Sunday, September 27, 2009

EMPS: How to Tell It's Autumn in Tucson

For the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, literally at the last minute (again):

How do you know it's autumn in Tucson?

Daytime temperatures plummet into the 90s.

Or not.

The Palo Verde trees are still in bloom (ah-choo!).

And so are the flowers.

"Pumpkin Anything" starts to return to stores and restaurants. (Yum!)

Sunset comes earlier.

Really, though, one sure way to tell, at least for me, is the arrival of Michaelmas, the annual feast of St. Michael the Archangel. My church, St. Michael and All Angels, always celebrates the "patronal feast" of Michaelmas at the end of September. And next week? It will be the Feast of St. Francis, or, as I like to call it, "Take your dog to church day!" A sure sign of fall in Tucson!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend Assignment #286: Far Away

This Weekend Assignment is even later than usual, but I was so tired last night that I couldn't face it. What the heck, nobody does these until the weekend's over anyway. Here we go:

Weekend Assignment: #286: What is the #1 place you'd like to visit that you haven't been to yet? Do you think it's likely that you'll ever get there?

Extra Credit: What is the farthest place from home that you've ever been?

Despite the photo above, I've never been to Africa. If you look closely, you can jut about make out that the truck is labeled "Lion Country Safari." I took this picture in Florida in 1986, during our "big trip," three and a half months of roaming the U.S. and Canada. It was fantastic. We got as far west as Los Angeles, as far north as Montreal, as far south as the Florida Keys. Later that year, in November, we went to England: London, Liverpool on our Beatles pilgrimage, and a day trip to Stonehenge. I may have done that last one by myself.

But growing up, oh, how I longed to go much farther than that! I read Born Free and its sequels, and a rather more disturbing book to my fifth grade sensibilities called The Lion. I repeatedly borrowed a large illustrated compendium called Mammals from the school library, and learned all sorts of interesting things about lemurs and okapi and the platypus. The only really successful project I attempted in junior high art class was an Australia travel poster with a koala on it. Someday, somehow, I was going to visit Kenya and Australia. Other places too, but those were the main ones that I'd never seen outside of books and television.

I have no idea why Lion Country Safari had this Australian native.

All these years later, Australia is still interesting to me, largely because of all those marsupials. But when I was a travel agent, I won a book about New Zealand, and also arranged a big trip for a client to both countries. That's what I'd like to do: see the kangaroos and such, Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef, and then go on to see beautiful New Zealand with its sheep ranches and Middle Earth shooting locations.

Apparently I rose an elephant in 1986. I think it was an Indian Elephant.

As for Africa, I'm still interested in going there, too, but no longer consider Kenya the sole country of interest. I gather that Tanzania is at least as important to the survival of all those magnificent mammals I used to ogle in books. Much of the continent suffers from poverty, disease and political instability, but tourism seems to bolster the economies of the countries lucky enough to still have cool animals in their parks and preserves. I think such tourism disqualifies you from giving blood, but that probably wouldn't stop me.

Other places I'd like to go include Maui and the Big Island in Hawaii, Greece, and maybe some Biblical places if the people of that part of the world ever learn to get along with each other. My current boss is in Ireland right now, and that's another place I'd love to see, along with pretty much every other place in the British Isles, whether I've already been there or not. But I think if I had to pick just one country I've never been to and go there, I'd must likely go to, um, well, maybe Tanzania. But it's a close call.

Will I ever make it to any of these fabulous places? I'm beginning to have my doubts. But if we ever manage to miraculously get out of debt with lots of money in the bank, I'll visit them all.

And where is the farthest I've been? I would have guessed Oahu, on our two-day drive-through visit, but Honolulu is only 2968 miles from Tucson. If I remember correctly, the three week package tour of Europe my mom took the family on in 1972 got as far east as Salzburg, Austria, which is 4087 miles from Manlius, NY where I lived at the time. If we only got as far as Innsbruck, that's still 4041 miles. So there's your answer.

How about you? What is your greatest travel ambition? Start thinking about that while I present the recap of last week's two responses. For Weekend Assignment #285: Lost and Found, I asked about things you've lost.

