Sunday, December 30, 2012

Xmas Fun From the Dark Side

You like your traditional Xmas carols, right?  They get played so much for a few weeks each year that you might beg for some diversity. Remember the fun when Manheim Steamroller turned them into rock hits years back? Perhaps you like all the variations of 12 Days, like the one which always ends "and a beer". Or better yet "Christmas Countdown" which details the consequences of actually receiving those 12 days of gifts.

Well, there's something new, a special treat for those who like a little twist with our carols. Start with turning them into minor key variations, and them pairing them with classics like "Ride of the Valkyries", "Sorcerer's Apprentice", "Funeral March of the Marionettes", better known as Alfred Hitchcock's theme. If you're up for some fun, check these out. Better yet, pass them around.  The first is "Santa and Isolde", not a minor key transformation, by Bruce Adolphe. The last two are David Lovrien's "Minor Alterations" and "Minor Alterations No. 2".

Bah Humbug

It's finally over. Hooray. It hasn't been a great Xmas.

It hasn't been that horrible either.

The worst part, of course, has been leaving Steve in Arizona and returning to Minnesota. Home. Family. Friends. Snow. Ice.  All in all a mixed bag, one I've spent 60 years in. Had the family not lived outside just Atlanta for nearly 4 years when the kids were small, I wouldn't have considered an alternative. Had my folks not turned into snowbirds during their retirement, I wouldn't have fallen in love with Arizona.

While global warming is making winters here milder, I am growing to hate them more. Each fall there is a point where the realization of impending winter puts a chill over my spirit. This year it didn't happen. It was to be different. The chill came much later, once things weren't to be so different after all.

It will be again. Just not yet.

I haven't been in a position to host my traditional Xmas family dinner. Steph held it instead and I am grateful. The new extended family held theirs at the same time and I wasn't able to attend. I missed that after participating for three years. It matters not a whit that I would have missed both of them had I stayed in Arizona. I still went dragged into the season kicking and screaming.  Bah humbug!

No tree went up, though there's a little fiber optic one in the basement.  Presents were packaged but mostly not wrapped, at least those not already given before departing for Arizona. Cards and letters were sent out, though late enough most arrived after the day.

It's behind now. Time for looking ahead. Work, the reason for the return, is going well. People tell me I'm appreciated. This week end there'll be a "normal" check deposited into the bank. The following week a CD will be cashed in, credited to 2013, and taxes and bills will be paid down. It'll be time for starting again, building back the resources, planning the vacation/reunion.

Planning. That's a good thing. A new year is coming. I'm ready for it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Small Change in Plans

It started with a postcard. Or at least this latest incarnation did. I love southwest pottery. A piece here, a piece there. The first were cheap, affordable. Gradually I got fussier, more discerning. Eventually I discovered Acoma, the more detailed the better. But then there was the postcard, showing several high end pieces of Hopi pottery. A museum collection. I blew a whole quarter on it, mounted it on the fridge, and began a new obsession.

On the trip home from Arizona I took a few breaks at spots selling pottery, scoping out what was available. Not much, and nothing I was interested in. No Hopi. No budget either, so no big problem.

Come X-mas, and a gift card arrived for a major chain store. I decided to make a swap. Put the card against the staples budget, and devote the funds not taken from bank funds towards a small piece of Hopi pottery. I'd been scoping the internet and found a growing appreciation for the artistry (and prices!) and a few items within that budget. One, my favorite, was in an eBay auction, and several others on the site at firm prices.

It was not to be. The auction went way over my budget. There were issues with the little pieces, such as just how little they were. Ever heard of an ant pot? Just a bit bigger than a thimble, used by filling with honey and placing somewhere you wanted ants to be rather than where you and your food were. Other pieces were a hair bigger but the painting was sloppy when looked at carefully. And they were only a hair bigger. I decided not to part with my money.


On a whim, I checked out another favorite site, They had a couple pieces way over my budget. No go. But they also had several books on Hopi pottery, as well as other kinds of southwest pottery. (Note to self: check out Mata Ortiz. And find a bigger budget and/or more patience.) At any rate, the books I could afford, in used versions. Once they arrive I can spend some time researching, appreciating, and deciding what I really want while I wait for the budget to catch up.

Just a small change in plans.

Friday, December 21, 2012

If the World Ends...

12-21-12. The end of the ancient Mayan calender. Some drama queen somewhere decided that meant they knew the world would end today. I choose not to go along with that idea. Some scribe back then just decided a distant ancestor could carry on his work: he'd gotten arthritis in his hands and needed to retire. I attest that the end-of-the-world concept has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I haven't made the latest payment on my credit card yet. Honest! I'm waiting for another bill to come in first. Once that's paid, the balance minus a bitty cushion will go on the card.

But there is a segment out there who believe that not only is the end of the world coming soon, they need to stock up on guns and ammo to prepare for it. I have a question for them: if the world is really ending, then what do you need those guns for?

It's over. This means you too. He who dies with the most guns is still dead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

From the No-Cook Recipe File: Holiday Yogurt

Not everybody is lucky enough to have tree-ripened oranges, courtesy of a going away present from good friends in Arizona, but you can make do.

I start with a big container (4 servings they way they call it) of Dannon's  plain unsweetened Greek yogurt. Right now it's both best ( flavor, additives, protein and carb levels) and cheapest. And I have to watch the carbs, of course. Take one of those oranges and grate half the peel to add. Peel the rest and cut the slices, minus the rare seed, into pieces. A second orange can be added if your tastes and carb allowances allow. Add a rounded teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 cup craisins, and half a cup chopped walnuts or pecans. If you want it sweeter, add a rounded tablespoon stevia or sucralose (Splenda, etc.) A little goes a long way with those. Stir it all together and either eat immediately or set aside for up to a couple days and let the flavors blend. The craisins help absorb the extra liquid the yogurt weeps.

For me the one-orange version divides into two full meals, easily packed into a cooler for breakfast and lunch.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Questions, Post-Shooting

After listening to the coverage for most of a day, feelings are still running high. One is tempted to think that they can be better managed if one can only get the answers to certain questions.

Chief among those is, "Why?" It presupposes that that answer brings with it a way of preventing more of these tragedies. We wish to believe if we know why each shooter did his act, we can find the cues to stop more of them. So we dig. And we lay out the facts as if they meant something.

We can describe the shooters, find patterns. Mostly male, young, finding themselves aggrieved, having often legal access to guns. Mental illness seems guaranteed, whether or not there's an established history, for how could any sane individual even contemplate such an act, let alone carry it out? And there is no explanation which can really  explain what happened  in a way to make it comprehensible.

But each of these characteristics describe tens of millions of us. Collectively they still describe many thousands. If they were clues, wouldn't they be predictive? And wouldn't there be many many more of these tragedies? Only after the fact do we even sort these things out as we scrutinize the shooters' lives. But we seem to be missing the trigger, the one thing that spurs each of these people to violence, the one thing that lets them step across that line, the one thing which separates them from us.

We need to separate them from us. And from our neighbors. We need not to be them or to be around them. How on earth do we do that?

It's easy to fasten on to a single facet. Take gun control. If there were no easy access to -pick your weapon or ammunition - this couldn't happen. Perhaps. We can look to similar incidents happening in China, school attacks by men wielding knives. Yesterday, the same time the news broke, there was a report of an attack on 32 children. They were wounded, not killed. Make of that what you will, but can it stop these attacks? Will it be enough to lessen their severity? Likely there are 20 sets of Connecticut parents right now who would choose that option if they could. But would it be enough?

Or take bullying. If we stop that in schools, surely countless lives will be improved, a goal worthy in itself. But will it be what stops these shootings?

Or take mental illness. There are many kinds and many levels of illness. So many of the mentally ill are non-violent, and even those who are not would never contemplate this kind of act. If we fasten on this facet, we are picking the meaningless. It merely serves to separate ourselves from the incomprehensible.

Some will take their meager comfort in the idea that it is "God's Will". What kind of a God wills this? The follow up phrase is always that we are merely human and God is unknowable. Trying to come to grips with that issue through the ages has driven many from their faiths. Whatever kind of Creator or force you hold responsible for us all being here, it seems apparent there is no effort to prevent these events outside of our own. Justify that any way you please. Then ask yourself what is your personal responsibility now?

This particular time there was a horrible difference. The reports are all of persons killed. Not ___ dead, ____ wounded. They haven't explained yet. Were the victims shop with a - pardon - dead aim, kill shots all? Or shot so many times they bled out before help arrived? Or shot with such damaging bullets that too much damage was done to allow survival?

We as a nation are left with grief. Some level of fear.  And our questions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Home" Again

At least I came in behind the storm: 16-18" just a few miles from home.

Saturday morning I left bright and early. Lots of miles to go (740 that day) and losing an hour with the time zone change. I kept an internet eye on the weather before leaving, so I knew about the storm. But I also knew that I wasn't expecting any precip until nearly home. The only thing the weather people lied about was the temperatures. Those dropped much faster then predicted, spurred by a brisk northwest wind from the time I poked my head out in Amarillo Sunday morning.

Koda quickly learned to take his potty breaks in a hurry, still sporting his Arizona hot-weather haircut.

Arizona scenery was both familiar and not. I expected snow on top of the San Francisco Peaks in December, but found only a trace via the rear-view mirror as I headed east away from the mountain. The air was much cleaner once I left The Valley, enabling me to actually appreciate mountains more distant than those visible in Phoenix. The other unexpected note was high gas prices in Flagstaff. The local news had announced gas prices were lowest and highest for AZ in Flagstaff and Tucson, respectively.  They got it backwards. I probably could have waited to fill but there's a whole lot of nothing along the road and I didn't want to take any risks.

