Monday, July 30, 2007


I hope there's no one out there holding their breath waiting for the day, this summer, that Phoenix reaches 100F at midnight, because it doesn't seem like happening anytime soon. I just checked (11:52 PM) and it's only 92.

You understand that with a mere four Phoenix summers under my belt (technically this is my fifth but I was travelling for most of summer 2005) I don't pretend to fully understand all the nuances of the weather here but it's been mighty cool the last couple of weeks. Contrast that with the end of June when we were hitting 116 without even trying!

Of course they complain about the humidity being up, apparently the reason the temperature's down. Just can't please some people! In vain do I tell them that this is nothing compared to a decent Melbourne February day. Or any day of the year in Singapore. There's nothing to quite prepare you for the shock, after 17 hours in an overconditioned plane, of that first emergence, at 5 AM, into the Sunflower Garden at Singapore Airport for that long anticipated smoke! There's humidity for you! I'm getting nostalgic just thinking of it! :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

And the answer is

The other night I wrote about The Heart Attack grill and hinted at something unusual about the cover of the book they're pushing on their website. Both of my readers commented though only Guy[^] admitted he couldn't see what was unusual.

Many books have forewords, though not all. This book is unique however in having a 'forward'. Did no one proofread the cover artwork???

Thursday, July 26, 2007


not Mmmmmmmmm!

Each day I drive past this[^]. (Warning: turn your speakers down before clicking on the link - I was listening to a string quartet and let me tell you, it was a heartstopping shock to have this sites soundtrack blast in at about ten times the volume!)

For all I know, the business could have been there half a year; it's an unfortunate truth that if you drive the same route long enough you do it on auto-pilot. Certainly I'm aware of the traffic I have to share the road with; likewise the traffic lights but as for the rest... well I'm sure you know the deal!

I was sitting at the lights last week, on the way home, when I happened to glance to the left and saw the building. It looks like a pensioned off Pizza Hut building in the last stages of decrepitude. They fly a US flag large enough to not be a disgrace to a used car[^] dealer. So far not so impressive. What caught my eye though was the large banner wrapped around the building with the website address and the hot pink lettering on the windows advising that they were hiring hot nurses!

Look at that quadruple bypass burger! I couldn't imagine even attempting to eat one of those, and not just because I don't like the American[^] version of the hamburger.

How on earth would you get your mouth around one of those? Somehow I can't imagine it being served with eating irons. Maybe one of these nights I'll drop in and take a look, purely in the interests of research you understand, though I very much doubt I'm their target demographic.

Notice anything unusual on the cover of the book they're advertising?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A chip off the old block!

I mentioned the other night that my wife had queued over at Frys to get her copy of the (hopefully) last Harry Potter installment.

I didn't know she could read that fast! I think she had it finished by Sunday evening and now she's going through it a second time. Myself, I'd have taken it a little more slowly and perhaps have had it in one go.

On Monday I saw the DVD of the third movie sitting on the kitchen table. Thinking back, I recalled seeing the first two movies sitting on the kitchen table late last week. I didn't think much of it at the time but yesterday I noticed the sticker from Hollywood Video.

'Uh, dear' I said. 'You do realise we actually own all four movies on DVD don't you?'

'We do?' she replied.

It was about this time that I discovered the DVD of the fourth movie sitting on top of the DVD player, awaiting viewing.

Uh huh. The four DVD's we own are sitting on the shelf three feet away from Sonyas computer and she went out and hired all four of em!

I called her Andrew when I came home from the office!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Too easy

Sometimes when I have an odd ten minutes to fill I'll play a game of Word Whomp on Pogo. You get six letters and have to make all the words you can.

Tonight, when I finally got home I had fifteen minutes to kill before going out again so I opened the link and started playing. Andrew was sitting at his computer engrossed in World of Warcraft and I couldn't resist.

'Hey Andrew, they've got your name here in this game!'

He didn't believe me.

'Well come down and have a look.' I replied.

He did, and peered at the screen, searching in vain for his name.

'You mean you can't see it?' I said.

He admitted he couldn't.

'Right there, DORK' I said.

Sheepish grin as he realised he'd been 'got'!