Florinda went with something most people are glad to lose, not so glad to find:

Just about six years ago, my sister and I joined Weight Watchers together. She'd recently had her second baby. I had no similar excuse for the gradual packing on of pounds that had sent my weight to the highest it had ever been (well in excess of my peak weight during my own pregnancy nearly twenty years earlier). I embraced the Weight Watchers Points Plan, and within six months - not long before my 40th birthday - I had successfully shed 25 pounds.

Mike made a terrible discovery one night after walking the dog:

Anyway, it was a cold and snowy January (maybe February) night. Jenn and I had just gotten home from a dinner at Chevy's and I just come in from taking our puppy, Cosmo, out. I noticed something was different as soon as I took my gloves off. May hand, more specifically my left hand, felt weird. The usual rubbing of the wedding ring on my pinky wasn't there.
So, have you thought about where you'd like to travel? Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate in the Weekend Assignment:
  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, October 2nd at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."
Coming up before the weekend is out: my EMPS entry, and I still haven't told you about of Bat Night!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weekend Assignment Result: Florinda's First

For Weekend Assignment #284: First Day, I asked to hear about your first day of, well, anything. Aside from a few general comments, our sole response was from Florinda, with a great story about a very successful first date. An excerpt follows:

...I arrived first, and settled on a bench near the mall entrance (with a book, of course) to watch for my date's arrival. I'd only seen a couple of pictures of him, but they were enough for me to recognize him in Target the day before our lunch, so I was quite sure I'd know him when I saw him. (I e-mailed him about the sighting at Target after I got home, to confirm that it was him; he said later that he thought it was a good sign that I didn't want to call off the date after that.)
Okay, folks, next week I'd like to see more participants, okay? Here's the current topic again:

Weekend Assignment: #285: Tell us about something important that you lost.
Extra Credit: Tell us about something you found.

You can handle that, right? So let's hear your Legends of the Lost and Found!*

I know I'm being really skimpy on the blogging, but I'm working all day now and having computer problems at night. I should be able to post more often soon, once I get used to working again!


*A Harry Chapin album title

Sunday, September 20, 2009

EMPS: Some Kind of Cricket

It's taken me all week (again) to respond to Carly's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, this time asking for pictures of bugs. This was not just because of my two jobs and computer problems, but also because I wasn't encountering any bugs bigger than an underdeveloped grape seed. But then this guy (girl?) turned up in my bathroom:

Obviously this it a cricket - not the plain black kind I used to see Back East, but some kind of Arizona cricket with brownish stripeyness. Here's another shot:

I've looked up "Arizona Cricket" on Google, but the results are dominated by two groups that play the British sport, the wireless company and an arena named for the wireless company. There are pages about species of crickets, but mostly they're about a newly-discovered genus of cave cricket, which this isn't. But it is a cricket of some kind. Trust me.

I have a policy about bugs in the house, which for most species is that they give up their right to live if they enter the house. I have been known to rescue the occasional beetle, and I used to tolerate a tiny black variant of the ladybug until we came to suspect they were a different stage of the species of bugs that ate their way through a bunch of irreplaceable coats, hats, wizard costume and Toros baseball jerseys. But the main exception to the policy is crickets. I have never killed a cricket, and hardly ever even removed one from the house. This isn't just because of Chinese tradition and the superstition that they bring good luck. The main thing is that they eat other bugs - well, I think they do. And I find them kinda cute!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weekend Assignment #285: Lost and Found

I'm extending the deadline on Weekend Assignment #284: First Day, because our regulars are either stumped on the topic or running late. But that won't stop me from introducing the next topic:

Weekend Assignment: #285: Tell us about something important that you lost.
Extra Credit: Tell us about something you found.

I've been working all week, more or less, for a small high-tech manufacturer of medical equipment. I've also been struggling to get my computer functioning better, compensating for the fact that the techs at Staples think I have a dying motherboard. Today they installed my 2 GB of RAM (I only had 1 before) and reset the computer to its factory settings. The idea was to try to "trick" my failing motherboard into lasting a bit longer, and maybe coax it to recognize my CD drive better. Tonight I picked up the computer, brought it home, and set about reloading software and restoring files from backup. I immediately ran into two problems:

  1. The CD/DVD drive still isn't working, although the techs had hoped otherwise. That means I can't load MS Office from a disc, or PhotoStudio, my beloved cheap but surprisingly versatile photo editor. I downloaded a demo of PhotoStudio, but it won't save files in a decent resolution. So tonight's photos were all edited on Adobe's extremely basic online PhotoShop editor.
  2. I backed up my docs to a Seagate FreeAgent external hard drive a few days ago using Seagate software. On Thursday evening, to be safe, I used Windows Backup and Restore to back it all up again to the same drive. It took five hours. Neither Windows nor Seagate even gave me the option tonight of trying to restore from either backup. Fortunately, after several hours of downloading Firefox, Norton and other stuff, I discovered that the second backup was sitting uncompressed on the G: drive, and could just be dragged over. It only took about 3 hours. Hooray!
What has this to do with the topic? Well, obviously, I've lost access to two important programs that I used all the time; and for a few uncomfortable hours, I was a little worried that all recent drafts of my novels were lost as well. But eventually I found a usable version of my docs, which unlike the software are irreplaceable. What a relief!

On a more literal level, the most important thing I ever lost was my wedding ring. It was a gold and white gold filigree in a Celtic design. A Cuban gave it to John's mother many years ago as an engagement ring, intending to come back and marry her. He never did. It was too big for my finger, and not adjustable. The only thing we could do to try to keep it on my finger was have a couple thin bands made to wear under the ring. But those were uncomfortable, and I couldn;t stop messing with them. Eventually I lost them both. The ring itself soon followed - and np, I never got it back. I had it for less than a year before it was gone forever.

And what have I found? I've had a few good yard sale / estate sale finds, in the days when we were doing the eBay thing. One was a foot tall(?) Snoopy Astronaut from 1969, in a rather battered box. It cost me $5, I think. I sold it for over $100 to someone in Japan. The other really good find was a Niagara Falls motion lamp. The cylindrical shade is painted with a scene of the falls, which moves, powered by the heat of the bulb. The light underneath moves relative to the scene, creating the illusion that the water is moving.

That's it for now! I'll be back Monday night with the reults on Weekend Assignment #224. Meanwhile, I hope you'll jump in with your own Weekend Assignment entry, either #284 or #285. Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate:

  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, September 25th at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."
And still to come: my EMPS entry, and my untold story of Bat Night!


Round Robin: Chickens Are for Eating

I admit it. As busy as I've been with my new temp job, my job at St. Michael's and various one-off events, I've been too distracted to do much blogging. I even forgot what this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge is until after I ruined one photographic opportunity. This week's topic, as suggested by Sherrie of Sherrie's Stuff, is "Chicken." By the time I looked this up, here's what was left of tonight's dinner:

As it happens, the dogs also had chicken for dinner:

But that's boring. How about something a bit more fun? This is a vintage cookbook we picked up somewhere, sometime:

And here's our Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with an extra chicken recipe torn from a magazine, at a very specific time in our cultural history:

Along with my new work situation, I've been struggling to get my computer in more usable condition than it's been lately. Today the techs at Staples installed my 2 GB of RAM (I only had 1 before) and reset the computer to its factory settings. Because if this, I no longer have access to my primary photo editing software (see the entry above this one for details). I had to resort to Adobe PhotoShop's bare bones online editor to produce the pics above. But what the heck; it worked!

I promise not to wait a week to post my next entry - in fact, I need to do my Weekend Assignment before going to bed. Meanwhile, let's visit everyone else's chickens!

Linking List (As of 5:30 AM Pacific, Saturday, September 19th 2009)

Sherrie's Stuff

Carly - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Mommy's Treasures

Jenn - Posted!
My Muskoka

Lana G - Posted!
Above The Clouds

Nancy**Welcome, New Member!**
Bondi Resort Blog

Maria Berg - Posted 9/4/09
Everything is Green (English Translation)

boliyou - Posted!

Molly Mavis
Visual Dialogues

Facts From A Fact Woman

Suzanne R

Scrabble Queen

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Ellen b - Posted!
The Happy Wonderer

Vicki - Posted!

And don't forget our other memes...

Karen - Weekend Assignment (A New Weekend Assignment Posted Each Friday)

Carly - Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot (A New Photography Assignment Posted Each Monday)


Sunday, September 13, 2009

EMPS: From the Archives

I started working on this entry nearly a week ago, but never got around to posting. Carly wants to see previously unpublished archive photos. Easy, right? But I spend hours digging through files, searching, rejecting; and even when I decided on a few shots I later decided they don't count, because they were on Picasa in some form.