On the other hand, prices only got better as I traveled, until hitting Minnesota where they rose again. The low was $2.959, which of course was spotted 5 miles after taking advantage of what seemed like a great deal at $3.079. C'est la vie.

I made notes of where the likely trading posts were for checking out Navaho pottery on the spring return trip by mileage number of the exit: 341, 257, etc. for Arizona, and for my favorite spots in Oklahoma for other pottery, 108 and 81. 108 in New Mexico for Acoma. I'm hoping to come back through with a budget. If not, I can at least scope them out for later.

Wildlife was scarce, aside from a few roadkills. In Arizona I had been treated to lots of birds, rabbits, and even an early morning coyote hauling a rabbit back to it's den. Now the only birds were hawks perched along the road and a single flock of wild turkeys somewhere in the blur of northern Oklahoma/southern Kansas. By the time I hit Missouri there were a few late flocks of Canada Geese, fleeing the weather I presumed. I think they were smarter than I.

Bethany, MO had a nice Super 8 I'd stayed in before, though I passed on their free breakfast, being all carbs. At least they were welcoming to dogs, and I secured a room right next to the exit for dogwalking purposes. Both nights I parked under major lights at the motels, and the fully loaded car was not disturbed. I was not going to completely empty out the car and refill it, and had packed even valuables in old cardboard boxes with anything resembling junk on top. That included a couple ratty blankets (one for the dog), my two-wheeler with bungie cords in lieu of a back, a milk crate with dog supplies, a partial pack of toilet paper, a taped Milk Bones box. The second evening I removed the bottles of water and bags of fresh-picked AZ oranges to make sure they didn't freeze. Even my laptop had been packed up and was inaccessible, so no cares about dealing with a new wi-fi system each night. Heck, I didn't even turn on the TV in either room. The second night offered a recliner so I tucked in with a paperback until my eyelids turned to sandpaper.

The first snow appeared on the north side of Des Moines, just a dusting on the ground, over in about 20 miles. Another appeared later. By the Minnesota border, the snow was solid, with chopped corn stalks and tall grasses breaking the white. Roads were dry until the rest area at Dundas, where sidewalks were a bit icy and Koda had trouble finding a likely spot since he couldn't get near any trees or posts. Roads turned to packed snow/ice just as I hit the metro proper, and finally driving slowed under the posted speeds.

I made it into the area in plenty of time to hit HQ on my way through, chat with dispatchers, and deal with paperwork for starting work here again. Everybody even got to meet Koda, since I didn't trust the car to keep him warm enough while I was inside. I'm all set to start working.

I'm just not working.

It's pretty much the same story it was for starting in Phoenix. There is a single person in Dallas who is responsible for entering drivers in the system so that they can receive runs via the computers. She has no back-up. She wasn't in Monday. She wasn't in yesterday. We don't know about today yet. There are three drivers up here waiting to get on the road, and slow as driving is right now, we are badly needed. Dallas doesn't care.

Yesterday I caught up on missed TV shows recorded on the DVR. I also unpacked, mostly, though the floor in my bedroom is being resurfaced with laminate instead of carpet, and I can't really move back in. I'm sleeping in Steve's bed. My stuff in piled in the living room, where the resemblance to how it looked before we loaded the moving truck in uncanny. Also discouraging. And stressful. Not what I need right now, if ever. The stacks of mail have been gone through, 99% for the recycle pile. The X-mas letter has been typed up, and will be printed once I head out for proper paper.

I headed to WalMart Monday night to pick up perishables, having brought a box of staples back with me, intending to also get Xmas letter paper. The only available shopping scooter had only 2 bars of power left, with 6 being a full charge, so I only got the real necessities. Paper wasn't one of them.

I'm waiting. Out the windows some icicles hang from the roof, the cranberries and Nanking cherries are bowed from the weight of the snow, and everything else waits too. News reports say roads are beginning to improve, and temperatures a hair above freezing for a couple hours are expected to help. They wait for next Saturday's storm to decide whether it will head south or hit here again.

Everything waits.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Preparing for Cold

It's been decided, announced, scheduled, and packing has started. I head north Saturday morning.

With Koda. That will settle just who is/isn't properly housebroken, just who gets into all the foods, who chews furniture and pipes. We've already settled which dog sheds last spring by clipping Koda's coat down to nothing.

He's going to be thrilled by winter almost as much as I am.

There will be both more and less room for stuff in the car. A smaller part of the back seat will be dog bed, and the front passenger seat will hold freight. But things that came down in the moving truck will return in the car, like all my work equipment and uniforms, some of the cool weather duds, cameras and beading stuff. A box of food is already packed, with a single casualty along the way: dropping a chunky soup can on my big toe. Yep, naked toe. Yep, funny in the classic sense. And somehow I managed to avoid chipping the bone as it landed right across the joint, leaving it looking much like a ripe plum.

Yep, funny.

I gave notice yesterday at work here, having given notice of my return last week in Minnesota. They're waiting for me. Down here Alfredo indicated he'd talk to the head guy to see what could be done, but unless they want to double my commission, it's too late. And they won't. But it's nice to be appreciated, on both ends.

That's just the details. Emotionally I'm trying to be shut down right now. I have already cried over missing Xmas with Steve when a particular Xmas carol came on the radio, and vowed that we won't miss any more of them together as long as we can have them together. I checked next year's calendar and decided I can take a week to fly down and barely miss any meaningful work, with the holiday being midweek. There will be two vacations a year, driving Steve and Fred back and forth, maybe varying the route and visiting family in Idaho and Colorado.  This spring it'll be right after tax time, so Steve gets to be in Arizona 6 months plus 1 day, making this his primary residence now that he's part owner of the house. I'll be able to enjoy Arizona again, rather than stressing about work. Driving can be to places we enjoy rather than work or waiting for work that delays coming.

On the positive side, I've learned a whole lot about this area, where things are, how to get there. When it is time to drive out somewhere, I'll know how to get there.  I just can't wait to start to love Arizona again. I haven't now for over a month.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More Bad News

Don't ever ask, "What else can go wrong?" Somebody will be compelled to answer.

When I came home from work today, it was a bit early. There was still light out. I'd tried to stop and get a much-need oil change, but the Econo Lube joint closes early. That was my good luck, as it turned out. Having light enabled me to see the first sign of the problem.

The front entry slab is covered with green astro turf. There was a dark spot on it next to the house. I stopped to check it out, since I didn't remember there being a dark spot anywhere there.

It was wet. I felt it again, just making sure. It was still wet. There was no way it should be wet. I looked over at the pipes coming out of the ground next to the house and there was a little wet spot where the shut-off for the water line into the house was as well.

Having one of those growing sinking feelings, I walked straight into the den, the room on the other side of that wall with the wet spot under it. Good thing I did. Half the floor was wet. It was, of course, the half of the floor that was covered by cardboard boxes we hadn't unpacked yet, rather than the half covered by plastic totes we hadn't unpacked yet.

The next twenty minutes were occupied by Steve and me moving the totes out of their piles to make a base of plastic for the stacks of boxes that got moved on top of them. Several were soaked and had to be emptied, checked, and contents rescued. Somewhere in there we also got out both boxes of rags and threw them all over the floor to soak up the wet spots as much as possible.

Trouble was, as soon as we soaked up everything, more leaked out from the base of the wall over the floor again.

We needed a plumber.

Of course, we had no idea how to find a reputable one rather than a see-how-much-the-traffic-will-bear kind of plumber. You know, like the one we wound up with for the sewer repair. The next door neighbor had mentioned a better cheaper plumber, after the sewer repair had been finished, sort-of. Steve headed over to find out the name, but it's a holiday weekend and he wasn't home.
There were lights across the street, but she (Naoma) is new here and hasn't needed to find a plumber herself yet. She did show up a few minutes later with a wet vac to help with the mess, however, as well as helping with the shut-off valve and bringing over a gallon of filtered drinking water for our use while the house water is shut off. (I didn't tell her I've been drinking unfiltered water in my lunch jug because the ice cubes come that way. Lemon slices hide the taste. I don't seem to have been poisoned yet.)

Now for the yellow pages. The first choice just rang and rang. Not even an answering machine. The second gave voice-mail, so I left a message. I'm an optimist. The third advertised no extra charge for evenings, weekends or holidays, 24/7 service, and had an answering service which promised to call a tech for us if we would wait a few minutes for him to call. We did and he did. About 20 minutes later his truck pulled up at the end of our driveway.

I showed him the wet spots, inside and out, and he looked in the space for the water heater, dug a bit of dirt around the pipes coming out of the ground, and offered his conclusion. I had been envisioning tearing the wall apart to find a leak and requiring a repair of the major construction variety.

Nope, not that. We had a slab leak. Translation: the pipe running under the concrete slab the house sits on had developed a leak somewhere between the shut-off and the water heater. Now I'm envisioning jackhammers or tunneling under the slab and wondering how on earth I can manage that kind of expense.

There followed another 20 minutes of checking out various parts of the house and yard, determining what kind of piping ran where and what the options were. The must beautiful words in the world at that point were "bypass" and "through the attic". I was cautioned that his plan, while leaving the house intact, would route the incoming water around the existing pipping in the front yard and in the process also leave the ability to irrigate the front yard in the dust, so to speak. No biggie, we hadn't used it and had no plans to. If we lost the hoses too, well, we might lose the front pine tree but while a loss, it wasn't the one shading the house.

