Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

YES, IT IS FRIDAY

I have been exchanging some emails with a long-time friend of mine in the past day or two.  He began it by saying the other day that he couldn't see any reason for the U.S. to attack Syria.  I responded along the lines of Assad being as bad as Hitler and the U.S. being the remaining super-power it has an obligation to at least stop his use of chemical weapons against his own people.  President Obama seems "hoist on his own petard", as someone once taught me many years ago.  In other words he said publicly that any use of chemical weapons would "cross the red line", requiring action by the West.  So now Assad has done just that: used chemical weapons to kill over a thousand of his own people, including women and children, many while they slept.  So can Obama NOT order a strike?  That would virtually gut his presidency, it seems to me.  But, as my friend points out and rightly so . . . what if the strike doesn't really accomplish anything and Assad continues to kill his countrymen.  Then what?  And what if Hezbollah in the West Bank and Gaza are joined by similar forces in Iran to attack Israel in retaliation.  I believe Israel can take care of itself and any war between them and Iran might have a positive side if Iran's nuclear weapons program is destroyed in the process.  I can't believe that either Jordan (which is already caring for over a million refugees from Syria) or the Saudis or least of all the Turks would side with Assad.  There are reports that Russia has sent warships toward the Mediterranean but would Putin actually start World War Three over this?  

It is a conundrum but a very dangerous one.  I believe Obama is being extremely careful in making his decision.  I hope he has luck on his side as well.

But enough of that.  Let's get back to that cat from yesterday.  He is, in fact, hiding in plain sight.  Let's have one more look.


The cat, with color that blends him into the landscape, is at the upper right, below the large cactus plant, the pathway and the rocks.  He is sitting up and once you see him you'll never miss him again.

Have a good weekend and, if you're a religious type, pray for peace.  The rest of us will hope for peace.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

HOW TO . . . .

How to turn raisins back into grapes.



How to drive your cat crazy.


How your cat will drive you crazy.


How to read your fortune in leaves.


How to make a blog post when nothing interesting or photogenic has happened in your life.

STEAL!!!



P.S.  If no one finds the cat, I MAY tell you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

FACEBOOK CAN BE WONDERFUL

As I sat in my lonely writer's garret, contemplating my navel the state of the world, I wondered, wondered, what (on earth) shall I blog about today to make this world better, to improve on this day, to make my life just one scintilla worth living.  

Frankly, I was stumped.

But then I went to Facebook.

First, I learned that the "big thing" at this years Texas State Fair is . . . wait for it . . . deep fried Nutella.

Common decency prevents me from going any further with that recipe.

But then I found enlightenment!  Veracity!  Truth!

Bacon!



Now that should make your life more meaningful, as it did mine.

But wait!

There's more!

The Cat and Dog Small Containers Video!  Watch!  And Enjoy!




All right.  Just so you don't think I've totally lost my sense of right and wrong, there's this:


Good advice for everyone.  All the time.

(By the way, my thanks to Dana and Joyce for the tips on the videos)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FINALLY! SOME RAIN

Our area of Phoenix finally got a break from the monsoon yesterday evening.  As frequently happens this time of year it began with a dust storm.


That view is looking south into the teeth of the haboob . . or "big dust storm".  The mountain range that marks the southern border of Phoenix has disappeared.


The sky becomes an ugly sort of brown as the visibility drops.  But then, after these long dry months, comes the refreshing rain accompanied by some lightning, quite a bit of wind and wonderful thunder.

video

Today is forecast to be clear, sunny and hot again but the possibility of more rain exists from Wednesday though the end of the week.  We can use it but at least now I can stop bitching about the lack of it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

WILL WE ALL DISAPPEAR?

SWMBO, the BRD, Beau Jack and I shared a meal and conversation the other day.  I had forgotten until I read Tom's post today about one of the conversational topics that came up.

It began with SWMBO relating how her novel-in-progress is based on a series of letters written by a far-off uncle of hers before and around the beginning of the 20th Century, i.e. the 1890's and up.  It is quite amazing that she was able to acquire the letters, that they had been kept in her family for over 100 years and that she was able to make transcripts from them.

This led to an admittance by Beau Jack that he had thrown away many letters and papers of his father's when he passed away.  SWMBO was appalled at the loss of this history and BJ acknowledged that he had kept his father's diary.  He also noted that he had kept a diary himself for a couple of years in his youth and he still had it in a filing cabinet.