So. It's probably too late; I'm past the deadline. But here are a few shots anyway, because I have NEVER missed a Monday Photo Shoot. Even at this I'm only 99% sure I haven't posted these before.

Vintage photo reproduced on a west side underpass.

Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital, a major landmark on the west side of Tucson.
A friend of mine had a procedure there in June. I picked her up afterward.

A tent John erected over one of our fruit trees.

Next time: Bat Night! And not at the ballpark, either!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend Assignment #284: First Day

I expect some of you have wondered where I've been all week, since I haven't blogged once in that time. Our latest Weekend Assignment provides part of the answer. I hope it will also provoke some fond or vivid memories for you:
Weekend Assignment: #284: Tell us about your first day of...well, anything, really. It could be your first day in school, your first day as a legal adult, your first day in a new town or dating that someone special - you get the idea. This time out I'm looking for tales of new experiences, not new possessions. (The latter was last week!)What made that particular day memorable for you?
Extra Credit: While you're at it, tell us about a last day as well.
Here comes a mini-shocker: today was my first day of work at a new job. It's only a temporary position, entering data and holding down the fort while the boss is overseas; but it's something. Among other things, it means I will earn more than the weekly unemployment benefit amount for the first time since that disastrous tax preparation job back in January.

I took this picture after lunch. John says the jacket's too big.

Today was supposed to be a sort of working audition for Small Hi-Tech Manufacturer (hereafter called SHM), in which my new boss could gauge whether I have enough of a working knowledge of two particular accounting programs to be useful to him, and cut me loose if I didn't measure up. I must not have done too badly, because I'm back at work this coming Monday.

As great as it was to finally land a job other than at St.Michael's, however temporarily, it was definitely a stressful day. First off, I was given the wrong address by my recruiter, and walked into the building where the company used to be, not where it is now. The tenants at the old place were very nice, calling SHM for the new address and directions, and printing me a map. The recruiter also called them, and explained that the snafu was his fault, not mine. But talk about starting off on the wrong foot! I was on the wrong mile!

Eager to do a good job, I built a cost comparison spreadsheet before lunch, but struggled just slightly with a version of Excel that doesn't seem to quite match the one at church, let alone the older version I use at home. Next, I set out to print a simple report in the accounting system the company wants me to help set up. There was no print preview, no printing, and no obvious way to fix the problem. I researched it for quite a while, but to no avail. To finish out the day, I entered vendor invoices, which actually went pretty well.

Thing is, I was brought in because I've worked with QuickBooks Pro and Epicor, the modest accounting program the company uses now and the versatile but expensive program being readied for use. And it's true that I've used both programs, but you'd hardly know it from my performance today. Not being a manufacturer or retailer, St. Michael's uses QuickBooks in a very different way from SHM. I'm not certain it's even the same version. And Epicor is a more extreme example of the variation between what I've used and what I'll be using. It's a several years newer version of the software I used from 2005 to 2007, configured for a very different industry and company size. It's not a hard program to use, but it's no longer nearly as familiar to me as it was, so I fumbled around a bit. I know I can and will learn it, but for today I felt like a bit of a fraud, promising a degree of competence with this programs that I could not for the moment deliver. Still, I did get the work done except for the printing glitch, and he knows I'm determined to get up to speed quickly. After all, he's leaving the country less than a week from now. I have to be ready!

Still, it wasn't a bad day at all. My new boss was very nice, and my co-workers were reasonably friendly. We even went out to lunch together, with the boss picking up the tab. I had a great low-carb meal, sticking to the regimen John and I started on almost two weeks ago. And on the job I'm learning new things, which should make me more employable even if the possible permanent job at SHM doesn't materialize. Overall it was a much more positive experience than my first day at Beaudry, as one of two other companies I could name but won't.

What last day shall I talk about? How about my last day at the somewhat larger manufacturer I temped for in the summer of 2oo8? I had finished the second big project assigned to me, and the person I'd been working with ran out of stuff for me to do. I ended up filing employee records most of the day for their new HR director. It was a fairly pleasant and low-key day, and when I wasn't working I was taking last-minute pictures of the gorgeous views outside - on my cell phone, because someone at church had accidentally taken my camera home with him the day before (long story).

How about you? What first day, good, bad or indifferent, will you never forget? Tell us about it in your blog, and please, please include a link back to this entry. I'll be back next Friday night with a roundup of your responses. Like this!