It still won't be cheap. A wall will have to be opened up to determine where exactly the incoming water hooks up now, likely to the water heater, but we're not sure. Maybe 90% sure. He was going to open the bathroom wall between the door and the shower, but I asked why not the back of the wall, in the water heater closet? He said that would require removing the water heater, but after checking it's installation date, suggested that it might best be replaced now anyway.

So the final plan is to use copper, replacing the galvanized pipe there now and since 1961, coming from the meter to the car port, head up into the attic, across to the water heater, and down into the house again to hook up to the vicinity of a brand new water heater. It'll travel outside the house for a bit, something unthinkable in Minnesota. The old leaky pipe will be bypassed completely. They can even install a connector near the ground outside so we can hook up a hose again and continue to water the pine tree! The back yard watering system (hoses again) won't be affected. And, our water pressure should be even better.

When we commented we had great pressure, he amended that to add checking the pressure and maybe adding a regulator to insure that the pressure is not too high.

We can deal with water from the hoses  filling buckets for sanitary purposes until Monday. We're waiting till then because that gives us time to call the credit union and cash in another CD to cover the expense. But heck, this one's only earning 2.1% interest. I just hate that it adds to the amount of taxes I'll owe for the year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Desert Drive

Weekend before last Steve and I decided we needed to get out of the city. Fortunately, as far west as we are, that's easy to do. I remembered a short jaunt I took my parents on years back, up to see Lake Pleasant back when they were still in the filling-it stage. No amenities, but therre was a spot to pull over and see where the water levels were going to be and get an idea of the future shape of the lake.

Yep, that long ago.

The most noticeable thing at the time was the sharply dwindling supply of cactus, notably saguaros. It had become a crime to remove them from the desert, finally. But now, with so many due to drown, one could go through a beaurocratic process and get a permit to remove one or more to a new location.

Getting there is simple from here, Just head over to 99th Ave and go north. Keep going north. Eventually there will be signs letting you know you're going the right way, and finally signs for where to turn off for various access points.

The first ones will be for private land, well developed with overlooks, a huge marina, and RV park and a store. We took that, having to pay $6 for access. The overlook made it worth it, but made us both regret having no cameras along better than in our cell phones. The weather up north was mixed rain and snow and the clouds were a great accent to the shots. We sat in sunshine, of course, enjoying the weather the best way, from a distance.

Having seen our fill, we decided to head further along the road we had been on and see what else was there. Shortly we arrived at the turnoff for the regional park, another pay-as-you-enter access. Having done that once already, we declined the privilege and turned back to the main drag. Along the way we started noticing funny saguaros, with arms in all directions and all shapes and sizes. If we anthropomorphized them, they became funny beings with individual personalities as shown in their "postures". I found a need to go back with a camera sometime, shoot them, and add captions. One had droopy arms,  cris-crossed arms,  and upright arms, but each pointed a different way. Steve and I both shot it, though the sun disappeared behind a cloud and all we got were silhouettes. Steve thought his should be directing a posse with a "they went thataway" and I thought it should be telling the lost wanderer where home or a water hole was located.

Passing a sign indicating that this road joined Hwy 60, we decided to continue our jaunt. The result was 20 miles of nearly pristine desert, and the surprise of a pack of wild burros, including an adorable white baby, walking along the road. We weren't the first or last car to stop, watch, and take pictures, the last being a county sheriff to monitor things.

The minute we hit Hwy. 60 we entered a different world. Civilization again, but at it's worst. Dingy, depressing, the homes and junk of folks on the edge of modern survival lined the road all along the way back until we hit formal suburbs again. It may not have looked so bad had we not just come from the wilderness we'd just enjoyed.

We'll have to go back.  Soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Driving Arizona

There's much that's different down here, and I don't just mean no icy roads. That does, however, affect how they build, design, and drive on the roads here. Since there's less freeze-thaw pothole creation and expensive repairs, it's easier to make a road last longer, and that makes it cheaper to make the road in the first place. So it can be  wider. Side streets in residential areas aren't affected, but freeways often have, in each direction, an HOV lane plus four or 5 more lanes of through traffic plus the entrance/exit lanes which go just between exits. It starts with the on ramp, connects for half a mile or more until the next exit, giving everybody plenty of time to change speeds and change lanes smoothly.

Contrast that with too many Minnesota freeways which have two lanes plus short merging ramps. There might be three lanes if you are lucky, and very rarely a separated extended merging area between exits.

Drivers down here are more likely to let a merging vehicle into the lane they're in. After all, there's plenty of lanes for them to more over into if a merging vehicle makes their current lane feel a bit crowded. All those lanes do not make for faster rush hours, however. I think there must be a corollary of Murphy's law that says that traffic expands to fit into the available space, and then some, just like you expand into a newer bigger house so it becomes as cluttered and crowded as the older smaller one you just left.

There are a lot of major streets that aren't freeways down here. Lay a grid over the city and every mile will have a major street, 3-4 lanes wide each way, center turn lanes, lights only every several blocks, restricted driveways into/out of those blocks. Typical speed limits are 40 or 45.  There is no on-street parking, and I mean NONE. You pull off into an area in front of stores or businesses, and there will be abundant parking there, with connections to the next lot and the next and next, so you can navigate without returning to the arterial street. A Minnesota block, by contrast, will have lots of driveway entrances and no connectors between the parking fiefdoms owned by each business.

Since it is a major deal to exit and enter each block of businesses, often requiring driving an extra block or two to make a u-turn to access a driveway, they do consistently do a couple of things down here to make it easier to plan in advance where you need to turn. First, all the even address numbers are on the north side of east-west streets, and the west side of north-south streets. Compare that to the Twin Cities where not only are different cities unlike the next but different parts of, say, Minneapolis are different from others. Here you learn one system.

Second, the street signs let you know where in the numbering system you are. One set will tell you where you are in the east-west numbers, and the opposite corner will inform you where you are in the north-south numbers.

Interesting that with all that it still takes forever to get around.

Breaks from driving are a bit different down here as well. Of course, by that I'm talking about rest stops, better known as rest rooms. It's jaw-dropping to me just how many gas stations have either no or closed-to-the public restrooms. The ones which do offer them tend to be a little light on the cleaning part of the equation. Mom would have refused to use most of the ones I've seen, but I tend to hit them when it's very necessary - very, very necessary. I've learned just which business stops offer bathrooms because they tend to be much cleaner and better equipped, say, with soap than the gas stations.

I carry hand sanitizer.

 And perhaps bless the drier climate which makes such stops less frequent.

Another difference is that so many restrooms in Minnesota have gone automated. Toilets flush after you leave, water runs when hands are under the faucet, soap dispenses likewise, towels, dryers and lights have motion sensors. They're all rare down here, and I have yet to find a restroom with all of those in place.

I haven't quite decided how much of the differences in restrooms might be a poor regard for a higher Hispanic population, or how much might simply be a poor regard for strict laws regarding such intrusive things as sanitation. As a newcomer, I may not be the best to evaluate that question.

I have noticed one more curiosity while driving around. It took me several days. There are a very few standard-looking cell towers down here. I began to notice them after I tumbled to what most of them look like: palm trees. That became noticeable after the pruning away of the dead leaves started. I began seeing which were pruned, which still had big bundles of dead leaves hanging down. Then I noticed a third variety, with green both sticking up and hanging down, nicely symmetrical and perfect. Too perfect. Too green. And too full, with what turned out to be green versions of those flat cell tower metal plates surrounding and embedded in the fake foliage. If you're not looking for them, they're well hidden. And very attractive.

That definitely wouldn't work in Minnesota though.


I had actually cheered up this last week, regarding prospects for staying down here through the winter.  Then I checked my bank account on line. I'd started earlier in the week with a couple grand in the account, the amount left after all the moving expenses and the emergency sewer repair.

I got my first week's paycheck deposited. I also paid the early-month bills: utilities down here, insurance payments, a loan payment. The net result is about a grand left in the checking account, two more weeks to find out what something more resembling a real paycheck is like down here, and enough bills to more than deplete what's left. If I have to leave, heading back to Minnesota, the real question will be is there enough to cover bills,  gas home and the next two weeks before a real paycheck comes through again?

Without getting too specific, that first week, after three with no income, would be covered by two days worth of income in Minnesota. Granted, there was a learning curve involved, on both sides: my learning how to get around, and them learning what I'm capable of. The last couple days this week were OK, though I still have no idea just how I'm getting paid per job down here. For some odd reason, the powers that be don't give that kind of information to the drivers when they're actually doing the run. That comes later, attached to a pay sheet summary. Which I haven't seen one of here yet. In Minnesota I had a general idea which runs pay shit, which earn you a tank of gas or more. Here these are new-to-me companies, and I've no idea what kind of deals the company cut with them to outbid the competition.

I'm not overly optimistic. I haven't seen a track record overall which values the workers. We're highly replaceable.

I was hopeful, earlier this week. I'd had what should have been a couple good days. But still, not knowing, and now seeing just how dismal a single week can be. I have never, in 27 years, had a pay week that meager where I worked all five days. Not even my very first week. Not even back when I knew squat about the business or the cities, and the pay was much lower.

The result is a lot of imagining worst-case scenarios, which, if I really think about it, aren't all that worst-case. There are funds I can tap into, but they're tied up in nice CDs right now, and I don't wish to eliminate a good source of interest income. No, the real worst-case scenario is my returning to the land of ice and snow for a few more working winters. At least there is a job up there to return to. I'm getting to like it down here, where 50 degrees has folks shivering and there's always green and no ice under feet or wheels.