Really, it was too easy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I've been having a bit of a wallow lately in old books. Truth to tell, I haven't actually read a 'new' book in yonks. New to me, yes. New? Not likely. It's been a motley collection of Zola, George Orwell, Dickens and Harold Avery[^]. If you clicked on the link and read the page about him you know almost as much about him as I do.

Our school library had a few volumes of his. Even then, in the mid 1960's, they were old books. I can only remember the title of one of those volumes and that only because of the singular circumstance that I found a copy of one, 'The Triple Alliance' in a second hand bookshop in late 1968.

It became one of my favourite books so naturally Mum threw it out during one of her periodic cleanups[^] and for many years I checked bookshops, looking for the works of Harold Avery. Heck, I'd even forgotten the title and, if you'd asked me as recently as a month ago what the title was I'd have had no idea.

Indeed, a little over twenty years ago, I found a volume titled 'The Wizards Wand' by that illustrious unknown. Bought it on the spot with not a second thought. It turned out not to be a copy of my boyhood favourite but it was a good read anyway. In the light of my post regarding Harry Potter I should point out that, despite the title, it had nothing to do with magic; the wizard of the title was an inventor who had harnessed the new-fangled electricity to make his garden gate open by remote control!

A fortnight or so ago, just before our trip through New Mexico, I did a search on Harold Avery just for the heck of it. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again; the internet's a wonderful resource. There I found not just the meagre details of the mans life but, on Project Gutenberg[^], the text of none other than my boyhood favourite!

Almost at the end; I'm on the final chapter. Reading it again after more than forty years it's not quite as good as memory painted it. Always the way aint it? I remember being an enthusiastic fan of The Aunty Jack Show[^] during its first run in 1972. Sometime in the late 80's or early 90's the ABC ran it again and I, just as enthusiastically, watched the first episode. Watched the second. I used to like this? I didn't bother with the rest of the series.

I'm sure you've had a similar experience.

The last chapter of 'The Triple Alliance'[^] refers to inkpots. Up until about the age of eight we used pencils in our exercise books; our desks had these strange little holes at the front, on the right hand side, and ink coloured grooves to the left. We didn't know what the holes were for and I didn't wonder at the ink stains; they just were and at that age one accepts things without much question.

But in 1963, recently moved to fourth grade, we had to learn to write using a pen. It was then that we discovered the use of those strange little holes and why the grooves were ink coloured. It never occurred to us to wonder why the holes for the inkpots were only on the right; in those non politically correct days it was normal to try and force left handers to use their right hands! My own sister, Deb, a leftie, went through hell at school as they tried to force her to right handedness.

I think we were the last year to use pens dipped in inkpots; certainly, in 1964, we were expected to have our own Osmiroid[^] fountain pen.

The fountain pen was a great advance; once we graduated to it the only thing we had to do was blot the page before turning it; when we had pens dipped in ink and lacked the skill and experience to do better we invariably spilled ink in large blots on the paper. We were judged as much by the lack of blots on the page as by the calligraphy.

I still like using a fountain pen though I haven't actually touched one in nearly thirty years. Back in the days when I was writing music on paper I always used a fountain pen! I even drew the treble and bass clefs using one!

There was a minor privilege available back then. You remember my writing about school milk[^]? Being a milk monitor was good; being ink monitor was only so-so; but it was better than nothing. I spent a couple of inky weeks.

And yes, if you're wondering, I did stick the pigtails of the little girl sitting in front of me into the inkpot. The ink was there, the pigtail was there and it was the most natural thing in the world to put the one into the other. And now you know, more than two years after hinting at it, why I lost my coveted post as 'milk handler'.

I hope it was worth the wait! :-)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's almost over

The whole sorry Harry Potter saga that is. Yeah I know, I'm probably the only person in the western world who isn't dizzy with joy at the prospect of getting my grubby fingers on another volume.

I did try. When ones girlfriend of the time insists that it's a good read one lacks the moral courage to say no. Thus to a week of forcing myself to read about muggles and wizards and platform 8¾. There, you see, I have a vague aquaintance with the subject.

Unfortunately I found it all so damn arbitrary. Take that platform 8¾ for example. It just is with no narrative justification whatsoever. At least, in Being John Malkovich[^] they came up with a good reason for floor 6½.