But this conversation then led, on SWMBO's part, to the Internet and all of the blogs and photos that exist only on the Internet.  In the cloud world, I suppose.  She contended that some day all of these things will disappear - poof - as the Internet collapses or turns into something else.  And all of those digitally rendered images and words and thoughts will be lost for all time.  Unless they have been printed out and kept on paper.

I have read speculations about the death of the Internet or the World Wide Web as some new technology comes along.  Let's face it - these communications technologies, as we know them, are less than 30 years old.  And the amazing growth in technology and development is hard to grasp.  I can remember my first computer, a Commodore, I believe.  I thought I was in hog heaven when I had figured out how to hook it to my ham radio.  How long ago that now seems.

I recently began streaming data onto a television set and was somewhat surprised to find a Picasa program that had hundreds of pictures I had used over the years.  Many of them were worthless, used only to illustrate a long-forgotten point.  But there were others, too, of friends and family.  Photos that, for reasons of posterity (?) I would not want to lose.
  
But SWMBO and the others made me think - will that magical POOF happen while I am still alive or later?  Will my blog and photos live on after me until the great dissolve?  Will my handprints on the cave of existence be there years and decades and centuries later?  Or not?

And finally and somewhat wistfully this thought - will any one really care?  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

SUNDAY RAIN

The weather forecasters have been predicting for days that this weekend would be filled with tropical rain and thunderstorms.  Something like this, I supposed.


About 3:30 Saturday morning, I was awakened by a fierce clap of thunder. With anticipation I went to the window.  I saw some heat lightning to the west but no rain falling.  I went back to bed expecting to be lulled into blissful slumber by the falling rain at any moment.

That was it for Saturday but the weathermen had promised that Sunday was really going to be the day for rain.  And it came.  I know that because I was out on the patio counting the drops.  Literally.  Not enough to dampen the ground even.

It has been cooler.  It appears today's high will top out at around 87, easily 20 degrees cooler than the other day.  The skies have been grey.  Or gray. (I never can remember which is which.)  But rain?  Never anything more than those random drops, so far.  This is the alleged height of our "Monsoon Season".  Not too monsoony, if you ask me.

But I will continue to have hope.  After all the football season is nearing and everyone knows one can only truly play real man's football in mud.

Friday, August 23, 2013

T.G.I.F.

Even after all these years, even after a week of perfect idleness, even after losing my car manual, even after losing an expensive pair of sunglasses, I still love Friday nights.  I don't know exactly why.  But there are indications the weather is changing for the better.  There's a better than half possibility of rain, maybe even a thunderstorm or two this weekend.  When that happens the temperature drops even as the humidity rises.

In the news, the mayor of San Diego is finally resigning.  Syria is becoming more of a problem for Obama, with chemical weapons warfare breaking out and the opposition a hodge-podge of groups who don't agree with each other or with us.  Senator Ted "Crazy" Cruz of Texas wants to shut down the government unless he gets his way at defunding the Affordable Health Care law.

So there's really no reason to feel good right now but still . . .

So turn up the volume on your speakers, get into dancing mode and rock into Friday night with this song.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WEDNESDAY WOE

It was sprinkling here awhile ago.  I went out and stood in the back yard.  I could feel an occasional drop but there wasn't enough to get wet.  Maybe this weekend or so the weathermen are proclaiming.

My yard men are now here cutting the grass.

It's only 98 here now as it's been overcast all day.  But now the sun is coming out.

I'm bored with this long hot summer.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

HEH-HEH-HEH

Don't blame me.  This is a food truck in Houston.  The picture was sent to me by a (to be kept anonymous) friend.  Thanks, Frank.



With that, I'm flyin' West.


(In my mind, anyway)

Monday, August 19, 2013

FUN WITH CATS ON THE INTERNET

O.K.  So most of you know by now that I love cats.  Well in a period of intensive scientific research web surfing while bored this afternoon, I found a few cat pictures from the web that I like.

Like this one.



Or this one.



Anyone who has ever had a Christmas tree and a kitten in the same room must be familiar with a scene like this.



There are some pictures that are sort of intellectual.



By the way, you'll notice the spelling isn't all it could be.  It's difficult for those furry little creatures to type correctly all the time.

