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Evil Twitter, Saintly Dogs

evil twitterI’m souring on Twitter. It’s still of use as a check on breaking news, but god, so many assholes piling on other assholes. It’s not just #gamergate: the other day I read a long series of tweets that seemed to be accusing actor Rainn Wilson of being a rapist. That was news to me, so I Googled it: apparently Wilson is a rapist, if by “rapist” you mean he once tweeted a date rape joke that fell flat, and is making some videos with a man who was once accused of rape by an ex-girlfriend (I’m not going to link to any of this he said/she said stuff).

Author John Grisham is in the Twitter crosshairs for saying something in support of a friend accused of downloading porn videos with underaged women in them. Date rape accusations against Bill Cosby are making the rounds again. OMG and what Twitter veteran can forget the steaming heap of abuse Woody Allen was buried under, the hatred directed at singer Michelle Shocked, or the poor PR lady who tweeted an AIDS joke as she boarded a flight to South Africa only to land 12 hours later and learn her company had reacted to the Twitter firestorm by firing her?

In Orwell’s 1984, the Two-Minutes Hate was a daily event. On Twitter it’s constant, its targets shifting from minute to minute. What the hell is with all this self-righteousness? Haven’t we all done things we wouldn’t want dredged up and hurled at us on social media?

I wonder how many more of these “recent converts to Islam” are going to go on the attack in Western cities? It occurred to me, watching the news from Ottawa last night, that young white men with Muslim-looking beards can from now on expect to be profiled and treated as potential terrorists. And dark-skinned men with Muslim beards? Katie bar the door!

Well, enough of that. Our daughter Polly dropped by this morning to pick up her bicycle and take it back to Ajo with her. I gave her a bicycle tire pump and a motorcycle nose wheel stand she can use when she changes the oil in her Ducati. Not to worry, she still has tons of things in our garage. As every parent of adult children knows, they’re not really gone until their stuff is gone too!

When Polly got here, before we knew she was here, the dogs saw her through the window and ran back to the office to let us know it was Polly! Polly! Schatzi normally barks, and so does Maxie, but this time Maxie was so excited she whined. It’s the first time we’ve heard her do that. I don’t know why that seems important enough to mention, but it does.

Speaking of kids, we’ll spend Thanksgiving with our son, daughter in law, and grandson in Las Vegas. I’m not sure if our granddaughter Taylor will be there too … I hope so … and according to Polly this morning, she’ll be there too, with her boyfriend David.

Photo on 10-23-14 at 11.31 AMMy swollen black eye is slowly getting back to normal. The cut under the bandage is vicious-looking, T-shaped, an inch-and-a-half across, and deep. I could post a photo of it, but I don’t want to turn the blog into a charnel house. When the stitches come out Monday I’ll have a nasty mark on my cheek, like those German university students of old with their fencing scars.

The first two days I couldn’t read. The swelling left a narrow slit to peer through and my left eye could only look straight ahead. When I put on bifocals to read the left eye saw through the top while the right saw through the bottom. This made for an unpleasant double vision so I watched TV instead since I could do that without the glasses. Now the swelling is down some, I can probably start reading through my glasses again. As for working on my blog, the monitor, like the TV, is far enough away that I don’t need glasses to see it.

Donna’s scar is pretty impressive too, but should heal without leaving a mark. She’s convinced her nose is crooked now, but I don’t see it. I think she’ll be fine. Man, the things they didn’t tell us about getting old!

The dogs have have smothered us in affection since we came home with our faces cut to pieces. I’m going to reward them with a car trip to Eegee’s for a sandwich and some fries. Yes, they get to share a little bit of my lunch, and I’m honestly not sure which part they like better, going in the car or helping me finish off the fries.

Back now. The answer appears to be c) both of the above. In heaven, doggies ride in cars and eat whenever they want, and damn I hope that turns out to be true.


Tuesday Bag o’ Woe Is Us

Two weeks ago my dermatologist decided he didn’t like the look of a spot on my cheek. He snipped off a sample and sent it to the lab. It turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer, so he scheduled me for an outpatient procedure yesterday.