For Weekend Assignment #283: Major Purchase, I asked you to tell us about the last big thing you bought. Here are excerpts from the responses:

New participant Margaret (welcome!) said...

I am not an impulse buyer as some of my friends can attest to. I research until I am so confused that I give up, I wait a few days to mull over the options, I go back for a bit more research and then go for the buy, making sure to keep the receipt in case I change my mind. It took me about 3 weeks to decide on a macro lens and even then it took me many minutes to click the complete purchase button.

Julie said...

I think it must have been the laptop computer, which I purchased just about a year ago this month. I'd done some research, but probably spent a couple of hours at Fry's trying out different computers before I made my decision. The salesguy kept trying to talk me into a more expensive computer, but I wouldn't let him.

Florinda said in comments...

I don't think I can get this in as a blog post this week, so you'll get a longish comment instead. (The same thing will probably happen next week, due to my participation in Book Blogger Appreciation Week.)

Anyway...I think our last major purchase was my husband's new car, back in February. It was one we had to make in a hurry, after his old car was totaled in an accident, but he was ready and knew what he wanted. He's a car nut and is always reading up on them, so he'd done plenty of research and it came in handy.

We're kind of like you and John in how we approach these things. He does a lot of studying and is usually not in a hurry to make the purchase. I do enough research to know what's going on, and once we've decided what we want and have the funds worked out, I'm ready to go ahead and buy.

Enjoy the new TV, and I'm glad the claim finally went through (probably not as glad as you are, though)!

Mike said...

It didn't take too long to find a car we wanted, though we did change the vehicle type after our first round of searching. We starting off looking for a crossover/SUV, but after looking at a few we decided to replace Jenn's small sedan with a mid-size sedan. It made more sense. I'm not a big fan of SUVs myself and Jenn doesn't like to drive the station wagon we have, so I don't see her enjoy driving a bigger car.

That's it for now! Many thanks to Margaret, Florinda, Julie and Mike for their participation. If you're reading this (and you are), I hope you'll follow their example, and jump in with your own Weekend Assignment entry. Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate:

  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, September 18th at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."

That's it! See you tomorrow night with my EMPS entry (finally!).


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Round Robin Challenge: Pictures of Politics, Town Hall Division

Our latest Round Robin Photo Challenge, Politics was suggested by Carly of Ellipsis. We have a sparse turn-out this time; evidently, either everyone is busy this holiday weekend or a lot of people are too nervous about this touchy subject to post politics-related pictures. Some of our friends might think less of us if they knew our political affiliation, and besides, a photo meme is about picture-taking, not imposing controversial opinions on each other. Right?

Well, maybe. I personally get nervous whenever writing about politics online, for those very reasons. But this Challenge is about photographing the wild world of politics, not arguing the merits of a particular candidate or issue - although it can be!

With all that in mind, let us venture forth to a high school on the East side of Tucson, host to one of the last of this summer's "town hall" meetings on the subject of health care. With 2200 people in attendance and more on the periphery, there was a lot there for the camera to see!

Watching from the Sidelines

To Capacity - and Beyond!

In the courtyard, it's standing room only for latecomers.

The first wave of arrivals after the auditorium was full got to sit on folding chairs and watch the two tv screens. The rest of us had to stand off at the side, and try to see the tv through the trees. I listened to several minutes of opening remarks before realizing that our local member of the House of Representatives, Gabrielle Giffords, wasn't outside in the courtyard with us.


In front of the school, pro-reform demonstrators carried signs, which were not
allowed inside. The other side of the debate was also in evidence there.

Notices were posted around the venue that "banners" were not allowed in the auditorium, which I (and everyone else, apparently) took to mean in the courtyard area as well. The protest signs, the leafleting, the vintage style flag, the harmonica player and the man who repeatedly called another man a "baby-killer" while wishing him a pleasant evening were all in the sideshow out front. Both pro- and anti-reform forces were represented in the parking lot and on the steps...


The street belonged to the tea party demonstrators - and police directing
traffic. People had to park up to a mile away on neighborhood streets.

...while the sidewalks along the street itself were tea party territory. The whole area was parked up, with cars lining every side street for miles around. Even before they reached the school, a lot of people worried, with good reason, about finding their cars again in the dark afterward. I searched for my own car for about half an hour, despite memorizing the name of the second street I walked down after parking.