I just need a liveable income.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Winter" Remnants

A couple weeks ago the TV broadcasters were in a near panic - if you believed them - about winter arriving in Arizona last weekend. OMG! It was going to drop to the 60's for highs in the valley!

We recovering Minnesotans, now become snowbirds, gave them the mocking they deserved, of course.

It did drop temps, and we heard of snowfall around Flagstaff. Actually, here they project snow by altitude, so much over 5000 feet, so much over 7000. Steve and I simply switched to long pants and sleeves, perhaps a sweatshirt for the evening hours, as I still have refused to turn on the heat  in the house. (Or AC for that matter, as 91 is relatively comfy and open windows cool the house quickly.)

I can now safely say I have seen my snow for the season, as in enough of the white to eliminate any hint of homesickness. I caught a run to Flagstaff yesterday, seeing a trace of the white on a couple of north slopes outside of town. Yep, that was enough.

Of course I was in a great mood, having caught a decent run at last. Topping it off, when I returned I caught another run, this time to Tucson. Nevermind hunting a place in the dark that is so low-profile they don't put their name on the building and their number is tiny and unlit. It was due at 6:31 and I hit it at 6:33 - not bad for hitting the choke points in Phoenix on the way. Speed limits were 75 heading south, and 10 expanded through the area to 3 lanes, enough that those wishing to go 75 can actually do so.

I returned home to find supper waiting, bless Steve, and a mere 623 miles more on the car than when I started the day.

My kind of day!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Tough Decision

There's so much to love down here. The 90 degree temperatures have been surprisingly comfortable. It truly is the humidity, as the cliche goes. Night before last we had what passes for rain: passing sprinkles and two brief (1 min) showers where you could actually hear the rain drop off the roof and hit the ground. As a result, yesterday morning for a couple hours it smelled like the desert, that wonderful scent I fell in love with years ago. I suspect it might be sagebrush, or mainly so. And yesterday while that was still in the air, I emerged from a building with exquisite desert landscaping to see a roadrunner strolling casually away from a spot 10 feet from where I stood.

The problem is finances. Not only did the move cost plenty, but the unexpected sewer repair erased my cushion, on top of which the bills are going up. My auto insurance jumped enough that the combined auto-RV-homeowners bill doubled, now that I'm not living way out in the boonies. Electricity and gas have big start-up costs, and we certainly used plenty of water with 6 people here plus all the cleaning and, again, the sewer repair. Garbage pick-up requires the whole season paid in advance.

On the plus side, energy and water costs should drop back in Minnesota with just two in the house. Gas prices here are coming down a bit, to where I paid $3.41 yesterday. I need to fill up every two days rather than every one, with so little work available. The car got paid off before we left, and major maintenance work done. And Steve listens when he has a wonderful idea but meets with my, "Not yet." His own budget is sending him to the library this morning for their book sale, hoping to return with a basketful of good reading.

So the level of work available is the big crunch factor. It has been increasing, but there are still big gap times, and  the long driving has pretty much been chasing after runs rather than hauling them. That doesn't pay well. Unless they charge way more down here per distance than up in Minnesota, I can't be making a living. I don't know yet. We don't get that information with the runs like we did years ago. We'll get it with our pay stubs, so unless I walk in and convince somebody to cough up that information, I'll know just how dismal it is after Thanksgiving: it's work 2 weeks, get paid the third.

By then I may have decided to be back on my way to Minnesota where I can really earn a living, despite the snow and ice, despite leaving Steve down here to enjoy the climate, no transportation but a scooter with a front basket. That would be a very tough decision, indeed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

First Day at... This Is Work?

The best thing about today is that it's over.

The second best was coming home traveling up Dysert, northward on the western end of the Phoenix area, when all but the very horizon was black, and that lit just enough in a faint gold to outline the western mountain(s?).

I was faithfully on the road logging in at 7AM this morning. Or trying to. After several tries, a phone call that wound up being picked up in Los Angeles because nobody switched them on out here, a later connection with this office, and finally a call back to the Minnesota office for some real  help, we finally discovered that my Blackberry phone number had never been entered in the system down here so it couldn't recognize me.

So could they fix it? Well, either ______ or ______ were the only two who could, and they'd be in at 8, or 9, maybe 10.

Gee, thanks guys.

I was told to head in to HQ for a spot of training in how to deal with one customer. (Couldn't that have been handled when I was in before, either time?) About the time I was getting close, dispatch called with a run coming from the area I'd just left. Rather than send me back, he gave me three slow service runs to get me started. The first was a downtown "slingshot" run, one that could be completed with a good slingshot. A short. Pays zip. At least I knew enough about downtown to drive right to the corners I needed, finding reasonable parking in a maze of alternating one-ways with few spaces to offer. On the other hand, the addressee was on the 20th floor of a building with access only to the elevator lobby of each floor and a phone with numbers to call.

Nobody answered. I tried more. Same story. Eventually I decided to head back to the security desk on the main floor and ask about a mailroom. Nope, don't have one. While dispatch was putting in a query to Dallas as to whether the package could be left without a signature, I decided to go back up and try some more. Lots of people were still arriving to work. Maybe I was just early.

As I was dialing the very last number in her department, finally getting a human voice on the other end, in she walked behind me and hearing her own name, claimed the package.

One down, two to go. This slingshot run had taken 5 minutes of drive time, 35 minutes of loadtime, unchargeable due to no electronic proof.

The next two at least were out of the same pick, 35 blocks north of the street I was parked on. Simple. The first went out to a very fancy hotel/resort/golf course, the kind of place where after you reach the address, you need signs to direct you through the maze of streets and buildings to the end of the road a mile later to the registration desk.

By then _____ was in and called to let me know my number was entered in the system. Try logging on.

Funny enough, I had taken a break in driving to try to do just that. No success. Tried again. Same thing. Head into HQ to get the phone straightened out. OK, just a 10 mile detour to my next drop, but hey, necessary.

You gotta figure by now that with this kind of day, when I got to HQ and handed over my Blackberry, _____ hit the key and it logged in perfectly.

I made my last drop with 45 minutes to spare before it would be late. It went to a residence. The dog was home, but it couldn't sign for the package. Too bad, it would be useful if they could. I called the attached phone number, got the addressee, and was instructed to leave it at the front door. OK, done.

I contacted dispatch and asked whether they wanted me to come back in to a busier spot, but was told to hang out where I was. There was no work.

Nor was there any an hour later. Nor three. Nor 5 1/2 hours later!!!!

This is the perfect recipe for paranoia: no work, lousy communication, and you start to wonder just how soon you're going to  have to return to Minnesota and how Steve's going to cope without a car down here? How big a mistake was this? Is it personal? Because I'm female? How badly did they lie to me about the availability of work? And why is this branch of the company such a rinky-dink outfit?

At about 5:30 I called in for my last time of the day and begged to be told that this day was not at all typical of what I was going to find down here. I'm used, after all, to working my behind off. (Unfortunately, only figuratively.) He assured me (?) that in fact it was very unusual, that after noon he had a lineup of 9 drivers waiting for work, and that most of them had gone home early. But wait, a run was coming across the board right now, and did I want it?

Of course! I would have taken anything at that point. The pick was where I'd stopped earlier that day, not far in fact from where I had moved in to hours earlier. The drop was Avondale. Until I looked it up on the map, I had no clue where that was. Didn't care. I'd be  doing one of my least favorite things: hunting an address in the dark. Still didn't care. I had work!

Tomorrow's got to be better. Right?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Waiting to Work

It was supposed to be simple. Last February when I checked in down here with the local branch, they said I'd be welcome to work here. A couple things were listed that I needed to do, like get black shoes and my own Blackberry, and once here put commercial plates on my car. Two weeks notice should get all the paperwork transferred from the Minnesota branch.

I gave notice, got the plates, and showed up early Monday morning in uniform ready to start.

Yeah, right. I was ready. Corporate, not so much. It seems they couldn't decide whether I needed to repeat my background check and drug test. We had to wait. I said no problem, let's do them and get them out of they way.

Nope, had to wait for corporate to call, let us know. Maybe by Friday I could start.

Well, could we get other stuff out of the way?

Nope, gotta wait.

When Thursday came, I called. Yep, Corporate finally decided I didn't need the screenings. However, I did need to sign a new form for accident insurance. Same company, same coverage in all states, but new signature.

OK, went in, signed the form. Wore the uniform again, thinking I'd need a new photo ID. Was told they - meaning Corporate - would formally need to acknowledge receiving the insurance paperwork. Now, it's all done on computer, with a signature pad like when you use your credit card in a store. But, somebody had to formally acknowledge the thing. Might be later in the day, might not. I got a promise to call me just the minute he heard.

At least this time we could take care of other paperwork, like the direct deposit form for my checks, and my photo ID (back in a week).  I'm beginning to find out just how very small this branch is. Not totally surprising considering they have no stickered vehicles down here. Even if they aren't needed with the commercial plates on the vehicles, has anybody thought about the benefits of advertising on the side? Those mobile billboards do bring in business.

But perhaps they don't want more, with one to two dispatchers on duty at a time, in a tiny office where the main phone line rings in. If they don't, well, tough! There will be one rolling down here for a few months. Of course, it sports the St. Paul phone number.

Oh, and now they wanted an AZ drivers license, in addition to the plates. He explained it's not normally an issue, and in fact I'd been told last February that my Minnesota license would be just fine. Now, not.

So Friday I headed back over to the DMV office to wait in line for my new license. You can tell it's Arizona: in addition to my old license, I need my original birth certificate and SS card. That's what I have: my original SS card. Never changed it to add "Rosa" to it. Be interesting to see how the DMV reacts.