The films were worse. I suffered through the first two. Yeah, John Cleese was excellent as Basil Fawlty but as a disembodied head floating around greeting schoolchildren he was just painful to behold. I reckon he must have needed the money. That or his agent insisted for the 'exposure'. On the other hand, the first film was worthwhile just for Zoe Wanamaker!

So I'm a curmudgeon on the subject of Harry Potter.

Thus came friday night, July 20 2007. Did America remember one of its greater achievements on this the 38th anniversary? Heck no. It queued up outside bookshops waiting for midnight so it could get a copy of the seventh volume. Sonya dutifully lined up at Frys supermarket, waiting for the fateful hour. Triumphantly she bore her copy of the volume home, and went straight to bed! It was, after all, an hour and a half after her usual bed time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


You'll remember a year ago I was anticipating the night when it was 100 F at midnight. Guy[^] certainly does. (Though I'm sure he had no idea of it at the time, he made that post on my birthday).

We're still not there yet and we haven't been as close as we were by this time last year. The highest I've seen so far, mid July, is 96. This despite the news that we've had the longest run in 5 years of consecutive days over 110. I think it's 13 so far and it seems the record, from 1979, is 28.

It's been a trifle warm.

Half an hour ago I saw my first Phoenix dust storm. Amazing that I've been living here for more than four and a half years and haven't seen one before. I apparently napped through one a few weeks ago but I still can't think how I've managed not to have seen one before tonight.

I imagine any seasoned Phoenician would have either warned me against walking outside to feel it first hand, or have laughingly let me do it. I suspect the latter. There are some things you can't be warned against. Tell a child that sticking its hand into a flame is not a good idea and nothing will do but the child has to go stick its hand into the flame. Wet paint signs anyone?

So out I traipsed into the dust storm. Visibility down to a few dozen metres; I could see the outside lighting but not make out the cars parked fifty metres away. A bit of a choke and I decided I'd had enough. More than enough as it turns out; I needed a second shower; it felt like I'd been liberally dusted with talcum powder. Even after the shower I can still smell it in my hair!

Y'know, if I wasn't a smoker I'd probably worry about breathing it in but I can't imagine it being any worse than a cigarette!

According to the KSAZ temperature logo on Seinfeld 15 minutes ago, the temperature has dropped to 83. Brrr, no wonder I feel the need to rug up! :-)

Dinner in underpants!

Last night was only the second time, in the almost five years I've lived here, that I had the house entirely to myself. I'm not counting the myriad times Sonya races over to Morgans because the little princess needs her Mommy. Nope, this was a genuine, pre-planned outing by Sonya. Indeed, I left the office early yesterday to maximise the pleasure of having the joint entirely to myself!

That plan backfired - I'd forgotten about the lane closure on Tatum Blvd until it was too late. Not that remembering it would have helped much; there are only five routes that go through the 'mountain passes' and the other four are either so far out of my way that it ain't funny, or they have traffic lights every half mile.

Nevertheless, I did get home ten minutes earlier than usual!

Ah, the pleasure of having an empty house to relax in! You've guessed, from the title, that I treated myself to dinner sans trousers. That might not sound particularly civilised and I will admit that I wouldn't dream of it with company. Which is of course the point! Underpants on the head[^] with company yes. Just underpants with company? No!

Sonya had gone to the American Idol show over in Glendale with Shelby. I'm not entirely sure why there was an American Idol show playing anywhere given that the series is over for the year here but maybe the fact that the winner is a local gal had something to do with it. I do know that when it *was* American Idol season I stubbornly wore my headphones and listened to loud classical music.

When they got back Sonya opened the door and sang out 'are you wearing trousers? Shelby's coming in'. 'No' I replied 'but I very much doubt she'll be so overcome at the sight of my legs that she'll be unable to control herself'.

I was right.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The mudlark

Ain't the internet a wonderful thing? As tonights movie wound toward the inevitable conclusion (the bad guy, the one in the black hat, was gunned down) I was turning tonights post over in my mind before writing it. I wanted to start with a reference to George Orwell but considering that his collected essays and journalism runs to 1350 pages and I couldn't remember exactly which essay contained the reference I wanted it seemed I might have to forego the reference.