When I told Donna I had to go in on Monday, she said, “Me too.” Donna sees a different dermatologist—hers too had found a basal cell growth and had asked her to come in on Monday to have it cut out. Donna’s appointment was in the morning; mine was in the afternoon. Here’s what we looked like afterward:


Donna has a one-inch vertical cut on the tip of her nose and I have a horizontal cut below my left eye. Stitches galore for each of us; those will come out sometime next week.

It’s odd we’d go through the same experience at the same time, but there it is. We’ve both been told to take it easy for a few days, to avoid bending over at the waist lest it put strain on our cuts, to sleep with our heads elevated. So we’re taking care of each other, and the dogs are pitching in too. They took one look at us and knew we needed love and affection. As we all know there is no more supportive friend than a dog, so it’s a good thing there’s one for each of us.

Donna’s had suspicious moles removed before, but I think this is the first time she’s had something cut out from underneath her skin. I’ve had five or six subcutaneous basal cell cancers removed, so this was old hat to me. The procedure itself is pain-free (if you don’t count the injection of the anesthetic), but the aftermath is unpleasant. My left eye is black and so swollen I can barely see out of it. Curiously it’s worse with my glasses on, but I’m sure once the swelling goes down it’ll be better. Donna’s not having any trouble with her nose, or at least none she’ll admit to.

I probably should say “Kids, use your sunblock and always wear a hat,” but I’m not certain I believe that’ll keep you from getting skin cancer if you’re prone to it in the first place. Oh, sure, it has to help—I’m religious about wearing hats outdoors, and I try to use sunblock when I go hiking, bicycling, or motorcycle riding—but I know I’m going to keep getting these things anyway. All my sisters are getting them too.

I see my dermatologist three times a year. He always finds several keratoses and freezes them; about once every two years he’ll find a basal cell growth and cut it out. Donna’s way behind me on that score, and I hope she never catches up.

Anyway, we’re fine. The big wrappings are off now. By Halloween we should be back to normal, or what passes for such, and when the neighborhood kids come to the door we won’t be nearly as scary looking as we were yesterday.

Question of the day: what do people who don’t have medical insurance do?


Air-Minded: a Cars & Planes Photoblog

Back-to-back car shows this weekend. Saturday’s show was an annual event at St Gregory’s Academy; Sunday’s was at the Pima Air & Space Museum. As car shows go, the air museum event was a small one, but it gave me an excuse to combine a motorcycle ride, a photo session, and a visit to the museum.

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At the Pima Air & Space Museum entrance

The cars on display at the museum were primarily early Fords, Model Ts and Model As. Some of their owners parked them in the shade under aircraft wings, which wasn’t ideal for photography, but I had a great time trying to get clear shots of all of them. I wish the cars had been of the same vintage as the aircraft on display—wouldn’t it be fun to see a 1949 Cadillac parked under the wing of Eisenhower’s Lockheed Constellation?

Well. Here are a few photos from yesterday’s visit to the air museum. The rest are in my Cars & Planes photo album on Flickr.

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Car Show Photoblog

Every year in October I take my camera to the Tucson Classics Car Show at St Gregory’s Academy, a private college prep school in Tucson. I go early in the morning, when exhibitors are still arriving and parking on the grass, when crowds haven’t gotten out of hand, when it’s still cool.

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As you can see from this overhead shot, there are always plenty of muscle cars on display. I don’t know, muscle cars don’t move me. After I’ve looked at one or two, they start to look the same. What catches my eye are antiques, old motorcycles, engines, the Bulgemobiles from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

I’ll post a few of my photos here. Clicking on the thumbnails will take you to the originals on Flickr. You can also go straight to my full Flickr gallery to see them all.

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Straight eight

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Indian Chief

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’59 Chevy

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Cadillac Series 355

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Cadillac Series 355

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’53 Kaiser Manhattan

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1920s Indian Chief

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’05 Franklin

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’05 Franklin

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Supercharged Graham

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Supercharged Graham

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’63 Thunderbird Landau


Friday Bag o’ Books

Bag-Of_BooksI’ve been catching up on my reading. No, strike that, there’re be no catching up in my lifetime. I add new books to the pile as fast as I finish the ones already there. The library sent an email alert this morning: an American history text I ordered is in. I don’t normally read textbooks, but this one’s been the target of politically-motivated banning attempts in several states, and I plan to review it for a future banned book post.

