Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weekend Assignment #363: (Almost) Scammed!

For Weekend Assignment #363: Scammed!, I asked,

Weekend Assignment #363: Scammed!
Have you ever been successfully scammed? Was it a phone fraud, a phishing email, a trojan worm, or something else? How did they fool you, and what have you learned from the experience?

Extra Credit: Tell us about a scam that didn't succeed in tricking you.
I think I was hit by a Facebook worm once, and an AOL phishing scam years ago (well, it would have to be years ago, wouldn't it?). My credit card issuers get hit more often than I do. On numerous occasions in the past several years, a bank has sent me a new card and a new card number long before the old one expired. It almost always turned out that the bank was worried that some credit card database had been hacked. On several more occasions, a bank called to ask whether I really spent money outside my usual spending patterns, or I noticed something I didn't authorize. Sheesh.

But scams can be much more interesting than that. Last week, a guy with a heavy Asian (India/Pakistan or something) accent call the land line here, claiming that "Your computer has a virus." Which computer? Mine? John's? The iPad? I didn't ask him that, though. "Go to your computer and let me show you," he said. Yeah, right. First of all, the land line interferes with my internet connection. It's not supposed to, but it does. Second, this guy has not told me anything that indicates he knows anything about me or my computer whatsoever. He has not used my name, identified the operating system, mentioned the presence of more than one computer or the broadband connection, etc. Third, if someone could somehow detect that your computer - yes, yours! - had a virus, wouldn't the logical way to contact you be online rather than by phone? Fourth and finally, I have both Norton and McAfee. If they can't protect me, no random guy on the phone is swooping in to save me.

So I told the guy I wasn't going to take his word for anything or give him access to my computer, and I hung up on him. Then I did a little research. Apparently there are companies that claim you have viruses, and install something on your computer that shows you these alleged viruses, in some cases leaving a big warning on your screen that you can't close. Then they tell you that Norton and other companies can;t help with this, and sell you something to save your computer from this thing they just caused, which according to what I read doesn't work. Nice, huh? And I'm not convinced that any of this is a virus in the usual sense. When I was Googling for images to put in this week's Weekend Assignment computer screen picture, I found a picture of a window reporting the presence of viruses, or something. (I didn't save the image, for reasons that will soon become clear.) When I clicked on it from the Google Images search page, it took me to a little dialog box that quickly started racking up the count of alleged viruses on my computer. I closed it after a few seconds, and Norton hasn't found anything since then but tracking cookies. My guess is that the thing was a very realistic animated gif, designed to show anyone and everyone that their computer is infected, and desperately needs the scammers' solution. But it was still pretty alarming!

There's one other telephone scam I heard about recently from a friend with Fibromyalgia and other health issues. Arizona voters recently passed a medical marijuana law (again), and my friend is interest in pursuing this for pain management. Although her doctor has already approved her for this, a naturopathic doctor's office has been trying to pressure her to pay him $150 for an appointment to obtain eventual access to medical marijuana. My friend initially made an appointment, checked with her own doctor, and did not go to the other alleged doctor. She further called the state's consumer protection division to alert them of the probably scam, but apparently the woman on the phone was disinclined to investigate, since my friend was not actually out any money.

So, tip of the week: if someone calls you up wanting to help you clean up your computer's viruses or get yourself some medical pot, don't believe them!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

EMPS: Historic Tucson

And now for the NEW Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot! I don't want to let the week slip by again, and I suspect I won't have time this week to get out for a ramble with the camera. So let's dip into the archives for this week's topic, which is

Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #117: Historical Places

I've been to many places around Tucson that are historic in one way or another, and taken pictures of all of them. For example, I've been to Fort Lowell Park, site of a fort from 1873 to 1891. I posted photos of it for a past Round Robin Photo Challenge, but here's one I haven't used before:

From Fort Lowell, Arizona

Another place I've photographed extensively is the Historic Depot - and yes, it's actually called that. The old train station in downtown Tucson was very important in the early growth of the city. It's also where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shot a man named Frank Stanton. Here's a 2005 photo of my dad with Wyatt and Doc:

From The Historic Depot

And if that's not enough, the Historic Depot is across the street from Hotel Congress, where John Dillinger once stayed, and it led to his being captured soon afterward.