So there's just a sample of what's available via the World Wide Web. 

But wait!  How about THIS fearsome prospect?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

APPLES OF MY EYE

Stephen, of the Chubby Chatterbox, has been a great influence on me with his great story-telling and absolutely marvelous illustrations.  I've already got the story-telling down (though not as good as Stephen) so I decided to try my luck with the paintbrushes.  Here's my first attempt.



So what do you think?  

Still life with apples.  

Not too bad, is it?

I think I did well with the sheen of the fruit, and the light reflections.

Not to mention the thatch of the basket.

Stephen?

Can you give it a critique?








Oh, all right.

So I lied.

That's part of story-telling.

Here's the original, before it was dealt with in my PHOTO-editing software.


Yup, it's just a photograph.

Actually, I prefer one I took with a little less light on the subject.  It seems to bring out the deeper reds.


So, there's my "story" for today.

And apologies to Stephen, a REAL artist.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

KITTY CO-EXISTENCE

For a change, the two feline members of our family were sharing the back of the couch without sparring or spitting.


SWMBO took the photos and walked around to get one face-on.


It was fairly dark in the room so a flash was called for, making the cats' eyes seem to be lit from within.  And Blackwell (in the rear here) really does have two eyes.  One of them is just hidden in this photo.

Both of the critters seem to be eyeing me in the kitchen and thinking "does this mean treats for me???"

Friday, August 16, 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY




And, without cropping, to give a sense of place.


Never fear.  It's only the setting sun reflecting from a cloud mass in the Western sky.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

IT'S LYLE TIME

Tonight was the highlight of our year (half year, actually) back in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  We went to a concert at the beautiful Ikeda Theatre at the Mesa Arts Center.


The very modern theatre is a delight for the eyes, both inside and out.  Here's a view in the concert hall before the show.


The balconies along both sides are attractively constructed and gorgeously lit and the walls look like they've been constructed out of high-tech cardboard.  I'm sure they are great for the acoustics, which were incredible.


As for the concert, it was a wonderful evening of melody and lyrics performed by Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.  The musicianship was incredible.  Several members of the band were from the Phoenix area originally.  Others came from the great music venues of Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and, of course, Texas.

We've been a fan of Lovett since we first heard his music when a fellow ex-pat brought us a tape when we were living in Guadalajara, Mexico, back in the 1980's.  Lyle performed several of our favorites including my all-time pick "If I Had a Boat".  And during the encores he did "North Dakota", which you may know is the state I hailed from many decades ago.

Signs and a public address announcement before the show warned that no photography was permitted in the concert hall.  However, as the show went on, I noticed more and more smart phones being used to take photographs and finally I chanced a shot with my camera.  It's not very good but it will give you an idea of the size of his Large Band.


Mr. Lovett, of course, is the pale-faced gent holding a guitar at the center of the photo.  Other accompanists included a pianist, a violinist/fiddler, a backup singer, a bassist, a drummer, a cellist, a mandoline/guitarist, a lead guitarist, and horns: tenor, alto and baritone saxophone and a trombone. Every one got their turn to solo and all were of the finest quality.

It was a great show and now I'm attempting to calm down so I can finally get some sleep.

Thanks, Lyle.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

BASEBALL . . . AND OTHER THINGS

Once again today I went to a baseball game with my o-l-d buddy, Steve. Once again the Arizona Diamondbacks scored a walk-off victory.  This time in the bottom of the 14th inning.  That's three walk-offs in a row and a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, who did not appear pleased.  Steve, on the other hand, did appear pleased.



It's always nice when your buddy has a big smile on his face, even though this picture was taken before the victory.  I suspect even then, Steve knew about the joy to come.

I, on the other hand, grew weary after about 11 or 12 innings and said my goodbyes as Steve lingered on.

But as I got down to the main floor of the arena, I wondered if maybe I could inveigle my way into one of those MUCH-CLOSER-TO-THE-ACTION seats.  So I made my way to the lower floors.  I asked an usher if I could take one of the many empty seats.  He directed me to a row or two just below him.  I went down and took a seat.  

But then I began to notice all the empty seats far below where I sat.  I thought "why can't I take one of those."  I turned to look for "my" usher but he was distracted so I just stood and walked down many stairs until I was just 20 or so rows above the Diamondbacks dugout and there I took my seat.  Unchallenged.  Just another baseball fan.  The view was exemplary.