Google to the rescue; the very first result pointed me to the exact article I wanted.

So let's get started shall we?

In his 'As I please' column from The Tribune, December 1 1944, George Orwell relates the following story[^].

A few years ago I was walking across Hungerford Bridge with a lady aged about sixty or perhaps less. The tide was out, and as we looked down at the beds of filthy, almost liquid, mud she remarked:

'When I was a little girl we used to throw pennies to the mudlarks down there.'"

"I was intrigued and asked what mudlarks were. She explained that in those days professional beggars, known as mudlarks, used to sit under the bridge waiting for people to throw them pennies. The pennies would bury themselves deep in the mud, and the mudlarks would plunge in head first and recover them. This was considered a most amusing spectacle."

"Is there anyone who would degrade himself in that way nowadays? And how many people are there who would get a kick out of watching it?"

Well I know one person who might! My wife no less! You'll remember I wrote a while ago about her Europe Trip[^]. I'm still snacking on Cheetos at the office and still taking the silver out of the change jar. Just the other night I watched her taking the change out of her pocket and ostentatiously put it in the jar. 'Why not just hand it to me?' I asked. 'Oh, it's much more fun watching you pick it out of the jar' was her reply.

I'm the twenty first century mudlark!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A pizza box has six sides

two squares and four rather elongated rectangles. There's a statement of the three dimensional geometric obvious!

We ran out of dry cat food early in the evening and whilst Sonya was prepared to let the cats wait until the morrow I wasn't, so off I went to the supermarket. One bag of dry cat food and some Lindt Chocolate Truffles in hand I waited in line at the self checkout machines.

A mid-forties bloke was ahead of me. Maybe I'm wrong but at a glance he looked like a recent recruit to the ranks of the separated, struggling to cope with living alone for possibly the first time in a couple of decades. Maybe it was the four microwave pizzas and six pack of beer (and nothing else) that gave it away. I've been there myself once or twice but I learned at least the pretence of cooking in my teens.

So he proceeds to the checkout machine and struggles to identify himself to the machine. I wrote[^] about that a while ago. That hurdle over he swiped the beer, stood patiently while the overseer of the four machines glanced over, concluded he was over 21 and hit the 'bypass age check' button.

Incidentally I note that a cheeky young bastard at the very same supermarket last week insisted on seeing my drivers license when I was purchasing some wine. Nope, he swore he wasn't kidding! Those who've met me would have no doubt whatsoever that 21 was a long long time ago! Smartarse kid! :-)

But anyway, back to the bloke with the pizza. Beer swiped he swiped the first three pizzas. The fourth defeated him. You understand that they were four identical pizzas! He twirled that box around and around, inspected the square sides minutely in search of the barcode, checked three of the four elongated rectangles, went back to the squares, checked the same three elongated rectangles and checked the squares yet again. I could see the damn barcode from where I was standing!

I don't swear he scratched his head.

Then a brilliant idea! He put the pizza down and picked up one of the pizzas he'd already scanned, preparing to scan it a second time. Full points for honesty. Unfortunately, these machines also go by weight and it's a mistake to remove something you've scanned until that annoying voice (yes, these damn machines talk at you!) give you permission. Permission is, of course, only granted when you've paid! It might have worked if he'd done a quick shuffle, ensuring that three were still on the output side of the machine, but he didn't and the machine started complaining.

Poor bastard!

She must be very bored indeed

if she keeps emailing me!

And she keeps changing her name. One email she's Tanya and the next email, following a mere minute later she's Natasha! The one thing that's constant is that she's 25 and bored and thought I might like to check her out on some website or other.

If I were single I might though I fear the age gap might prove fatal. Even if that didn't, if she's bored now imagine how she'd feel after an evening with me! Though, come to think of it, maybe if I followed up on the other standard email she might not be quite so bored... :-)

Who falls for such sucker bait anyway? Let's not ask, for if we did I might have to confess that I copped some spyware just the other day. I can't think what I was thinking, to not only click on that link but to also right click on the little yellow warning bar in IE7 and let the damn thing install itself. Only to find that, after installing their fiendish ActiveX control and been redirected back to the website that they imagined I was going to create an account with a real email address.