Over thirty unread books, mostly novels, are stored on our Kindle and Nook e-readers. Another three are on my Amazon wish list. I like that wish list. It’s a way to keep track of books and products you want to buy when you have the money. The downside is that Amazon shares your wish list with vendors, who help you keep track with tailored ads on your Facebook news feed. I put a self-winding Seiko wristwatch on my wish list a few months ago, and I see Facebook ads for that damn watch nearly every day. I wonder if the ads will stop when I buy it?

We keep thinking it would be fun to have another full-sized pickup truck. We’re interested in the new aluminum-bodied Ford F150, which promises to get better mileage than other large pickup trucks (not that I really believe those promises). I went to the website last night to put together the one we want: cab and bed size, engine, towing package, interior and exterior options. It priced out at almost $38,000, and our wants aren’t extravagant. The truck we want is the equivalent of the one we bought in 1994, which cost about $19,000. Not that we would, but were we to buy it with no down, monthly payments would be about $550. For six years.

What do new cars cost? I’m going to guess at least half the cars people buy today cost more than $38,000. People who buy $60,000+ cars must be spending a grand a month on car and insurance payments, pretty much for the entire time they “own” it. How do you justify making that kind of commitment? Do you plug your ears and sing La-La-La real loud to keep from thinking of the ramifications and consequences?

I think we’re going to wait a year or two and buy a used F150. It’s the only sensible way to do it these days. Or maybe we’ll run out of oil before then and buying another car will be the last thing on our minds.

Tomorrow morning is the annual car show at St. Gregory’s Academy. I go every year (click here to see my photos from last year’s show). It’s starting to look as if it may rain this afternoon and evening, though. The cars are displayed on the grass, and if the ground gets soggy they might postpone the show. If that happens my heart won’t be broken … rain or shine, tomorrow afternoon we’re hosting book club and in the evening going to a friend’s house for cooking club. Busy busy busy.

So far no Ebola in our house. I stopped at CVS yesterday morning for my annual flu shot, and Donna’s going today. Which means if we get something that feels like the flu, it’ll most likely be Ebola, what with all these infected nurses gallivanting here and there (insert ironic emoticon). Bless those nurses. They are the best, although this Alabama paramedic is giving them a run for the money.

Funny how everyone in Congress is suddenly demanding our hospitals act and perform as if they’re part of a well-organized national healthcare system, with layers and layers of robust government support behind them. These would be the same congressmen, of course, who have fought against every move in that direction. Well, we’ll get there someday. Maybe the current Ebola scare will push us a little closer. One can hope.

Well, there’s room in my book bag for one more, so it’s time for a library run!


Open Windows

I haven’t opened Windows since I got my iMac … no, seriously, I meant to write about actual windows, the kind you open to air out the house when the weather is nice. After months of running it full time, day and night, it’s a treat to turn off the air conditioning. We can feel the house breathe. Long may it last, but already we’re pulling the covers up to our chins at night and pretty soon we’ll have to start shutting up the house before we go to bed. But let’s not think about lighting the furnace until we have to, shall we?

We took full advantage of the good weather this weekend, spending most of Sunday outdoors at Tucson’s Udall Park, once the site of a geomagnetic laboratory operated by the US Geological Survey. I set a trail for members of my hiking and running group, starting and ending near the old magnetic lab and this enigmatic survey marker:

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There’s plenty of information about the old magnetic lab on line, but I can’t find anything on the triangular marker. Google, normally so useful, turns up nothing. I guess the marker will join the Railroad Children’s Cemetery on my list of unsolved Tucson mysteries.


The cemetery is in Vail alongside the east/west railroad tracks running from El Paso to Tucson. I don’t think many people know it’s there. Even if they do it’s hard to find, just a 40′ X 40′ plot hidden in desert scrub. I first saw it on one of our running trails. A small wooden sign on the fence said “Railroad Children,” and that was all the information there was. My guess, looking at the condition of the wooden sign and wooden crosses, is that it dates from the early 1900s, possibly the late 1800s. I contacted an Arizona graveyards historian but never heard back. To this day I don’t know why those children died or what connection they had with the railroad. I suspect it might have had something to do with the influenza epidemic in 1918. Which reminds me, it’s time to get a flu shot. No, I’m not going to speculate on Ebola. Plenty of other people, most of them uninformed, are.