I turned and craned my neck several times to try and pick Steve out, way-way-way up in the "nosebleed" seats but I couldn't spot him.

So I turned my attention back to the game.


Well, there was that "Diamondback Girl" right in front of me.  Fancy that.  I sat through a couple of more innings but finally gave up, left the ballpark and headed for home.  On the way, I heard the victorious hit and run in the bottom of the 14th inning.  Great game.  Great team. 

Next time?  C'mon down, Steve.  I'll show you how.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BLAZING COLOR

In our living room, a ceiling fan whirls constantly in this overheated summer to provide some additional cooling to prevent the air conditioning from running constantly.  It is where SWMBO and I gather to watch television or movies.  It doesn't bother me but SWMBO says the downdrafted air dries her eyes out and irritates them.  So about a week ago she came home from a shopping trip with this.


Let me assure you this is not a traditional color of any garment, visor or cap for her to wear.  I noted that it was "hideous", or words to that effect.  She answered that she knew that but she only got that color to keep me from swiping it.

Well!

But to continue.  A few days later came a post from my California tennis-playing friend, Tom, about a new shirt he had acquired.  Stand back from your screen, folks.  Here it is.


Tom noted that the color was unlike his normal colors of white or blue and he talked in this post and in this one about a certain amount of derision the shirt prompted from his playing partners.

But Tom, never one to take criticism lying down, handled himself well, I thought.

Incidentally, that visor SWMBO brought home looks even more glowing when a picture was taken with the flash on.


So never fear, Tom.  If my wife is right, at least no one will steal your shirt.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Last night and the night before were the supposed height of the meteor showers.  SWMBO went out around 2 o'clock Sunday night and saw two.  Last night we both went out around the same time and saw two more.  I may have seen a third just as we were getting up to head back into the house to bed but it was so fast I couldn't be sure.

Suffice it to say that there is so much ground light emanating from the Phoenix metropolitan area that a meteor search is somewhat groundless (to coin a phrase).  I read on Facebook that a former colleague of mine who lives in Prescott, the area we moved to Phoenix from in March, went out with his family last night and saw perhaps a hundred.  Much less population there, therefore much less ground light.  I wish I'd have been there.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I was out running around at mid-day yesterday and saw a sign for Tom's Barbecue.  Never one to miss some good Q I went in and had a brisket plate special with red beans and rice.  Excellent.  Tom's has five locations as well as operating a big pink food truck.  Don't know why I didn't get a picture of that.

Later I stopped in at the local NPR radio station, KJZZ, to visit an old friend, Al Macias, who is the managing editor there.  It was good to see him after all these years.  After a lengthy conversation about "the good old days" when we worked together at KPNX-TV in Phoenix, he gave me a tour of the station.  Quite plush and, as he noted, very quiet.  Not like our old noisy newsroom.  And everyone was so YOUNG!

Monday, August 12, 2013

DARKLY CURIOUS


Just to take some of the mystery out of it, I adjusted the photo and got this.


The Master of Darkness
  
My best pal

  Blackwell

Saturday, August 10, 2013

BABY COLORS

As seen in a couple of random sky shots from the other night.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'M NOT ITALIAN BUT . . .

If you want to get my attention, just fill a saute pan with some Italian sausage, peppers and onions.


Once the heat has gotten to them, shake on a little freshly ground pepper.


Gently saute them until the onions are translucent and the peppers are glistening.


Dish it up on a plate with a little pasta and some red sauce and a nice glass of red wine alongside.


And I'm in heaven.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TO THE SKY, CAPTAIN

When I was a kid, many many many many years ago, I loved to climb trees.  I had one favorite one which was easy to climb and had several spots where a young boy could lean back and rest among the leaves, spying on others walking by down on the ground without being detected.  I called it "The Big Tree" and it was my private, special playground.  I was reminded of it recently when I was watching a television program about the popularity of tree houses.  They have become luxury items for some people. One of them had twin beds, electricity, a bathroom, a completely functioning kitchen and a fireplace.  Imagine that!  A fireplace in a tree house!  Amazing.

One of my other favorite trees sat only about 20 feet from the front door of my home and I used a rope swing in it to sit and read.  