It was at about that time that my common sense kicked back in and I closed IE. An hour later I noticed two new processes running. A quick google search and I knew I had a problem. I'll chalk the hour it took to remove all traces up to experience.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It doesn't bear thinking about!
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

shamelessly nicked from Guys[^] blog

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Now that's forgetful!

This is an Andrew free zone for the next week and a bit. He's somewhere on Catalina Island, on a boy scouts camp.

When Andrew's not around we take the opportunity to dine on all the stuff he won't eat. Things like spinach and brussel sprouts or my speciality, baked salmon with dill. I could go on about the folly of letting his tastes affect our dinners but experience has shown that such sentiments get but short shrift in this household. The old adage that kids ought to be seen but not heard seems to have been forgotten here. Anyone would think it was a democracy!

Let's face it; where kids are concerned I'm nought but a curmudgeon.

Yesterday morning over the first coffee of the day Sonya suggested that I cook some salmon for dinner; she'd get the makings and I'd cook it when I got home. I was more than agreeable; salmon is good!

All day at the office I anticipated that salmon. It got so that I could almost taste it. Driving home I was pretty hungry; I could picture exactly how I was going to apply the dill and was debating whether I should drop by the supermarket for some more dill; we were pretty low. Or I could try it with not quite as much dill as I usually use and see how it turned out. Either way it was going to be good.

You've guessed, haven't you, that we didn't dine on salmon last night. Bet you can't guess why!

I walked in through the door and made a comment about getting straight away to the oven. But Sonya confessed that she'd forgotten to get the salmon. I scratched my head and started planning to go over and purchase it myself. 'Oh no', she said, 'we're having sausage and rice!'.

'Uh huh' I said, 'so you forgot the salmon and just happened to buy sausage instead?'. She nodded.

I'm still trying to work out how someone can go out to buy salmon and come back, the result of forgetfulness, with sausage!

No matter. The sausage last night was good and the salmon tonight was excellent!

Unintended comedy

I'm old enough to remember the days when radio featured a lot of comedy. Well, perhaps not a lot, but certainly enough to keep me going. I used to love listening to 'Round the Horne', 'Hancocks Half Hour', an old Jimmy Edwards series whose name escapes me and, of course, 'The Goons'. We even had a home grown (Australian) series featuring a character named Greenbottle who was a smart arse after my own heart!

As much as I enjoy modern TV comedy I can't help feeling that we've lost something. *cue the old fart music again*. When all you had were words, sound effects and funny voices it left a lot of room for the imagination. As funny as Al Bundy could be, you were left with the concrete Ed O'Neill playing the role; but I'm sure all of us who've heard Henry Crunn or Neddy Seagoon have our own unique images of them.

I listened avidly, in 1969, to The Goons on Monday nights at 8:00 PM. It annoyed me greatly that my folks, a couple of months later, insisted I must attend judo lessons held in a local hall and which just happened to occur at 8:00 PM on Monday nights! That'd be right. I even, for a short while, entertained the notion that they could be persuaded to play the show over speakers while we tossed each other on the mats. Heck, I was even willing to transport my treasure, a 1952 valve (tube) radio for the purpose.

That plan didn't happen.

The other night as I was driving home I had the car radio on. Should I admit it was Bill O'Reilly? You get your comedy where you can! On came an ad. Let's see how I go transcribing it.

Bling! 'That's the sound of the email containing your picture arriving in your friends inbox'.

Bling! 'That's the sound of your friend forwarding your picture to her friends'.

Bling! 'That's the sound of your friends friend forwarding your picture to her boyfriend'.

Bling Bling! 'That's the sound...' well you get the idea. A few more blings and it becomes clear they're talking about a teenage girl sending a somewhat risque picture of herself in her underwear and how, once it hits the internet, it gets out of hand.

Bling! 'That's the sound of your father receiving...', and then they cut to the next ad in mid sentence.

'Hi. My name's Todd and I used to suffer from erectile dysfunction!'

I cracked up laughing!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Would you drink it?

The last few blog posts I've used the plural to indicate that we went here, we went there, we went to the other place. We being Sonya and I. Andrew preferred to stay home where he could play World of Warcraft unmolested for the entire five days we were away.