I put that in future tense, because I hit a little snag, along with everybody else who showed up for the same thing yesterday. Their system was down. Not the whole system, mind you, just the part for driver's licenses. The system for license plates was up and running, though it had just come back up a couple hours earlier, having been down also for most of the day. I was handed a letter with a number to call to check of the system was up. I have that number already in my phone. I used it to get information on commercial plates. I also used it to check what paperwork I needed to get this one.

I called once while shopping: still down. I tried later, allowing myself time to get over before they closed for the week. I'm heartily sick of their involved voicemail system, which includes among other things a warning not to give personal information to the person who will answer the call, eventually. Huh: Arizona! This time I was informed they were up and running again, so headed over again.

The voice lied.

So some time in the next month I need to take time off work and head over once again to get an AZ driver's license. Assuming, of course, I can actually start!

Moved In, Pretty Much

There were few adventures along the road. A bit of searching for motels for the group, a bit more challenge in finding one with a pool. In the end, that's exactly what we managed in 4 days of travel: a pool. Since my swim suits were all packed and on the truck somewhere, I didn't go swimming.

Oh well. I'm making up for it.

The one real adventure was the truck thinking it had broken down. Some gauge registered overheating or loss of oil pressure or something similar and shut the truck off in the middle of the freeway. We were lucky in many aspects. Roadside assistance was prompt. We had just left Gallup so help was close. More important - for those of us who found it important - was the car was mobile and there were restrooms just 2 miles down the road. Trust me, we found it important. While we were there and waiting, we decided to take advantage of the Subway as suppertime was rapidly approaching, and cell communication to get everybody's order. As we were heading back, we got the call that the truck was fixed and they'd meet us at the exit we'd just left. It turned out that the sensor was wrong. The repair guy didn't have a replacement, wouldn't be able to order one for 2 days, but he jerry rigged something that would hold for the rest of the trip.

It worked.

We beat Paul to the house. His plane had been late taking off, or it might have been a toss-up. Beds got set up for all and the clean-up began.

It took me the rest of the day to clean the fridge/freezer. Blecchhh! Soap, bleach, scrubbies, removing parts, trying not to wonder too hard at what the crusted and sloshed remains had been before. At least now I trust that it's safe for use, though there are black bits that come down with the the ice cubes through the door dispenser.

They get picked out. The taste sucks, so Paul got us a Britta filtering pitcher for a housewarming present, much appreciated and much used by the whole crew. I will need ice cubes, and picked up a bag of lemons to slice and add to my water jug for work. It works, at least for the trial run here. I haven't actually made it to a day at work, but that's a long story.

Much more house work first.

The rugs/carpeting got removed more quickly than anticipated. Traditionally down here they are glued to the concrete floors, and we came prepared to scrape and scrape. Instead they affixed wooden strips around the rooms and attached the carpeting just like over wooden floors. Once it was removed, however, we weren't looking at concrete. There were 9" floor tiles in a dark ugly brown that turned out to be asbestos!

Home Depot identified them and instructed us to use floor primer and floor paint. The den was the first for the treatment, so we could have a site to unload boxes from the truck. Unfortunately the grey top coat needed 72 hours to dry before use.

On the plus side. it turned out that the tiles weren't actually attached to the floor any more. Perhaps it was 50-year-old adhesive. At any rate they were simply lifted off and dropped in the dumpster. But the floors still needed 3 days before we could bring in furniture, much less boxes to unpack.

Other painting needed doing as well. The master bedroom needed de-wallpapering first, and we figured the living room as well, till we decided to prime an paint over it. When the bedroom took three days, I began to believe we'd never get things done in time. To complicate matters, the colors I had mixed at WalMart before leaving turned out to be too blue a shade. We'd already used the dark on the bed platform, recoiled, and replaced it. Not sure why we trusted the light after that, but it was a 2-gallon mistake. I went to Home Depot for the first replacement, and did it for the second as well. The trim - floor and crown molding - needed white paint when the other was dry enough for taping. Our bed was set up in the middle of the room while all this was going on. We had a platform with drawers, box spring, and mattress. It was so tall we could hardly climb into it at night. Steve and I agreed to ditch the box spring, and fortunately found someone willing to haul it away for use by a grateful somebody who was previously sleeping on a mattress on the floor: our plumber.

Did I mention the plumbimg? Paul woke us up in the middle of the first night to inform us the shower stall drained so slow it almost flooded. Meanwhile the then-only toilet, off the master bedroom so we had constant traffic, was also plugged. The rule became Use But Don't Flush. Instant honey pot.

We called the equivalent of Roto-Rooter down here: Rooter Hero. They had lots of coupons in the yellow pages. They - he brought an apprentice - ended up clearing the plugs - by then 3 systems were down - scoping the sewer to outside of the house where they found one pipe narrowed from lack of use joined to another cracked on the bottom and ready to attract tree roots, digging up and replacing pipes halfway through the yard, locating an uneven join to the rest of the system which they offered to fix for another $6G and we declined so he connected it up and gave us a 15-year warranty on the work done. While they were there we had him replace the internal toilet part which filled the tank so slowly we couldn't tell whether or not it was always running. And because it was there and Richard wasn't, we had them replace the second leaky toilet with a new handicap-height one we'd brought.

The system works now, though we've been cautioned that the uneven join in the yard may cause - no, will cause - problems in the future. Hopefully later rather than sooner. Also while we are absent next summer water needs to be run through the pipes every month or so to keep the shrinking pipe from shrinking again. The emergency fund has been extinguished, however.

One positive is that the digging did us the favor of eliminating one of the unwanted bushes lining the front of the house. Turns out it is the only one completely gone. The tops are gone, but ugly stumps stick up, a hazard to anyone crossing the front yard to the street. The yard is littered with hoses, pine branches,  rocks, paving blocks in stacks, and broken down packing boxes waiting for recycling right now, hopefully a deterrent to that activity.  Of course with the dumpster still in the driveway despite two calls to the company to come remove it, Steve and I still take that path.

Eventually all the paint dried and rugs and furniture got moved in, the storage wall built and installed in the master bedroom by Paul, boxes brought in for leisurely unpacking. One person down from our plans with Richard never showing up, we were behind in yard work. We'd all been enjoying the now screenless porch/patio, relaxing, smoking, and eating out there. Evenings we'd hear coyotes, including one night when sirens went off for a local fire and they began howling from three directions at once.  Waiting days for paint to dry, Paul moved the futon out to the patio and slept quite comfortably with the help of a warm bedspread. He almost refused to move back in when the floors were ready.

The unwanted chain link had been removed, other than the vertical posts imbedded in concrete. The dogs still had full run of the back yard, once the nasty cactus were removed. Koda twice needed pricklies removed from a foot, and now with getting shaved down and the worst area covered in pine branches, we hope it won't be repeated.   The ponytail palm got planted, though looking much the worse for wear. It looked so bad, in fact, that I had Paul scrape a bit of bark to find proof of life. It will recover, and in the process of checking we discovered several new babies growing at the base of the trunk which may be replanted at some future point. Imagine: a yard of ponytail palms!

The last day was a day of mishaps. Lance and Orrin were working on getting out their first stump, when the pick axe handle slipped, nailing Orrin the the least desirable spot for such a mishap. A bag of ice and some time later, he declined a visit to the hospital, less than a mile away. Lance wasn't so lucky. Getting back from a late night trip for cigarettes, he tripped over the curb at the street and hit his head on a rock. Paul drove him over, Lisa tending him on the way. He wound up with nothing broken, "just" a sore head and lots of soft tissue damage to the foot he tripped with, the right. He assurred Paul he could still help drive their rental car home as long as it had cruise control.

Scary thought.

However, we heard from all concerned, and they made it safely with a side trip to the Canyon and a route going along the east side of the Rockies.

Steve and I got out recreation center passes and the punch cards allowing us to bring guests, so most nights most of us enjoyed a good long soak in the spa pool after a hard day of work. There is nothing quite like sitting in an open air hot tub or walking in a pool after sundown, watching the moon or planes from the airport pass by, knowing it's November, to help you realize that you are no longer in Minnesota!

The real topper came last night in the walking pool. I find just walking boring, and started varying that with long stretches, crossovers, and basically moving in the pool in ways this body hasn't moved for years. Music plays in the background though I don't really try to keep up. Slow works best in the water. The spa warms me, I exercise in the walking pool, and spa warms me again. Last night I kept noting the sign that says low-impact walking and exercising only, and got a bit inspired. When Steve left the spa for the walking pool, I joined him and in the 4' section we got together to do something we both thought we'd never do again: we danced, for the first time in years!

Monday, October 22, 2012

On the Road

The truck was loaded, pizzas eaten, thanks and good-byes said, and vehicles moving at 2:15. We pulled in 426 long miles later to a very nice 3-queen Super 8 room in Cameron, MO. They are very accommodating to dogs. Orrin is our primary dog walker this trip, being young, of sound knees, and temporarily lacking a drivers license.

Koda has settled into the routine, finally, after spending his first day very nervous over the disruption in routine. First his sanctuary was invaded by all those people, removing "his" stuff, and at the end he was dumped in a room with a bunch of those same people. But he had me there, and that seemed to be all he really needed.  Fred, on the other hand, took it all in stride, calm as always.  Might be specific to these two, or the difference between cockers and bassetts.

Day 2 was more driving driving driving. There was a strong headwind, and there were times the truck didn't get over 50mph. After Oklahoma city, westbound on I-40, 70 was occasionally possible. The toll on the Kansas turnpike was only $6 for each vehicle, since both had only 2 axles. So far there has been only one weigh station the truck had to pull into. All the rest were closed.

