there's a face up there.  I swear it!

But then I saw this one, which really blew my mind.  It's a dead ringer for that drawing of a face with puffed out cheeks, blowing the clouds ahead of it, perhaps even blowing up some rain.


Am I crazy?

If you think I am, you've got to look at this video.  Just follow this link.  Enjoy and have a good weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2013

BRACE YOURSELVES!

You are about to see something you've never seen before.  At least not if you've known me for less than 50 years and I suspect all of you fit in that category.  SWMBO and I were discussing my long hair the other night and joked a bit about getting a buzz cut.  I haven't had one of those since about 1958 or 1959, I'd say.  But yesterday I went to a barber shop (oh, excuse me, a tonsorial salon) and told my "stylist", Ruby, to take it off.  Here are the brutal results.




SWMBO's first comment was "your dad just came out of you!"  She also said "I didn't think you would cut it that short!"  She thinks it will look better when it's grown out a bit.

As for the rest of you, you may now voice your opinions.  But take it easy.  I'm a sensitive guy.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

BLACKWELL

On July 22, 2010 I shot this video of a little urchin that kept visiting our house in Prescott Valley.  


He was a scrappy little rascal that I nicknamed "Blackie Detroit".  He constantly had open sores and scars from apparent fights with tougher foes in the neighborhood.  

Finally, we decided he wasn't going to go away so we took him in, took him to a veterinarian, got him "fixed" and made him an inside cat.  He thrived on the regular food in his dish.  He still has the urge to run outside through a carelessly opened door but most of the time he is content to spend most of his day sleeping.  And he has grown.


This picture was taken just the other day as he joined me for an afternoon siesta.

Oh, and somewhere along the way I changed his name to "Blackwell".  It seems to fit him better and, like a good friend to me, he recognizes his name and perks up his ears when he hears it.

Although he gives us fits from time to time he is a dearly loved member of our family.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A DAY IN DOWNTOWN

I had to go into downtown Phoenix for a doctor visit yesterday.  Afterward I decided to explore my old stomping grounds of years ago and see what had changed.  What I found was EVERYTHING!

Where once only a high-rise building or two formed the downtown skyline, now there are dozens.




I had parked at the Arizona Center garage.  When I got down to ground level, this is what I found.


The Arizona Center is a huge area of businesses, shops and restaurants between Van Buren and Fillmore Streets and 3rd and 5th Streets.  I stopped for lunch at 1130 The Restaurant and ate on their cool, shaded patio.



It's a pleasant place to dine as you watch the passing crowds of office workers.  It's been awhile since I was in a metropolitan setting and I was fascinated by how many of the passing women were wearing quite high heels and how nearly all of the men had on neckties.  I couldn't tell you how many decades it's been since I had to wear a tie and they seem totally unreasonable in Phoenix' climate.

While a busy place with banks and power company offices and restaurants and shops of all kinds, much of the Center has been taken up with beautiful gardens.





There was even a fountain of artificial rapids to give a sense of cooling on the hot summer days.


And potted plants, including my beloved Hibiscus.


These were actually pink though my camera makes them look more red.

And some beautiful yellow ones.


I was struck by the old St. Mary's Basilica now surrounded and dwarfed by huge modern buildings.  Still, I like the contrast.


Then there was this ugly old building, reportedly being refurbished for a new occupant.  SWMBO said it looked like it belonged in a slum area of Cleveland or Detroit.


She didn't recognize it which was not surprising.  And she was amazed when I told her it was 1101 North Central, where I spent 13 years working in television during the 1970's and 1980's.  Here's what it looked like "back in the day".


The television station has moved to a building it shares with the Arizona Republic newspaper, both owned by the Gannet corporation.  The change in appearance brings a feeling of wistfulness.  But then much in Phoenix has changed since I landed there many years ago and most of it is for the better, I think.

So it goes for my visit to downtown.