Methinks Sonya was a trifle concerned at the thought of leaving him behind but, as I told her, he's nearly sixteen and he should manage. You understand that I'd never have trusted Morgan on her own for five days at that age but Andrew ain't Morgan.

We did have one stipulation. He had to ensure the cats had clean water at all times. Last week we were hitting 116F and that kind of heat can kill if you lack water. Andrew would be okay, he knows how to operate a tap and they are, after all, designed for use by humans. The cats, as much as they might wish to be able to operate our plumbing, just can't and must rely on us.

Now if there's one thing Andrew is good at it's wilfully failing to notice the things that must be done, especially if those things are not fun. I must have had draconian parents without noticing at the time; I'd never have imagined I could get away with the stuff he expects to get away with. Or maybe I just had insufficient imagination!

So I was a trifle concerned, as we headed out of town, that five days hence we might find dead cats littering the house. At last I've found a use for the mobile phone! Poor bastard got four calls a day, to check on the cat drinking water situation. The first couple of times he tried the quick answer, hoping I'd believe him. But I didn't come down in the last shower. Nope, 'Andrew, at least try and fake that you're walking to the upstairs bowl and looking. And then try to make it look as though you're walking to the downstairs bowl.'

By the third day I was reasonably sure he was maintaining the water level.

We'd refused to tell him when we were returning; we planned (meaning I planned) the surprise inspection, which took place Sunday afternoon.

I'll grant you, there was water in the bowls. Almost all the way to the top in fact. But water of a distinctly murky cast. I asked Andrew if he'd noticed. Apparently he had. 'So Andrew', I asked, 'would you drink that water?'. Apparently he wouldn't. 'So why do you expect the cats to?'. He had no answer.

Sigh. I think it's going to take a little more work.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Painted Desert

You might remember a couple of years ago[^] we toured Northern Arizona, taking in Monument Valley, Canyon De Chelly and The Petrified forest.

On our way back from Window Rock this Saturday we took the detour from I-40 to drive through the Petrified Forest again. We were there much later in the day than last time and I got this shot.


Now ain't that something??

This time around Sonya wasn't going to let me rave about the Blue Mesa walking track without giving it a try herself. She agreed it was worth the walk.

We did have a minor disagreement about exactly where the Petrified Forest was. I maintained that it was south of I-40 but when we pulled into the Ranger Station/Harvey Snack Shack (or whatever it's called) the sign stubbornly pointed northward. No, I maintained, it was thataway, pointing south toward I-40. So she drove thataway. Imagine my embarassment when we drove over the overpass and the road split to left and right but no road south. The answer is that the road does loop northward past the Painted Desert and then turns southward and passes over I-40 a second time. The second overpass has no access to I-40.

Later she admitted that she'd struggled mightily to restrain laughter when we found no road south. My reply was simple; 'I wouldn't have had such self control my dear, I'd have rubbed it in'. And I would have too!!


There's not much to relate about the trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico, back to Arizona. Another longish drive not quite as boring as the drive from Roswell. Sonya was able to fulfill a long held ambition and visit Window Rock, Capitol of the Navajo Nation, given that it's a mere 25 miles or so off I-40.


The figure in the foreground is a monument to the Navajo Code Talkers[^]

I found it particularly interesting, when reading up about the Navajo Code Talkers a few years ago (I was reading a book on cryptography at the time), to see the name they gave to Australia - CHA-YES-DESI, Rolled Hat, most apposite if you've ever seen the hats Australian soldiers wear!

I'm not sure the name given to Africa would be acceptable these days! (See here[^] for the full vocabulary). On the other hand, I suspect that political correctness is a luxury restricted to those of us living in safe middle class suburbs without car bombs nearby!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Out of this World

Day two of our summer trip.

We started out by driving to El Paso, but you knew that. Some might have chosen to scratch their heads and wonder why on earth El Paso. I know half the people at the office did! But the answer is simple; Sonya was meeting up with a long lost seventeenth (or whatever the number is) cousin, someone who shares her obsession withpassion for long dead ancestors. We had a pretty good night as it happens; dinner and drinks at the casino. Fairly engrossing conversation. Engrossing enough that we completely missed the Fourth of July fireworks!

Thence along the Texas New Mexico border to The Carlsbad Caverns. Fascinating caves with an interesting 'natural' entrance. It might have been natural once but I can't help thinking that adding an asphalt path that twists back and forth as it descends detracts from its original state. On the other hand, there is no way I'd have descended 800 feet into the earth via ladder or rope!

My camera is a cheap one; it wouldn't have done justice to what we saw so I didn't try.

Thence to Roswell, New Mexico. Could we have picked a worse week to visit there? Yeah, if we waited forty more years, for it turns out that this week is the sixtieth anniversary of the 'Roswell Incident'. Not only was the joint crawling with various nut-cases but all the hotels and motels were full up. We got lucky! By sheer chance we happened on the one hotel that had a cancellation and, whats more, it was a smoking room! But no discounts this week, no sirree bob.

The place seemed to be crawling with TV crews. Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but there were no fewer than two crews conducting 'noddies' in the lobby of our motel, one that evening and one the next morning.

Hey, we had to visit the Roswell UFO Museum and Research Centre[^], occupying what was once the local movie theatre. I harboured, briefly, hopes that the interior might still have one or two period features but alas, it was not to be. They couldn't have more thoroughly stripped the insides bare had they used blow torches and a bulldozer!

We fronted up at the ticket counter. Five bucks a head and a gibbering idiot behind the counter blathering about aliens. I commented that I was no longer an alien but the joke went right over his head!

Once past the ticket counter we tried to be the open minded inquirer. Honest, we did! (Well, maybe not *that* hard). But it all got a bit too much for me when they started quoting Carl Sagan and Erich von Daniken in the same sentence. By the time we got to Close Encounters of the First, Second and Third kinds, followed by the prop dummies used in some movie or other about the Roswell Incident, well, I'd lost all ability to take em seriously! Possibly my loss.

We got out of there while the getting was good and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you've never done that drive let me tell you, it's long, it's flat and it's boring. There are two or three dots marked, on the AAA map of New Mexico, along the route from Roswell to Santa Fe. We managed to see Mesa, the first dot, because we didn't blink. We must have both blinked at the same moment because we never did see Ramon, the second dot on the route!

As the oldest state capital in the United States Santa Fe is 'interesting' to drive around. It was certainly laid out way before traffic flow became a consideration. If you've ever driven through downtown Boston you know what I mean. Dozens of tiny twisty streets, all alike. And most of em one way. On the other hand, once we found parking that became a distinct advantage. I wouldn't want you to read my flippancy as a disparagement because I found central 'old' Santa Fe a very congenial place to walk in.

Of course we visited The Palace of the Governors[^]. Well worth a visit.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Thing

Raymond Chen[^] posted about The Thing[^] a few weeks ago.

Since we were planning to go to El Paso, Texas, for the Fourth of July holiday and our route would take us right past The Thing, what more natural than that we'd stop and take a look. As we approached exit 322 on I-10 there was sign after sign after sign advertising The Thing. The article linked above implies the signs dot the highway for hundreds of miles. Methinks that's an exaggeration; we only saw them for about twenty miles but I can understand the exaggeration; there seemed to be hundreds of the buggers in that twenty miles!

Well worth a buck a head if only for the sheer audacity of it all. Not only do you get to goggle at The Thing, you get to stare at an ancient Rolls Royce reputed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler. To underline the point they have a dummy made up to look like him, complete with toothbrush moustache, sitting on the back seat. I'm not saying it didn't once belong to Adolf but, considering it likely that he owned, at most, one or three in his lifetime, I have to wonder at the likelihood of one of them finishing up in the Arizona desert. (But sillier things have happened, just consider London Bridge over at Lake Havasu!)

A little further on in the display they have an ancient footstool with the simple caption 'Chinese: 1427'. I seriously doubt the accuracy of that date but who cares? A little further along and two faded, dusty, kitschy prints labelled 'Italian - 1820'.

Having exited the display itself, which brings you back to the gift shop, the dunnies are to the right. I availed myself of the opportunity and there, at the urinal, at just the point where ones eyes are focussed during that operation, are advertisements for the various wares on sale at the shop. Gotta hand it to the proprietors, they don't miss a chance!