Dillinger Days 2008. From My Tucson

And here's Agua Caliente Park, where people used to come and "take the waters" back in the late 1800s:

From My Tucson

That'll do for now. If I get time, maybe I'll take some new photos of old places for this next weekend.


EMPS: A Mixed Drink

Carly's asking for a picture of a cold drink, and it's not as though I haven't had any this week; but I got distracted and didn't photograph one until now.

Normally I like to mix fruit juices with diet soda, but it doesn't work as well with diet cola as with Diet 7-Up and its rivals or else diet orange. Diet Pepsi is all I have right now, so cranrasblackapple juice it is!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Round Robin: The Blustery Edge of Spring

This week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, as suggested by Suzanne R of SuzyQ421'S Photo Blog, is "Winter Meets Spring." Living in Tucson, where wintry weather is rare and spring is nearly undetectable, I had serious doubts that I would find anything suitable. But on March 21st, which I usually think of as the first day of spring, the weather was extremely blustery. At the hanger-like building I work in northwest of Tucson, the wind whistled down the hallway all day long. I came out after work, drove toward the freeway and photographed this:

and this:

Chasing further pictures for this Challenge, I got off the freeway several exits closer to town, and photographed this:

Unfortunately once I did so I was pretty much forced back onto the freeway going the wrong way, back toward Phoenix.

I soon turned around and headed to Tucson, only to get off on what I hoped would be the scenic route. It made the drive home much longer, and I never really got a good vista to photograph. The best I managed was this:

When I got home, though, the sky over Calle Mumble did not disappoint:

So that was how Winter met Spring in Tucson this year--except that it turns out that it wasn't the first day of Spring after all. According to one of those websites that list easily obtained facts in the hope that you'll click on them and see their ads, we're halfway through a run of six years in a row in which Spring starts on the 20th instead of the 21st. Really? How did that happen?


Now let's see the juxtaposition of Winter and Spring in the other Robins' cameras!

Linking List:
As of 10:58 AM MST

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Erin - Posted!
A Hardcore Life

Day One

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Shutterly Happy

Hip Chick's Home

Cheryl Ann **Welcome, new participant!** - Posted!

Ruth - Posted!
ScrabbleQueen Knits, Too

Peggy - Posted!
Who Can Discover It?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weekend Assignment #362: Two Cinnamon Candles and Clear Plastic Tape

For Weekend Assignment #362: Emergency! I asked:

Weekend Assignment #362: Emergency!
How prepared are you for emergency situations? Do you know how to do CPR? Does your home or business have an evacuation plan or do fire drills? Do you have a generator, duct tape, candles, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sandbags or other emergency supplies on hand? Why or why not?

Extra Credit: Does your smoke detector (if you have one) have fresh batteries in it?

Listen, it's a darn good thing we don't live near an ocean, in a tornado alley or war zone, or near a major fault line.  We are so unprepared for emergencies that I feel a little guilty as I admit to you the Awful Truth: our entire stash of emergency supplies consists of two cinnamon and nutmeg votive candles and two partially used boxes of matches. I was going to say that at least we have duct tape, but John corrected me. What we actually have is several rolls of clear plastic tape, suitable for mailing packages. I mentioned this accounting of our disaster preparation inventory to John: two candles and clear plastic tape. "We're ready!" John asserted ironically.

Around here, there's a very slight chance of a minor earthquake, but I've never felt one, anywhere. Not a real one, anyway. In the early 1970s, I once reported a possible earthquake in Manlius NY to a local tv station. The station's news anchor called me back to explain that what actually shook the ground that day was an excess of explosives used in doing some blasting at nearly Green Lakes State Park. I never found out what the blasting was for.

Tornadoes are possible in Tucson, but again, I've never seen one, only dust devils. Obviously we get no blizzards around here. The big danger, which might sound counterintuitive for a desert city, is flooding. Anyone who builds on a "500 year floodplain" around here is asking for trouble. Up in the mountains there is also the danger of wildfire, but in the city, not so much.

I guess John and I aren't very big on preparing for low-probability disasters. That's probably foolish of us. In fact, I'm tempted to either put batteries in our smoke detector for the first time in a decade, or replace it with a better one. It used to drive us crazy, beeping whenever we cooked or took a shower. But what the heck: we have a working alarm system. It consists of two dogs, Cayenne and Pepper. Day and night, they are on alert, protecting us from all dangers. Well, maybe not all dangers, but at least from cats in the alleyway!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weekend Assignment #361: Giving It Up!

For Weekend Assignment #361: Give It Up!, I asked...

Weekend Assignment #361: Give It Up!
Lent has begun, and in certain denominations, people are "giving up something for Lent" - in other words, not indulging in some pleasurable food or activity between now and Easter. Have you ever abstained from something for a period of time for a religious or spiritual purpose? What was it? How successful were you at avoiding it?
Extra Credit: Regardless of whether you believe in doing so, if you were to give up something you enjoy between now and April 24th, what would it be?

For years, Father Smith at St. Michael's has sort-of advocated against "giving up something for Lent," suggesting instead that one do something positive. Some years I've made a special effort to read specific parts of the Bible, catch up with my webmastering duties for church, do some kind of volunteer work, or some other attempt at a Good Thing. Often, though, I fall back on the same kinds of Lenten sacrifices that many folks do. I've given up, or tried to give up, a number of things over the years:

Mahjong. One year, I gave up playing Mahjong on the computer for Lent. It was one of the games on a Disney Mulan software package, and I'd become quite addicted. Giving it up cold turkey was a really good thing to do. Did it bring me closer to God? I'm not sure, but I certainly don't regret my choice that year.

Ice Cream. Okay, this one is not very original. I think I held to it pretty well, though.

Carbs A disaster. Trying to lose weight in general, or do a low-carb regimen, has never worked for me during Lent. Maybe it's too ambitious - or maybe, that's more about doing something for myself than doing something for God, and not applying any discipline or motivation. I'm not likely to try this one again. Not at Lent, anyway. Now, a New Year's Resolution, on the other hand...!

So what am I doing this year? I'm giving up french fries. Yes, it's seriously unoriginal. Thing is, though, I hit fast food and hamburger places fairly often, and it's all too easy to automatically go for the combos. I'm not even that big a fan of fries, so why do I get them? Well, for now I'm not getting them any more, and at least trying to make this a sacrifice rather than a self-serving thing. I'm not sure how to do that, to be honest. Also, I accidentally ate one french fry the other day.

But I'm trying to do a positive thing, too. I'm taking over the church newsletter, The Messenger. I'm a little nervous about it; it's been more than a decade since I last edited a newsletter. But I'd better tackle it soon: it's due out in two weeks!


See also: beliefnet: What I'm Giving Up For Lent

Sunday, March 13, 2011

EMPS: Cell Phones and Potato Bags

For this week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, Carly wants to see what the cameras on our cell phones can do. As it happens, I was at a new burger joint recently without my "real" camera, so I took a bunch of pictures with my Samsung/Verizon phone. Here are the best of them:

The name of the chain is 5 Guys Burgers and Fries. Or something like that. Like Whataburger and In-N-Out Burger, they have a red and white retro look to the decor and signage. Unlike the other chains, however, this extends to the display of red and white bags of potatoes. This reinforces the fact that the fries are hand cut and made fresh from whole potatoes. (In-N-Out makes theirs from actual fresh potatoes as well.)

Another unusual thing they do with their potatoes is use them for crowd control. The line from the cash register, which that night went all the way back to the main entrance at the other end of the room, is herded past a barrier of stacked potato bags. The crowd thus becomes a captive audience for a wall full of glowing food reviews and testimonials from around the country.

When some new food chain hits Tucson, large numbers of Tucsonans show up to check it out. About ten years ago, when Krispy Kreme first opened here, people drove across town and stood in line for twenty minutes or more for the dubious privilege of eating a fresh glazed doughnut. About four years ago, In-N-Out Burger arrived, and the local press reported a 90-minute wait for their wares. The In-N-Out people hired a large staff to process as many people as possible as efficiently as possible, and did so very well. Even so, it was quite a while before one could get one of their burgers in 10 minutes instead of half an hour or more. Now it's 5 Guys turn. At this newest location, the wait was about half an hour, I think.

So was it worth it? Well, I wouldn't want to wait that long for a burger every night, but yes, it was good. The basic cost is a bit higher than at most places, but for that you can add as many toppings as you like in any combination you want. I got mine with cheese, ketchup, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato. John's had jalapeños and I forget what else. Needless to say, however. John did not join me in line for all this. John does not like lines. At all.

When I pulled these pictures off my phone tonight, I discovered that the little card in it is well on its way to being corrupted. I'm lucky these photos survived long enough to be posted. All, in all, though, I think my cell phone did okay that night.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Round Robin: Ages 98 and Up

This week's Round Robin Photo Challenge is called "Ages." I asked people to show us "not just one age, but a comparison, a contrast." As busy as I've been recently, I haven't been able to take any relevant photos, so I'm dipping into my archives to show you Eva, one last time.

I met Eva Osburn on May 18th, 2003, her 98th birthday. That was nearly two years before I got my first decent digital camera, so I have no pictures of her that young. The shot above is my earliest one of her, taken ten days before she turned 100 years old. Here she is with her daughter Harriett, and Harriet's daughter Irene. Three women, three ages, and a strong family resemblence.

Eva's 100th birthday party was a multi-generational affair. I think it was at the home of her great-granddaughter. The little girl here is a great-great granddaughter. The photo is blurry but I like it.

At age 102 (and a half!) Eva was still fairly active, but she did move in with Harriett. And a dog.

The following year she moved on into an assisted/independent living facility, where she remained until her final days. Here she is on her birthday in 2008, age 103. A retired nurse, Eva saw herself as a helper and advocate for her fellow residents.

And here she is the day she turned 104, May 18th, 2009. She died in April, 2010, so she didn't quite make it to 105. But 104 is pretty impressive! At her funeral, the electric bell at St. Michael's tolled 104 times. It seemed to take forever.

Now let's see what ages the other Robins have photographed!

Linking List
as of March 12th, Midnight MST

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Day One

sugar and spice and everything gneiss

Nancy Luvs Pics

The ScrabbleQueen Knits, Too

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

I have to work on Saturday, possibly at both jobs, but I'll catch up with you again Saturday evening!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weekend Assignment #360: Old Toy

Weekend Assignment #360: Toy Show
Do you have any old toys or dolls from your childhood, either the originals or replacements purchased as an adult? If so, tell us about them.
Extra Credit: Is there a particular toy from your childhood that you especially remember as a favorite?

Yes, I'm late in answering, but give me a break. Last weekend I worked six days, followed by the toy show on Sunday, followed by my usual Sunday errands - well, some of them. Then came the new work week, complete with my 40 miles each way commute. Yesterday I worked at both jobs, followed by Ash Wednesday mass in the evening. Then today was my birthday, which included the usual commute, an eight-hour work day, and then coming home to discover my monitor had mysteriously gone dark. A trip to Staples just as mysteriously resulted in it working again, but now I've got a hub that isn't functioning. Arrgh. Then was the birthday dinner at Kon Tiki, and here I am. Point is, I'm a busy beaver these days, and still not over my bronchitis. Is it any wonder I'm a bit distracted?

So, anyway.

I do have exactly one toy that I owned when I was six. You've seen him before, and I'm not exactly sure where he is at the moment. But here's a file photo:

This is Trophy. He was a present from my godmother, Joan F., after I was formally baptized in the Catholic church at the age of six. Trophy arrived on a red plush pillow (not this one), which to my childish eyes made him look like some kind of a trophy.

I'm not sure Trophy was my favorite toy, but he's an integral part of my childhood. One time, a dog got hold of him and tore off part of one leg, but an aunt of mine sewed him back together. That was when I was staying with my dad's family in New Jersey. while my mom was in the hospital with polio-encephalitis. On later occasions I repaired him myself, restuffing him with tissues and I think Elmer's Glue.

Furthermore, Trophy was the first of a string of stuffed animals that I collected and hung onto until high school.  I remember the list, in order of acquisition: Trophy, Snoopy, Percy, Timmy, Toothy, Eeyore/Yonker, Pooh, Timothy. Snoopy was not the Peanuts dog, but a different Snoopy dog. Percy was a panda, Timmy a tiger. Toothy was, I insisted, a giroo (giraffe/kangaroo cross), not a green brontosaurus with leopard spots. Pooh I made myself out of an old coat lining. Timothy was a bear I bought myself once when I was a bit depressed.

I gave most of my stuffed animals to a younger next door neighbor during high school. His alcoholic mother promptly threw them away. Shame. I would gladly have taken them back. Then again, my dad would probably have innocently sold them at the infamous yard sale while I was out of town, the year of the divorce. But I still have Trophy, and I think Snoopy and Toothy. Somewhere.

Most of my other toys these days are replacements. I have at least one of every Barbie-related doll I had as a child, plus some that friends had.  I have a Bunson Bernie Kiddle, like the one my dad gave me circa 1965, and a Jan doll like the one my mom bought me in 1963. I even have a Fisher-Price toy radio that plays "Jack and Jill," like the one I had when I was four; and two Chatty Baby dolls like the one my parents gave me one Christmas instead of the Chatty Cathy I'd asked for.

It's silly, I know, but I enjoy getting back some of these well-remembered toys, even if they aren't the originals. John does the same. That's one reason we go to the annual toy show held every March in Tucson. Our collections are advanced enough these days that we seldom find anything that we owned once, want to own again, and haven't already gotten. But at Sunday's toy show I did spend $5 on a Hot Wheels case, not because I had one originally (I didn't), but to display my small collection of replacement Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.

And John? He bought a dollar's worth of vintage bottle caps, and a couple of old comic books.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

EMPS: Mardi Gras = Pancake Day

Carly's looking to celebrate Mardi Gras is the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot this week, but
instead I'd like to show you a related tradition for that very same day. "Fat Tuesday" (which is what Mardi Gras literally means) is basically one last blowout before the fasting and penance of Lent, which starts tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. In New Orleans and elsewhere, this takes the form of a Carnival, with parades and costumes and parties and lots of cheap beads. But in the more buttoned-down culture of England, and in Episcopal and several other Christian sects, the celebration is a bit tamer. In England, and at St. Michael's, today was Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day.

Father Smith serves the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper at St. Michael & All Angels.

So after work today, I picked up my friend Kevin and headed over to St. Michael's, where pancake-flipping was already in progress. Father Smith had specifically invited John as well, but John, as always, declined. We had a good turnout, though. The church treasurer and several past and present Vestry members did most of the cooking, making dozens of pancakes and several kinds of sausage. Father Smith served up the pancakes - limit two per person to start, please!

Coffee or juice?

There were several kinds of syrup brought in by parishioners. Beverage choices ranged from coffee to diet cranberry-blueberry drink to apple or orange juice.

Al DeAugustine finally gets to taste what he made.

But yes, there were Mardi Gras beads as well!

The idea behind Shrove Tuesday is to use up certain foods before fasting begins, and to fortify yourself for Lent. That's why it's called Fat Tuesday; it's the time to indulge in all that food before the self-denial begins. Like New Year's Resolutions, Lent is a time when people tend to go on a diet, or try to give up smoking or drinking. "I'm giving up ice cream for Lent" is a sentence one hears a lot this time of year in certain quarters. But really, the idea is meant to be about penance and sacrifice as a way of growing closer to God, not about doing something for your waistline. (Father Smith likes to encourage people to do something positive for Lent, rather than giving something up.) Still, there's no reason you can't do both!


Sunday, March 06, 2011

EMPS: Not Very Oopsy

This week for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, Carly asked for "oops" photos, pictures that depict some kind of a mistake. I've been struggling with the concept all week, and haven't really solved it. It's not that I never make mistakes - far from it - but they aren't necessarily appropriate for photography. For example, last Sunday I had printer troubles as well as the flu and bronchitis, and consequently made a bit of a hash of payroll at St. Michael's. But I can't really show you my voided paychecks, or the red line items on the computer screen denoting them!

So instead you get a series of photos that lamely skirt the edges of the subject.

For example, last Sunday it snowed briefly as I circled a hospital parking lot, looking for a space (there's one! Oops! It's labeled for clergy only) and waiting for my friend Kevin to briefly visit our friend J., who was in there with congestive heart failure and pneumonia. But oops! 1. My attempt to photograph snow wasn't very successful, and 2. J. had already been discharged back to Devon Gables for rehab.

Also last Sunday: oops! Somebody dropped this pin in church. I posted a notice on the church blog asking, "Did you lose your heart?"