Toward the end of my September motorcycle trip, I downloaded and installed Apple’s new operating system (iOS 8.0) on my iPhone and iPad. The iPhone, a new 5S model I’d bought just months before, swallowed it whole, but the three-year-old iPad 2 gagged. A day later I heard Apple was rushing to get a fix out. Sure enough, later that same day iOS 8.0.2 came out and I installed it, hoping it would fix my iPad.

It didn’t. When I try to open the Facebook or Twitter applications on the iPad, they either don’t open for three or four minutes, or they don’t open at all and dump me back to the home screen. Half the time I can’t even open Safari, Apple’s web browser. Okay, pretty much anything that requires a Wi-Fi connection, including the Gmail app. I thought the problem might be related to the iCloud driver that comes with the new iOS, so I turned that part of it off in settings, but that hasn’t fixed a thing. Online apps like Facebook, Twitter, Safari, and Tumblr are 90% of what I use my iPad for. It’s like Apple disabled the Wi-Fi connection and replaced it with a dialup modem from 1993.

Last night I went on some Apple & Mac forums to see if other iPad 2 users have found ways to work with the new iOS. Chillingly, the factory forums are populated with hardcore Apple defenders who brook no dissent, no waving of dirty laundry. I did glean, reading between the lines, that another iOS iteration is in the works, so I’ll be patient.

You know, I’ve been an Apple enthusiast ever since I replaced my old Dell PC desktop with an iMac, following that purchase up with the iPad and most recently an iPhone. This is the first negative experience I’ve had with any Apple product, and I hope they fix it soon. I have to say, though, the cult-like vibes emanating from the Apple forums are more worrisome than a botched iOS upgrade, and make me wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

Speaking of cult-like vibes, check out this guy. I can be an asshole like anyone else, selfish and self-centered. There are times when I think of my faults and marvel that I have any friends at all, let alone a loving wife and children. And then I read about someone who is truly awful, a monster of Jim Jones proportions, and feel better about myself. So if you need a self-esteem boost, read about the Reverend Ernest Angley, leader of a devoted congregation who let him get away with the most despicable behavior … and this is just one thing among many: forcing vasectomies and abortions on the men and women in his church lest they keep some of the money they’d normally put in the collection tray to raise children instead, oh, and being a pedophile who preys on the boys in his congregation good lord what the fuck is wrong with people and why hasn’t anyone hastened this man’s long-overdue rendezvous with Jesus in heaven?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God save me from all these good Christians!


Local Color

Donna and I wake up around six. Our bed is situated so that the first thing we see is the sun coming up through the sliding glass patio door in our bedroom wall.


I jumped out of bed a few mornings ago, put on a bathrobe, and went out through the patio door to take photos. One of the dogs, meanwhile, went out through the doggie door at the other end of the house and was startled to find a man in her back yard. She started barking, which set off the other dog, who came out to join her. Even after they figured out it was me, they kept barking to make sure I knew I was somewhere I didn’t belong.

I’ve been out taking photos nearly every morning since, and the dogs have become used to seeing me on their turf. Sometimes I wake up and grab the iPhone, sometimes the small point & shoot digital camera, sometimes the big DSLR we treated ourselves to last Christmas. The top photo is from earlier this week, and was taken with the tiny iPhone camera. The next one is from this morning, showing the sun reflecting off the tops of the mountains to our north, taken with the big camera.

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The iPhone has an HDR (high dynamic range) mode, and I believe I had it selected when I took the first photo. The Canon Rebel doesn’t have an HDR mode, but you can take HDR photos with it … I just haven’t learned how to do it yet, so the second photo is more true to life.

I love these beautiful sunrises. Sunsets are even prettier. I’ve been taking photos at the other end of the day as well. Here’s an iPhone sunset:


As I was writing, not ten minutes ago, the neighborhood bobcat walked past the window. It’s a big one, about the size of a German Shepherd, and looks healthy (we haven’t seen it often enough to determine its sex). I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get a photo, but it was staring at me through the office window and I was afraid reaching for the camera would spook it. Maybe next time.

Yesterday I took the dachshunds to the feed store, their favorite destination. This time of year there’s a galvanized livestock trough full of baby chicks in the middle of the store. The dogs aren’t tall enough to see in, of course, but they can hear and smell the chicks, and how they wish I’d buy them one, oh pretty please! I would if I thought the chick would survive their natural curiosity. No, no I wouldn’t, not really. Anyway, in addition to picking up a bag of dog food, I got them both new collars, big thick butch numbers. They were beside themselves to have me put them on, and after I did they pranced around the house all afternoon. Here they are with their colorful new outfits:

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Schatzi is red

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Maxie is purple

I hear that the anchor spot on one of the major Sunday morning TV political talk shows, Meet the Press, was offered to comedian Jon Stewart. He rebuffed the offer, and I’m glad he did. I don’t know what actual impact Stewart has as host of The Daily Show, but he’s good at expressing our frustration with the idiots who run the country and the world … at least when he’s sitting alone at his desk, facing a friendly studio audience and an unhostile camera. I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you have too, that when he’s face to face with a powerful guest in the interview segment, he pussies out. He doesn’t ask the hard questions. He goes into “both sides do it” mode, just like any political pundit. I’ve seen him back down over and over again, and I’ve concluded that at heart he’s just another villager, anxious to preserve his position of privilege and access to power. Well, I’d probably be the same way if the money was good enough.

That’s not much of a rant, but it’s all I’ve got today. Yes, everything is still horrible: this stupid directionless war, the fear-mongering and lies fed to us as news, the stupidity, the racism, the religious intolerance, the whatever. But ranting about it won’t make a bit of difference or have the slightest impact. All I can do is try to live up to Kurt Vonnegut’s exhortation from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” Would that we all could live up to that.


Wednesday Bag o’ Damp

water bagWhen I leapt out of bed at six this morning, I had two plans: first, to take the good DSLR camera outside for some colorful sunrise photos; second, to ride the motorcycle to the air museum for my weekly guided tours. I was stymied by the weather: the only color seeping through the overcast was gray and the bathroom radio announced a 100% probability of rain. No photos, no motorcycle. Well, I still had my museum tours to look forward to.

Five hours later, halfway through my walking tour of WWII aircraft, the industrial evaporative coolers outside the hangar kicked on. They were unusually loud. In fact they were roaring, and I had to turn up the volume on my amplifier to be heard over the din. It didn’t occur to me the noise was rain beating on the hangar roof until I tried to lead my group of visitors to the next hangar on the tour. And why? Because in three years volunteering at the museum, I’d never heard that noise before.

I braved the downpour to get to the next hangar and got thoroughly soaked in the process. Two visitors ran with me but the other eight stayed behind and I don’t blame them. By the time I finished up in the next hangar the torrent was less biblical, so, frustrated because I hadn’t been able to take any photos earlier in the morning, I decided to document this rare Tucson rainstorm.

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In the first photo, if you look behind where I’m standing you’ll see running water. That water is about six feet deep, and it’s running hard. The second photo is of the same instant river, taken from a small foot bridge between the hangars. Going back to the first photo: it may not be immediately obvious, but my pants are soaked from my shoes up to about mid-thigh, and the little voice amplifier hanging from my neck is dead, shorted out by water that seeped into it during my earlier dash between the hangars.

On my drive home I took another photo, this one of the normally dry wash just down the hill from our subdivision. The water you see running over the road is more than three feet deep, and local drivers are wisely sitting it out. Fortunately for Donna and I, we don’t have to cross this low spot driving to and from our home, but there are pockets of homes in our part of town that become temporarily cut off during these rare heavy rains.


Well, there … I’ve gone and written a blog post about the damn weather. Why anyone reads this stuff is beyond me. So what else is there to write about?

Well, for one thing, this was my first museum tour in over a month. It felt good to get back in the saddle. I even prepped for it, skipping TV last night to study my aircraft talking points. I went in early this morning to turn the team leader files over to my replacement and start getting him up to speed; I hope that in a month or so he’ll have completely taken over and I can return to being a regular docent.

I have book reviews to write, so I’ll put this post to bed now. If you live in a regular part of the world, one where rain is a regular occurrence, I hope you’ll forgive me for having so much fun with it. I can’t help it. No one from southern Arizona can. It’s a big deal to us.