Scenery has become increasingly green - and yellow with smatterings of red, as fall is later down here. Last February we were impressed by how green Kansas was - the first we'd seen in months - and now we were impressed - or depressed - by how brown it is. Oklahoma is peppered by oil pumpers, some of which are running. We counted those, being so rare, and got up to 36 over about an hour before giving it up.

Kudos to a playground designer whose inventiveness was displayed next to the freeway. He/she arranged old tires of various sizes imbedded at different levels in the ground, standing vertically and touching the next, so the final effect was an undulating worm/snake/monster for kids to play and climb on.

Dinnertime arrived when we hit I-40's exit 108 on OK, my all-time favorite stop on this route: the Cherokee Trading Post. I have shopped there many a time, finding it a good source for Navaho weavings and various kinds of pottery, including Santa Clara and Acoma. Last night we tried the adjoining restaurant.

Doubt I'll do that again. The buffalo patty was delicious, but my request to hold the hash browns was ignored, the biscuits were very mediocre, and served up with a bowl of gravy that tasted like wet flour, only not as good.  Steve liked his Mexican food, though the salsa served with his appetizer chips was so hot he was literally speechless after he choked on his first bite. Lance found it exactly to his taste, however. The others found their meals OK, or at least were too polite to complain.
Subway there.

We emerged just after the sun set, perfect timing to avoid driving into its glare in the cloudless sky. Our goal was ambitious: Amarillo. We checked in about 11:15, got 2 rooms this time, and crashed. Today's goal will be either Winslow or Flagstaff, AZ. We'll see when we get there.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moving Day, 25 Minutes In

All is packed. The "kids" have arrived and are stil sleeping in the living room and in Steve's room. The dogs have been let out - I found a narrow path and didn't trip over any Snoring Beauties - and I managed a shower without waking anybody.

For the moment the only sounds in the house, other than snoring, are the noises of the furnace as it warms things up and the tapping of the keyboard. Ahhhh, peace!

Time to go destroy it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two Days and... OMG!

Just two days left working here. I'm taking Friday off for those last minute errands, a good-bye visit with my granddaughter, and packing. While out and about I'm making phone calls to start up electric and gas, start mail delivery there, change addresses, get info on the new area....
In the middle of the morning news yesterday I got hit with an anxiety attack. I wouldn't call it a full-fledged panic attack, just a clenching in the gut that lasted for hours.

 I couldn't understand it.

And yes, I know that sounds silly. I know it's all going to get done. I know I want to make this  move. I know I've already planned to come back early or cash in investments if the income is too tight down there. On the other hand, I know how much is left to do and how much stress it all makes, and it's showing. My short-term memory is crap right now, and I keep double-checking everybody else's tasks. That's not because I don't trust them. It's because I don't trust myself right now. Steve keeps reassuring me that, for example, Lance has packed the airbed he and Lisa are bring along, along with the tie straps for inside the truck to stabilize and secure the load. Yet I still want to add it back on to the to-do list.

I've moved up my date for restarting work to Monday the 28th. The house will still be full but by then I won't have that much to do. It'll mostly be painting, digging up unwanted bushes, loading the dumpster: stuff that needs younger knees than I can provide. I will instead be concentrating on bringing in a little more funding to help feed my large crew. Other than turning in my last trip sheets, everything is done on this end for leaving work. I said a few good-byes yesterday on my route, and thought I ought to call and reminding our company's route manager that in a week my route needs a new driver. (Hey, I know how communication works in this company.) It turns out it's a good thing I did. Reminding is not the precise term to use when somebody never got the info in the first place!

Yesterday Steve and I made a list. I called him and while driving a long stretch of highway mentally went through each room of the house to think about what still needed attention. It ranged from dismantling the dog kennel  to take down, to having Paul adjust the placement of the front door deadbolt (things have shifted) so we can actually lock the house for two weeks while nobody's in it. It's been years since that happened, aside from Daddy's funeral, since somebody's always been in it - aside for maybe a couple hours here and there since he moved in. I kept calling back and saying, "add ______ to the list."

Having the list makes me feel some better. Not completely. That anxiety attack is hovering, waiting for another opening. Knocking stuff off the list will help - I think. Last night we made no progress on the list, however. It was time for a little private "we time".  Last weekend his daughter was up, helping. Friday the house fills again as his kids come to load and head down with us. There won't be real privacy again for over a couple weeks.

Lucky for us, sometimes we know what the really important things are.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Voicemail Follies

A new phone, an old phone, a usable phone. I now have three numbers. 

The latest is my work Blackberry, and I aim to discourage folks from leaving messages there with any hope of getting a prompt reply. I also hope that Jill eventually gives out her new number to everybody. Meanwhile somebody wants a job reference for somebody else, Bernard or Benedict or somebody has an upcoming medical appointment that I hope somebody remembers, and a couple folks have indicated they know they've gotten a wrong number - but were having fun anyway.

Here is it's message:

"Hey, you only THINK you’ve reached Heather’s cell. Listen up and grab a pen.  This is a smart phone, meaning it requires three hands, two eyeballs, and one tech-savvy brain to operate. I’m driving. In fact I’m always driving, all day long, so you’re kinda SOL.  If you really want to talk to me, call my dumb phone, (--- --- ----). I can actually work that one. Or leave a message or  text me at this number. I’ll figure out how to get those messages... eventually."

And no, I haven't figured out texting yet. But I'm willing to work on it. I do at least get the voicemails.

As for the home phone, I doubt anybody but telemarketers and opinion surveyors use that number. We certainly don't, except for the occasional outgoing call when we don't want to use our cells, or when one of us tries to reach another at home when their cell is off. It announces calls in a weird voice, but you can still hear "call from Mom's cell". We always ignore the ones from "Joel Free Call" - apparently the system can't read "T"s too well. "Ogden Yoo Tee" also get ignored, popular a source as it is.

If you try us on that line, here's what you will hear:

"You have reached (--- ----). If that’s the number you are actually dialing, we are  sorry. Nobody ever uses this phone. We only have this because we need it to have internet service.  If you know us -  Paul, Rich, Steve and Heather - we all have cell phones. Call us on that if you really want to talk to us. If you are a telemarketer, this is on the do-not-call list. Yeah, good luck . We are not giving out those numbers.  If you are looking for John or Gladys, they have relocated to Fort Snelling. Feel free to go visit them there any time. Bring flowers. Or try calling them at 1-800-CREMAINS. Bye."

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Threat To Take Seriously

My first stop yesterday was in a clinic.  Ever since the HIPA laws went into effect, reception areas for those are set up with each person getting a section of a long countertop that looks like it's wearing blinders. It gives only the illusion of privacy, since everybody knows sound can't travel over a 3-foot barrier. Right?

This particular spot had a sign on the wall behind where the receptionist sat. As a mother of three, it gave me chills - or would have had I thought they meant it:

"Unattended children will be given espresso and a puppy."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Nothing - absolutely nothing - makes me feel more stupid than trying to set up a piece of new technology. Especially when it shouldn't be all that new.

Like a cell phone, for example. One of the requirements of the upcoming job for the Phoenix branch of the company I already work for is my very own Blackberry. I finally got around to turning in the company Blackberry to the office up here and buying my own. It was a very near thing: WalMart only had three left and no plans to restock any Blackberries. Possibly ever.

When you've used a piece of technology for a couple years, you think you know it. Get over it. You're wrong.




Just one item: the keylock is a button  on top of this phone. In the other model it locks by pushing the middle of the left side, and unlocks at the top. No real biggie: just two years' worth of habit to relearn, reinforced by the futility of pushing the side where no button exists.

Another: there is a red LED that flashes at me on this phone. On the old one it meant that the battery was low. It's possible it means that on this one too but it also means other things. It flashes red when the battery is just fine, thank you. I haven't decoded what else it means, and the booklet is not helpful, starting with the fact that parts of the phone have one name when the arrow points to them and then in the text you are told to go to some other name.

When in doubt, call the company, right? There's a phone number listed in the booklet. Of course they want your 4-digit code to prove you are the owner of the phone before they can give you any information.

I have a 4-digit code? Really? On my paperwork, maybe, from WalMart? That of course is not in the car with me. Maybe call WalMart. My salesman is not in today, and they have no way of getting my code. Try an actual Sprint store. And by "try" they mean actually walking in the door with your phone. And your paperwork. Where is a Sprint store? Who knows?

In the process of this conversation I had a discussion with the clerk about the Catch-22 of needing a 4-digit code in order to get information about your 4-digit code. He had no idea what a Catch-22 was. Is it possible to be that young?


Some things are dependable. When the phone freezes up and/or shuts itself off for no reason and won't accept a charge, you can still depend on a hard reboot. As in, pry the back off (again, another location to get the leverage on this phone than on the last one),  pull the battery out, wait, replace it, and then be patient. It takes about 5 minutes to power up enough to turn on again. You can entertain yourself by watching the little blue line gradually fill in, your tease of a progress report. Because when that's done, you can also depend on it taking a while longer as there are still things to push and places to poke before the thing is running the proper software again.

If watching the blue line fail to entertain you, you could try trimming your toenails. Or writing the Great American Novel. Or the ever popular Bathroom Break.

I haven't figured out texting yet. I mean, I text all the time in the work software program. It only goes to the dispatcher whose zone I'm in at the time. I need to learn to send and receive with the rest of the world. Already I'm receiving some, but when I fight my way into that app, all I get is something with a time stamp entitled "no reply Sprint", fronting for a blank page. I don't seem to have any way to delete it, but I can save it to my contacts.

As if.

But that can wait. First I need to set up my voicemail box. It claims to be easy, and talks you through it. OK, sounds like I need to put it on speaker since it's impossible to program with the thing in your ear to hear the step and then hold it in front of you to decipher the keypad and figure out what they heck they're talking about. By the time you realize speaker phone is handy the menu has already changed and that option is no longer available. A full minute is required to figure out how to exit the app so you can start over, a bit wiser this time. But oops, work is calling, no time to play.

Eventually there is another lull in work, and you try again. This time you get as far as figuring just what 4-digit code you want to enter for a password - there are so many bad choices to reject - and are ready for the task.

At least that's what you think. In the work program there is the need to hit the "alt" button to switch the keypad into numbers and characters. Otherwise every stroke is a letter. So hitting and holding alt while entering your chosen numbers, you wait for the voice. It tells you you have hit - - - -, four numbers completely different from  what you wanted. Quick quandary: do you try to remember what your new inadvertent code is? Is there time to write it down before you go on or are you forever locked out of your own voicemail box now? OK, it's telling you you have a choice. If you agree with the numbers it just read back to you, press pound. If not, press star.


Repeat whole process. Same reading of wrong number back to you. Hit star again.

At least the voice is indefatigable. At some point comes the realization that maybe it could be tried without the "alt". Finally the voice recited the numbers you intended all along. If you agree, press pound. If not, press star.

Pound. Of course. And what a feeling of achievement! There is almost time to wonder how on earth one enters letters if it automatically selects for numbers on the keypad, since letters are offered as an option for the password. But before you can dally on that garden path, the voice again offers you the information of your selected numbers and the choice between pound and star.

Humph! Pound, again.

And again the voice repeats your selection of numbers and the option of pound or star.


Quick, exit the program! No, push the curly go-back arrow again, and again, and finally ... whew!

When in the future I finally do get into the program to leave an answering message, I've got some choice words planned. And then I have to figure out how to actually hear the messages left.

I figure to be proficient by, say, February.

Meanwhile, call me on my stupid phone. Unlike the smart phone, I can work that one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Worst Toy of the Century

There is a contest sponsored on NPR. It renews weekly with a new question, with the winner earning an NPR mug. This week's challenge is choosing the worst toy of this century. They already list the top 5 best toys of last century, starting with G I Joe by the select group doing the voting. To get the brain cells running along the tracks, they offered up an example for worst toy of a "Disgraced-Candidate Barbie".

For my nickle they could have left off the "Disgraced-Candidate" part. Barbies by themselves are among the worst toys ever. If they expanded the category for the contest to the most oxymoronic toy, it's be an anatomically correct Barbie.

The trouble is, toys have so many different audiences. There are divisions by age and gender. In the toddler category, the worst toy of any century - always bearing that in this age group simplicity is key - would be a Sharp Stick.

On the other end, worst adult toys likely couldn't be described on the radio. Or is it just me that thinks they'd take that kind of bend?

I finally settled on my submission. It's the "Junior Terrorist Chemistry Set". When you buy one, Amazon suggests that others who have purchased this have also purchased the "Junior Terrorist Explodable Towers Erector Set".

If your wheels have started turning, you have until Oct. 3 to enter.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Like Your Weather?

Seriously, it's not a trick question: do you like your weather?

I'm talking to all you I-did-it-all-myself Republicans out there, the ones who think they got no help from the government just because they haven't ever needed (or conveniently forgot that they had) a government-backed business loan, or to go on welfare: do you like your weather?

Is it well-behaved where you live and run your business? The days are sunny, the nights rain politely and on schedule. No droughts requiring either irrigation or crop insurance? No floods requiring FEMA, followed by the Army Corps of Engineers to help prevent the next one from causing so much damage? No unseasonal snow storms upsetting traffic so you can't ship to meet your on-time demands? No heavy snow loads caving in your warehouse roofs? No icy roads sending your trucks jackknifing all over the place? No hail storms to ruin crops and roofs and shatter windows? No heavy straight line winds? No tornadoes? How about hurricaines?

So if your weather isn't always polite and cooperative, don't you at least want to know about it ahead of time so you can make plans?

Ever heard of GOES 13? It's job is supposed to be to help you know about the weather ahead of time. It's one of NOAA's  weather satellites. Or was. A few days ago reports were that it had crashed. Now they're talking about technical problems. So it's still up there, in geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic and the east coast. You know, an area that tends to have a lot of major weather events that affect the country. But we're not getting the data from it. And there's no plan to send a mission up and fix it. There's this little thing called a budget that just doesn't have any extra room in it because cutting is all the rage these days, because, hey, government is useless, right? And there's another little issue about a thing called space shuttles that we've outsourced to the Russians because space is expensive and - again - useless, right?

So if they can fix GOES 13 at all, it'll have to be from the ground.

Good luck with that.

And hey, I'm sure there will never be another hurricane heading in from the Atlantic and turning up along the east coast, so no worries, mate.

For the immediate future, GOES 14 can be moved into position if they can't fix 13. At least there's one in reserve. But we're not sending any more up. Not in the budget. And they do fail. They will all eventually slow down and crash. And then what? We can't make and send more up on a moment's notice because somebody finally decided there was need.

Buy hey, Mr. I-did-it-all-myself, you did this yourself before too, right? And you can do it all again, right? Because it doesn't take the collective to put up a weather satellite, it takes individual initiative. You go right ahead and start planning your next weather satellite, because if government isn't going to be able to do it, and/or shouldn't by your philosophy, somebody needs to.

Surely you didn't think we're going to outsource that to the Chinese?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Week In Review: Short Form

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

But... No Sticker

Yesterday actually started at 7:45 PM the night before with a reminder to Steve that we both had 15 minutes to get in our last meal of the day. His doctor, which is also mine, wanted a fasting blood sugar level from both of us. That meant 12 hours NPO.

In the morning it began with hitting the heat on setting on the hallway thermostat on the way to the bathroom. I've been avoiding using the furnace as much as possible, but a couple recent nights dipping into the 30's have reluctantly ended that. At least the last couple mornings all I do is keep the house shut up tight and only flip it on just before my shower,  off before I leave, letting the sum warm it the rest of the day. It reads 70 before I hit the switch, but right now that's too cold. 72 feels much better. Even though the AC has been running this summer, the first time the furnace goes on it stinks with that "I'm burning off all the dust" smell.

Steve and I were in and out of the lab in no time. It took longer to check in than get stabbed and released. Usually they moan and groan about the condition of my arms, both sporting lumps of scar tissue from being a 10 gallon blood donor plus about a year at the "stab lab" selling plasma way back in the really lean years. Not this tech. She swabbed, poked with the fingernail, and slipped that needle in so smoothly I could hardly tell she'd done anything.

Note to Doctor: Keep this one!!!!!!!

Then a quick trip to the drive-thru Mickey D's: coffee for me for the morning pills, milk and his favorite sandwich for Steve. We ate in the parking lot, since I thought it unwise to choke down all those pills while behind the wheel. I mix my own sugar-free mocha, and much prefer tasting it to wearing it.

Next stop was the county court house, to the auditor's office. It was time to vote! Ballots have been ready since middle of last week. Minnesota allows early absentee voting for those who will not be at the polls on the day - not that they actually check up on you. We'll be in sunny Arizona by then. In person voting is much easier than by mail since there's less to fill out and you don't have to be so particular in how the envelopes get filled out since there's only one. I learned by watching the Franken recount how easy it is to get your absentee ballot thrown out by doing the envelopes improperly. All the single envelope needs is my name and the last four of my SS#. That gets compared against the application to vote absentee that I just filled out. We both got a table and chair for the whole process and were offered privacy screens which we both turned down.

Here's the skivvy: I used to be an independent. John Anderson was once my presidential choice. But modern Republicans have turned me determinedly Democratic, and if anybody cares, I voted straight ticket. Plus "NO" on both ballot questions. I liked both incumbents on the city council ballot, and nobody else after the first couple judges had competition so I mostly didn't bother. Steve told me how he was planning on voting, but if he wants you to know, it's for him to say.

We weren't done with the morning errands yet. Next stop was city hall. Lynn, the city clerk, is also a notary. Her becoming one was paid for by the city, and those services are free to city residents. Occasionally I take advantage of them. Yesterday was to make a minor change to the Warranty Deed on the Sun City house. Steve will now be a part owner and can partake freely of the perks of being in Sun City without paying an extra yearly fee.

I almost thought that wasn't going to happen. We contacted a paralegal referred to us, sent her the info she requested plus a check, and waited for her return email with the document(s) needing to be dated, signed and notarized. She, in turn, played email tag. First it was to confirm our marital statuses. Then another question and another. I've been dealing with a cold and not checking in on the computer daily, so it really dragged out. She couldn't have asked all the questions at once? I mean really? She does this stuff regularly since the person referring us was the one we worked with from the title company.

Finally I was ready to drop Steve at home, hit the mail box with the notarized paperwork, fill the tank, and log on to work. Everything on the to-do list accomplished. Still, I noted with some disappointment as I drove off, I wasn't sporting a little red "I Voted" sticker.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Freaky: Fun and Tragedy

First the fun. I saw a bumper sticker in an auto parts store yesterday that kinda tickled my funnybone, though not in the way the manufacturer intended, I'm sure. It read, "Honk if Parts Fall Off." With Halloween looming, my twisted mind took off in another direction. I imagined a zombie costume with that sign attached, and the wearer heading down the street with a hand dropping off, or some other body parts. Hands, I think, would be easiest to rig. If one is really of a ghoulish bent, the wearer could be an amputee taking temporary advantage of the situation. Or a Michael Jackson costume chronically losing the nose, perhaps.