Today was the air show, or just maybe a minor one leading up to a major one later this month. Three and sometimes four mismatched planes were circling and performing tricks in formation for much of the afternoon. But on my first attempt to photograph them, oops! I mostly just photographed the DQ sign. Can you see the tiny shapes of the planes?

Here's a better shot. But oops - the dark one is lagging behind a bit!

ETA: This turns out to be part of the Heritage Flight Conference, in which pilots train to fly in a formation representing the history of Air Force aircraft. Read about it here and here. Also, it tuns out that there's no air show here this year. Phooey. I can't remember another year when there wasn't one.

Busy day in Tucson: we also went to the annual toy show this morning. We didn't find many new exhibits for the Museum of the Weird, but I was intrigued by this pile of old self help books, especially the one on the lower left. But oops! Somebody didn't do a good job of protecting these from mold and the elements! I would probably have an allergy attack just trying to read about psychoanalyzing my neighbors.

Last one. This is the cassock the nuns at the Benedictine Sanctuary, specifically Sister Joy Ann, made for me before Christmas. One day I stood up too fast after kneeling for confession, and oops! tore off several buttons when I caught my foot on the fabric! A parishioner had to sew on little patches around those torn buttonholes.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Weekend Assignment #358: Careering Along

For Weekend Assignment #359: Career Day 2, I asked,

Weekend Assignment #359: Career Day 2
It's often said that most people will change careers several times over the course of their working lives. If money, age and educational resources were all conducive to your trying another line of work, would you do so? If so, what new career would you choose?

Extra Credit: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nine years ago, I went back to school to study for a degree in a field that my younger self would never, ever have considered: accounting. When my mom, back in the 1970s, used to extoll the joys of bookkeeping, English (and Film) Major Karen thought she was, if not actually crazy, at least charmingly eccentric. Accounting? Me?

No, I was going to be a Writer, with (possibly) a capital R! I was going to write my novel about Rani and his friends, and original screenplays, and maybe television. And just in case that wasn't a practical career choice, I was going to own a used bookstore, and type my scripts in between customers. That was the plan.

Jenny at Rockarama
Outside Rockarama with Jenny Dog, circa 1983
Of course it didn't quite work out that way, but I did in fact co-own and manage a store as a young adult, selling a few used books but mostly used records and related merchandise (posters, buttons, patches and so on). It never made us any money, so we used to subsidize it by selling our wares at record shows nearly every weekend in nearby Midwestern cities. Eventually I had to get a real job, working for someone else's record store. Over the years I've worked at Friendly Ice Cream, McDonald's, two record store chains, two video store chains, five travel agencies, a mortgage company, an RV dealership, a used clothing chain, a manufacturer of aviation equipment, a maker of medical equipment, a church, and several other organizations of one sort or another, I've read textbooks to a blind grad student, and gone door to door as an enumerator for R.L. Polk.

And most of those jobs earned me little more than minimum wage, in a few cases even less than minimum. The whole point of going back to school was to become more employable in a field that pays well. That worked at first, but then the economy tanked, and I'm only now getting back to working more or less full time for a decent wage.

Would I change careers again? I have to tell you, when I took ten weeks of Business Law in the fall of 2003, I got all excited about it. I really loved learning about legal decisions and the reasoning behind them. Were it not for my age, money issues and the fact that I hate confrontations, I'd have switched to law school then and there. I'd still love to split the difference, and do forensic accounting and fraud examination. But first I'd need to get through the CPA exam, and more exams besides.

Well, it could happen, but don't count on it. I've a better chance of selling the novels than of becoming a CFE. Actually, I'd rather sell the novels!

What was my childhood ambition, even before the dreams of writing? At first, under the influence of Albert Payson Terhune, Walter Farley and Jim Kjelgaard, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I realized I couldn't handle the blood and guts and dead puppies, so I switched to the idea of being a dog breeder. The plan was to breed Pomeranians back up to sled dog size. In reality, I have never owned a purebred dog, unless it was the stray Labrador puppy I had for a few weeks once; and as responsible dog owners we've always had our dogs spayed if they weren't that way already.

One more potential career change is probably worth a mention. My dad really enjoyed my tour guide schtick during his recent visit to Tucson, and I did briefly aspire to be a nature guide back in the 1980s. I can see me taking charter tour groups around Arizona twenty years from now, if there were a market for that sort of thing.

Then again: maybe I should be a lion tamer!