As evening wears on, some people leave. I can finally sit and watch Gabby on tv.

Maybe the parking situation was why people started to leave as it grew dark, or perhaps it had something to do with people asking the same questions that had already been answered, or making the same points that had already been refuted. Shortly after the first seats emptied, I claimed one, as did another woman who had been standing along the side near me. When someone whose number had been called got her chance to speak and made some wild accusation, I murmured, "That's not true," whereupon the woman next to me got up and moved to the other end of the row. I can only assume she didn't want to risk contamination!

As far as I could tell from the courtyard, there was no shoving or other outrageous behavior. Nearly everyone who spoke was interrupted by applause from people on one or both sides of the issue (yes, occasionally both sides agreed). There was also lots of booing, nearly all of it from the right. Giffords sometimes had to play the role of a fifth grade teacher, telling people off for drowning out speakers from the audience with booing, and saying that to waste time with extended reactions to every sentence was not productive. I estimated the crowd as 60% anti, 40% pro, but a reporter later wrote that it was more like 50-50, and the righties were just louder.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm for health care reform and the public option, and against people being manipulated with lies about President Obama's secret origins and agendas. But let's not argue about that now. Instead, let's go see everyone else's politix pix! And don't forget these other memes:

The Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot - hosted by Carly every Monday
The Weekend Assignment - hosted by Karen every Friday.

Linking List:

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - Posted!

Suzanne R - Posted!
SuzyQ421's Photo Blog

Margaret - Posted!
Facts From a Fact Woman

Peggy - Posted!
Holmespun Fun


Friday, September 04, 2009

Weekend Assignment #283: Major Purchase

I have good news for a change, and that's the inspiration for our latest Weekend Assignment.
Weekend Assignment: #282: What was your most recent major purchase, that is, of a durable good worth $400 or more? (Yes, cars and houses count.) Was it something you researched and agonized over for weeks and months, or did you go through the whole buying process in an hour or a day?
Extra Credit: Are you generally an impulse buyer, or do you prefer to take lots of time to consider your options?
This question comes about partly as an excuse for me to tell you my personal news of the day. After three months of bureaucratic delay and confusion (mostly theirs rather than mine) about what unemployment compensation I'm due, if any, how to apply and whether it will actually be paid once approved, the State of Arizona's Department of Economic Security finally approved payment on my third or fourth attempt at a current unemployment claim. The money should hit my state-issued debit card next week for filings from the second week in June onward. That being the case, we were able to replace our only television set, which died the death a just under a week ago. No picture. No channel changing. No audio save for an electronic buzz. Kaput. Now with a couple thousand dollars coming in, we can at least partly pay my dad back for the car repair and still manage to buy a reasonable quality tv at Costco. This one:

Couldn't get a decent picture at night without the flash, because of the
contrast between dark console and bright screen.

It's not the largest of the HD television sets Costco had on display, but it's not the smallest, either. In fact it's several inches shorter than the Magnavox, although it's also wider. It also cost about the same as the Magnavox did, all those years ago.

Da box. Note the obscure brand name.

This purchase originated when the old tv failed last weekend, but the bulk of the process happened today (Friday). I did a little research into used televisions on Monday (mostly on Craigslist), and left a voicemail at a used tv and repair shop. They never called back, and it soon became clear that John wanted to hold out for a new one, even if it meant waiting for my unemployment situation to be resolved. So all this week our computers were our tv sets, including the Commodore 64 monitor in the bedroom.

But when the money was finally listed on the DES website as "Electronic payment" instead of "unresolved issue," we decided not to wait any longer. John, who had already scoped things out at Costco a couple of days ago, read reviews online while I went in to work at the church office this afternoon. Then we went to Costco, considered several different models and spoke to a sales person. I was initially taken with a Panasonic, but ultimately we settled on Costco's top seller, a Vizio 32 inch, LCD-based tv with 1920 x 1080 pixel Hi-Def resolution. No plasma, not a huge screen, no famous brand name as a dubious promise of reliability. But we ultimately decided that given the modest price, it would be silly to not get HD, and feel compelled to buy yet another tv when I get a full-time job.