Later on I got interested in short wave and ham radio.  That meant stringing wire aerials so I spent a lot of time on roofs.  That became a sort of hobby for me, much to the dismay of my wife.  But she knew about it before she married me.  She took this picture of me in our "courting days."


There's something special about being up high and looking down that appeals to me.  Still I remember once I was hired to help a man paint our church.  But when I  got up to the scaffold, only about ten feet from the ground I was scared to death and couldn't do it.

Another memory comes of a time when SWMBO and I had been out with a couple of friends and we probably had too much to drink.  There was a lightning storm flaring in the sky to the south of us so I immediately climbed up on the roof to get a better view.  The other three refused to join me and kept telling me to come down.  But I didn't until I felt the need for a cigarette (this was in my smoking days) and no one would toss one up to me.

I've never fallen from a tree or a roof, never hurt myself but I'm afraid my climbing days are over.  There is a tree in our back yard that I have eyed a couple of times but it doesn't look like a good "climber".


If I could even get up to those cross branches I'm afraid they're too fragile and would break off, tossing me to the ground.  At my age that would not be pleasant.

Recently we hired a yard man and he asked me if I wanted the palm tree in the yard trimmed.  It had been awhile and there were a lot of dead fronds high up in the air.  At first I declined but he seemed to want to do it.  I asked him if he had a way to get up there and he said he did so I told him to go ahead.  Later I saw that he had strapped some kind of barbs around his ankles, tossed a loop of rope around the tree and up he had gone.  I wish I'd taken a photo but I didn't think of it at the time.  I just watched him, with a bit of nervousness, as he worked high up in the palm tree.

I also kind of envied him.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

This is something I love about living in Phoenix.  I woke this morning to skies that looked like this.


Yesterday at this time (10:30 a.m.) it was already 99 degrees outside. Today it's 79 and there are a few light sprinkles falling.  It feels wonderful after days and days of dryness and temperatures above 100.


The backyard flowers even seem to be smiling at the change in the weather.  Not that it will last.  A day or two from now the forecast calls for a high of 106 again.


I'm sure the guys loading this truck are happy about the change in temperature.  One of my neighbors, Jake Harrington, is loading up for a move to Arkansas.  Jake has been the outstanding golf coach at South Mountain Community College for several years.  His team just repeated as the national champions and one of his players, Jake Argento, was the junior college player of the year.

(Yes, they're both named Jake.)

Coach Harrington just landed an NCAA job coaching golf at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.  It's a big step for him but with his record I'm sure he'll do well.  I was talking to him last evening and he said he's lived in Phoenix since he was 3 and his wife since she was 12.  So they're leaving a lot behind.

- - - - - - - -

I'm still living in the glow of the concert we attended Sunday night by Madeleine Peyroux.  But we've got another great night to look forward to - a concert by Lyle Lovett and His Large Band in a little over a week.  He's long been a favorite of ours and I'm overjoyed that we'll finally get to see him in person.  Stand by for my review.

Monday, August 5, 2013

MADELEINE PEYROUX



She has been referred to as the 90's Billy Holiday.  This 39 year old jazz singer and Parisian busker performed at the Musical Instrument Museum last night and SWMBO and I were lucky enough to have tickets to her show.

Peyroux was born in Athens, Georgia but soon moved to Hollywood, New York and, at the age of 13, Paris.  A couple of years later she was singing on the streets of the Latin Quarter and passing the hat.  A year later she was singing jazz standards and touring Europe as part of The Wandering Blues and Jazz Band.

She is an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist.  At last night's performance she was backed by 8 musicians, three of them on loan from the Phoenix Philharmonic Orchestra.  With the strings for romantic songs and her piano-bass-drums-guitar backing for jazz, country and gentle rock-and-roll numbers it was a stellar concert.

She started off with covers of several songs by Ray Charles and moved on to some of her own as well as others by Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and Warren Zevon.  All in all it was wonderful.

Peyroux sings equally well in French and English and boasts a fine vocal range.  If you get a chance to see and hear her, don't pass it up.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

FUTURE CROP

I showed you our lemon tree before on this blog.  Here's the new crop.


I wonder what a green lemon would taste like.  Never fear, I'm going to leave that discovery to my imagination.

Right next to the lemon tree, an orange tree is bearing fruit.


I'm not sure when the fruit will ripen although that one orange on the right appears to be starting to change color.  I can wait.