Now for the less fun. This story comes with caveats, including being third hand, though from reasonably trusted sources. In addition, I will be the first to admit that I'm the kind of person who struggles with other people's use (misuse) of alcohol. I have yet to find a bad situation that alcohol use can't make even worse. And this one seems to be a case in point.

The way I heard it was that some of the crew, including a young lady of my acquaintance and her boyfriend, were celebrating the end of the State Fair and finish of tear-down by getting drunk. Good friends all, having a good time. Except for the part where the boyfriend choked on a marshmallow, and all his comrades, being thoroughly drunk, were either physically or mentally unable to assist him. He literally choked to death.

It's the kind of story that makes me want to get all preachy. Not that it would help. And I think highly enough of the young woman to believe she'll be  haunted enough by what happened that I don't need to add anything but my condolences.

But still....

Friday, September 14, 2012


I see a lot of some things in my job: seasons rolling by, weather changes, bad driving, industrial and commercial buildings, wildlife, industrial parks, insides of commercial buildings, poorly worded signs, public restrooms, and lately, nursing homes.

This particular one was Jewish. After making my delivery, I headed for the restroom on my way out. The sign was just a bit different. It advertised restrooms and kosher vending machines.

While I'd never thought about the need for such things, it seemed obvious there would be once I saw the sign. It was your basic "duh!" moment.

Personally I'm glad my own belief system doesn't require me to keep to those strict dietary laws. It's nothing to do with religion. Not only are they a whole lot of work, the expense of a second kitchen or a divided kitchen with duplicate equipment is something I'm just as glad not to need. And just keeping up with carbs is enough work, thank you very much.

My curiosity peaked, I opened the door to the alcove, wondering what would be in a kosher vending machine.


It does make sense that a non-meat, non-dairy product (some would say non-food) wouldn't violate kosher laws.  But does somebody have to go to the factory and make sure? And why does it need the label? So I'm trading one puzzled that I never knew I had is solved, for another one waggling its fingers at me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ready Fire Aim

Heard about that posting on Twitter. Don't do it myself, but it's just the comment for "Open-Mouth-Insert-Mitt".

Used to be, when there was some kind of international crisis, the politicking stopped and everyone rallied around the President in support until the crisis passed. Criticism came later, to your heart's content. Just back off while tricky stuff got handled. Imagine, if people are rioting in reaction to some piece-of-shit movie, how more incensed they could get in reaction to some unwise comments in the middle of a campaign. To the unknowing, it looks as if nobody is in control, and no consequences will arise for their behavior. Or worse, there goes the hated USA (by the rioters) again, throwing it's weight around and giving even more reason to hate them and act this way.

Not helpful.

But "Open-Mouth-Insert-Mitt" just couldn't wait. No calming statement to his roiling base about now is not the time, we need more information, let the President do his job just like I hope you'll let me do mine in similar circumstances. No waiting with a press conference until the person who has more actual facts about the situation on the ground and the players in motion can make a measured response.

Nothing like wisdom coming from his mouth.

Just another lie, and sticking to it loudly even after it's pointed out to him. The Egyptian comment happened before the rioting and deaths began, and in no way does it apologize for American values, nor fail to criticize violence. But Romney shot off his mouth, and unlike everything else he's ever said, refuses to flip-flop on his interperate and innacurate words.

In reaction, I've heard everything from "pushed by his base" (who leads, who follows there?), to "not suited to command", "not qualified to be President", and even "treason."

Don't get me wrong here. I heartily wish the idiot who found it necessary to make the offensive movie had never done so. But it was done last May, and only recently was it deemed necessary for someone to translate it into an Arabic language. Somebody somewhere in the world wanted to actively stir up trouble. Now. Someday we'll maybe find out who that is.

Yes of course we have freedom of speech here. The way some folks think and act, you'd think we forgot the freedom of religion part that goes along with it. And we don't need a constitution to get freedom of (not from!) consequences. People react. People die. For anybody who is awake in the world, the consequences are predictable. How would Christians feel if somebody made a movie depicting Jesus as a fake, philanderer and pedophile? And if the news sources commented on it as being "perceived to be offensive," as if it takes somebody highly oversensitized to find fault with it?

As for the "not planned" part of the rioting? Perhaps. But the storming of the embassy was definitely planned, long in advance. Opportunistic, perhaps. They were ready for whatever happened. Might have pushed things along. But nobody "accidentally" picked up their RPG launcher on the way to see what the fuss was all about, nor did they "accidentally" shoot them off. And those folks are no more representative of their population that the idiot making that piece-of-shit movie is representative of ours.

Just equally destructive.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hell's Kitchen

I'd heard of it, not sure what I'd heard, so when Steph offered me birthday dinner there for Saturday night, meeting there so she could walk and get her exercise, I had to both be prepared for anything and ask directions.

The good news is they have their own parking ramp. The better news is I found close on-street metered parking free (handicap sticker). They're on 9th Street by Marquette in downtown Minneapolis these days, down in the basement.

Given the name, seems apt.

The corridor is filled with decorations ranging from funky (light fixtures made of inverted wire cages which suspend silverware for a "fringe") to weird (cow skull painted red except for the horns). The ladies room had holographic portraits mounted on the walls, changing from old-fashioned formal sittings to skeleton, vampire, and axe-murder victim complete with axe in head. Creepiest was the stage. The performers were OK, better if they hadn't been amped up so loud and we hadn't been sitting so close. Behind them however was a stage-to-ceiling plaster(?) angel statue, downcast eyes, beautiful spread wings.  Ordinarily this wouldn't have been creepy, but I've seen too many Dr. Who episodes where they try to come kill you if you take your eyes away from them!

Now the food was great. Steph had their beef of the day, meaning they take a local whole cow and go through the entire carcass until it's finished, then buy another. A lot of pot roast gets served that way, but Saturday night she had porterhouse steak. It can be a bit tough since they buy grass fed rather than hormone-stuffed corn fed cows, but hers was just fine. I ordered bison burger, lettuce-tomato-onion on wild rice bun (ate half the bun for the carb count) with toasted blue cheese over the top. Yum! Tried the fries, which use larger grain salt, possible sea salt or kosher, and declared them good enough to box up and bring home to Steve. (There were no low carb sides.)

Steph also had a Manhattan with huge blackberries floating in it. I stuck with ice water, both for carbs, and driving after. Not to mention I still basically don't like the stuff. Don't feel deprived that way.

We had a nice conversation in the car later, parked in a scenic spot along Lake of the Isles. No loud music to interfere. She had to head home at dark, meaning close to 8, needing to get up early for her week at the radio show and needing to work on her script. They don't get all the info until the night before, like who's next week's guest, and she has to put together a perfectly-timed promo.

Would I go again? You bet! Oddly enough, I live -relatively -right next to Eichten's, where I can both see bison and purchase frozen bison burgers. Last time I was there, however, they didn't have bison on the restaurant menu. (I made the suggestion to them, so maybe by now...) The point is, I don't go there. Perhaps that should change. Especially now that road construction makes the trip nearly impossible. They need support.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Convention Lines

Some of my favorite lines from/about the DNC convention:

Ask Bin Ladin if he's doing better than he was 4 years ago.

What was Clinton's secret budget surplus weapon? "Arithmetic."

If Mitt Romney was Santa Clause, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.

Even Romney's money needs a passport: it summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.

The democrats should also have an empty chair on the stage. They should just put the name "Bin Ladin" on it.

Obama offers hope and change. Romney just offers change. So if you pick Romney there's no hope.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not What Friends Do

There's an old saying about dancing with the one who brought you. It recognizes an obligation in social settings which can be extended to other situations. If someone brings you to the dance, it is your obligation to dance with them at least a few times. It's not exclusive. But it is part of the social contract.

There's another side to that social obligation. If you take someone to the dance, especially if it's a long ways, you don't just dump them there and say, "Sorry, this wasn't the romantic night I had in mind. Find your own way home. But hey, we can still be friends, right?"

Bullshit! Unless your personal safety is an issue, your obligation is to take that person home again or at least personally see to it that a safe ride is provided. Things do happen. But friends don't strand friends. It's just one in a long string of things people don't do to each other in any kind of a civilized society. You'd think adults would recognize that, especially after being old enough to raise a family of their own. Heck, it should come with the teen-age driver's license.

So why am I ranting about this? Brenda decided that the on-again off-again relationship with Rich should be downgraded to a friendship - again. The timing was after she hauled him and his gear to a gig at the state fair, and just before it closed. And of course I got to be the one to pick him up after teardown at 2AM, meaning getting to bed at 4AM on a night where I needed to drive 425 miles the next day.

Yes, for safety's sake I did catch a nap earlier and shut off the alarm for the morning. Also managed an extra cup of coffee and went to bed about an hour earlier last night. Plus, Rich reimbursed me.  None of that is the point.

The point is that there are social obligations in this world. When one gives another person a ride, one takes on the obligation to see the whole trip through. Not following through on such obligations is anything between rude and inconvenient to downright dangerous. None of the consequences is anything that someone who is wanting to be an actual friend would wish on a friend. None of those is what a friend would deliberately do to a friend. If Brenda actually comes to her senses, irrespective of any future relationship between them, she not only owes Rich an apology, she owes me one as well.

And I will have to decide whether I can accept it or not. After all, this wasn't just silliness or carelessness. This is about a character flaw.