All in all, this purchase represented a blending of John's buying habits and mine. John likes to read up on what's available, think over all the possibilities, including not buying anything at all, and work himself up to spending the money. I like to research as quickly as possible, possibly even just looking in a single store and asking questions. Once I have the idea that a particular model will do what I want, I see no point in delaying, assuming I have the money to spend. I want to walk out with the thing, then and there. In this instance, John had already done a lot of research over a period of time, and the fact that we had no access to broadcast or cable tv for a week, plus a sudden infusion of long-delayed money, pushed him to cut the mulling over phase of the operation short!

How about you? Did you spend months pondering the purchase of your car, your house, your computer or what-have-you, or did you make a snap decision and go with it? Do you suffer from buyer;s remorse afterward? Tell us about it in your blog, and please, please include a link back to this entry. I'll be back next Friday night with a roundup of your responses. Like this!

For Weekend Assignment # 282: I CAN HAZ LOLCATS?, I asked you to design a LOLcat (or LOLdog or whatever), one of those cute pictures with humorous captions in fractured English that are frequently seen on the Web. These are to be seen in situ on people's blogs, not excerpted here, but here's what we've got:

Florinda's dog Gypsy has a request for Santa, and later goes fishing.

Julie's cat is a Basement Cat, with peculiar ideas on how to be helpful.

Mike brings us the comments of a bird and a squirrel. No moose. Sorry.

That's it for now! Many thanks to Florinda, Julie and Mike for their LOLentries. If you're reading this (and you are), I hope you'll follow their example, and jump in with your own Weekend Assignment entry. Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate:

  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, September 11th at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."

That's it! Simple, huh? I look forward to shearing about your big-spending adventures. Meanwhile, look for my Round Robin entry in a few hours.


EMPS: Testing With Trees

In the latest Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, Carly is asking for pictures of trees. Oh, that's easy. I could do a week's worth of postings just from archived photos of Reid Park - but I won't. It's taken me all week just to put together this one entry!

There are more than a few trees there that I've photographed a lot, because they're photogenic, because they frame a sunset, because they have birds in them, and, well, because I see them rather often, while holding a camera in one hand, the dogs' leashes in the other. But for this shoot I'm going with all new photos, taken late Monday afternoon. As an experiment, I'm not even editing them, except for resize and sharpen lightly, with a few exceptions.

This first shot, as best as I can figure out from my research, is of a California Pepper Tree. It stands near the north entrance of Miko's Corner Playground. I've always thought of it as a willow tree, because of the general shape - but I always knew I was probably wrong in that identification.

Now for the learning curve. After years of dragging my heels, I signed up for flickr a day or two ago. I'm testing the "blog this" function, which seems designed to post one photo only, with no provision for saving it to draft. So if you see this in a feed with just one photo, please click through, because I'll be editing it! There are definitely more photos on the way! You can see the full set at here.

Oh, that looks rather nice. Let's try it again, pasting the HTML from the first photo and changing the particulars:

Pretty good. I had to do some fiddling, but it works okay. Anyway, this is also in Miki's Corner. In the past I've photographed it for the leaves, and especially for the bark. I'm pretty sure it's an Arizona Sycamore. And every time I try to type the word "sycamore," my fingers want to turn it into "Syracuse."

I'm not sure what kind of tree this is, although I have my suspicions. It's been featured in many of my Reid Park sunset and dusk photos.

Here's one of the trees in the olive grove near the rose garden. I'm fascinated by the twisted trunks and roots of them. The olive grove is riddled with the burrows of rock squirrels. I guess they must like olives. Cayenne and Pepper are always sniffing at the base of these trees, trying to figure out where the squirrels are.

I photographed several other trees for this, but let's finish off with one that isn't photogenic in itself. If it stood alone it might look rather nice, but it's all tangled up with two other trees, and it's hard to get a handle on its shape. But that's not important. Can you tell from the photo above what is significant about this tree?

Here's the cropped version. How many black-crowned night herons can you find? This tree is right next to the northern duck pond, and people sometimes go fishing (illegally) and flip their tiny catches onto the sidewalk for the birds to snatch up. So naturally the birds hang out here, waiting for the opportunity.

Update: Carly counts 4 herons, but I swear there were five last night. Perhaps one flew away? Let's try the other picture, one that I saturated a bit to make the herons more visible:

And now I've found the easier way to do a flickr link!

Be sure to check Carly's blog Ellipsis each month for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot!