Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kicking the tyres again

I mentioned quite some time ago that we'd gone house hunting[^]. At that time the numbers stubbornly refused to add up and we've been stuck here.

But what with the precipitous drop in housing prices and the consequent rise in rentals the numbers do finally add up and it's starting to look like we can have our cake and eat it too; to wit, keep this place as a rental and get a real house to live in.

This is not a change unfraught with concerns; I still remember the feeling, upon signing the contract for my first house, of 'hell, I owe the bank $120,000!' It's also requiring a bit of a mental reorientation for myself; me as a landlord??? Perish the thought for this lefty. But things change over time and I keep reminding myself of that saying attributed, I think, to George Bernard Shaw 'if you're not a socialist before you're thirty you have no heart, if you're still one after thirty you have no head!'.

Okay, so I'm lagging a bit!

We've been looking at various houses, off and on, for more than half a year and seen a few we liked, a few just that little bit out of range, a lot way out of range and a lot more we just didn't like. To say nothing of those priced more optimistically than realistically!

We saw one yesterday that I'm still chuckling over. It was a vacant posession but the agent had arranged for it to be 'staged'. You know the deal. Back in Australia they advise one to have a pot of fresh coffee just brewed; not for the refreshment of prospective buyers but to give it 'that' smell. They also advise fresh bread for the same reason. I can't say I've seen any house here where those tricks were employed though a sickly sweet smell does seem popular. Thank god no one's gone for cinammon!

I wouldn't presume to suggest a kickback but this is the first staged vacancy I've seen this time around.

The house had been staged by stocking the pantry with various brands of breakfast cereal and strategically placed bottles of red wine. I kid you not, I've never seen quite so many bottles of wine strewn around the place. It looked like an alcoholics paradise. I have to wonder who they thought they were pitching the place to; it was a family home, not a bachelor flat[^]! They even had a tray sitting on the master bed with a bottle of red wine and two champagne flutes! That's the detail that made me chuckle. No one of any taste whatsoever would sip red wine from a damn champagne flute!

Nice try guys but no cigar.

We found a place we both really liked within our means. Pool and all. Another phone call tomorrow to the mortgage broker to be sure we can finance it and, with luck, we'll place an offer this week.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


North of Phoenix on the I-17 interstate, on the way to Flagstaff, you pass through a hamlet called McGuireville. Ordinarily I wouldn't even notice McGuireville save for two signposts; the one pointing to Montezuma's Well and the other to Cornville!

I thought I had some photos of Montezuma's Well to show you but if I still have them I'm damned if I can find em. I'm quite sure I took em, I just can't find em. Another time, when we go back thataway.

That's a side trip from where I was going with this post anyway. I could never help laughing whenever we saw the sign to Cornville! The name struck me as both risible and terribly lacking in imagination. I mean, who on earth would name a town, no matter how humble, Cornville? And lest you think this is another of those Aussie knocking the Yanks posts, I'll point out that we have some pretty unimaginatively named places back in Australia too. I'm sure Snake Valley got the name because someone found a snake or two there! And who, having named a place Emerald Hill, would change the name to South Melbourne?

Nonetheless I'd chuckle whenever we saw the signs to Cornville. You can imagine my surprise then, upon consulting a pamphlet my wife picked for 50 cents and titled 'place names in Arizona and why they are so named' (their capitalisation, not mine), to discover that apparently it was named after early settlers named Cohn and a mistake was made in Washington, changing Cohnville to Cornville.

Of course this begs the question; do I believe everything I read in pamphlets? Wikipedia repeats the story[^] but who knows where the person who wrote the Wikipedia page got the story from? Same source possibly (the pamphlet is undated though it has an ISBN number. It looks considerably older than Wikipedia).

The short answer is no, I'm way too much the cynic for that. Nonetheless, I'd like to believe the story. You can't beat a good apochryphal story! I still like the story about the word 'Kangaroo'[^] though it's unlikely to be true. That's the one that goes thusly; Englishman in first settlement at Sydney Cove sees a Kangaroo bound by and, never having seen anything like it in his life, turns to a conveniently located Aboriginal and asks 'what was that?'. The Aboriginal answers 'kangaroo' and the Englishman, secure in the knowledge that everyone speaks English, assumes it's the local name for the animal. Of course, the Aboriginal had no idea what the Englishman said and answered 'I don't know what you're saying'. The Wikipedia version of the story is more specific than the version I heard.

As I say, not terribly likely but I'd like to believe it!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Washing a car

I thought you might like to know what it's like having Andrew wash ones car. It's quite amusing and I think, secretly, Andrew doesn't mind the process all that much either.

Thus to last Sunday. I told you about his driving lesson but what I didn't mention (that post was getting quite long enough as it was) was that we'd, in addition to dragging him away from World of Warcraft for the lesson itself, also insisted he wash our cars.

Mine was washed first and, to be fair to him, he did a pretty good job. Of course, this is probably because he knows I'm going to inspect afterwards.

He didn't do nearly so thorough a job on Moms car. Woe, therefore, to him that I did a post-wash inspection. 'Missed a bit' I said, pointing at some large patches of dust many days from a wetting. 'Oh' he replied, crestfallen.

I disappeared back into the house and he set to with the washcloth a second time. A few minutes pass and he announces it's done. So out I go. 'Missed a bit' I crowed with delight, pointing at some patches of something adorning the paintwork just below the drivers door.

Back into the house while he tries a third time. Two minutes later he announces it's done and out I go again.

You guessed it; 'Missed a bit!'. Interestingly, this time around, they were the same bits he'd missed the previous time. 'I can't get those off' he protested. So I grabbed the washcloth to show him how. And of course, a single pass was sufficient.

Now I'll give him points for ingenuity; he's seen the old pickle jar opening trick. You know the one, someone can't get a lid to budge so they ask someone for help. The second person, seemingly without effort, twists the lid off and the first person lamely protests that 'they'd loosened it!'. Of course, how silly of me, Andrew had loosened the dirt; that was why I was able to move it so easily. I left him to complete the job.

Five minutes later he announces, for the fourth time, that it's done. And out I go. And yes, of course, 'missed a bit'. This time it was the same kind of dirt in much the same place but on the passenger side this time.

The next inspection was, mercifully for you the reader, me the inspector and Andrew the poor bastard, the last one. This time he'd managed to get all but the tiniest specks of dirt off.

I keep telling him that one day he'll be glad I'm so picky; I suspect the average boss won't tolerate half done jobs for very long. And if he learns nothing else, he's learning that a thorough job requires an eye for detail.

Ricardo Montalban

It would hardly come as a surprise to longer term readers that I know little about contemporary movies, and care less. Well, not entirely true; I saw quite a few movies at the local cinema in 2002, movies such as Monsters Ball, Blackhawk Down, LOTR:FOTR, the remake of The Time Machine and so on. But for the most part my interest is focussed on movies from the 1920's through to the late 1950's. Methinks you already knew that!

Of course this places me at a disadvantage when playing Trivial Pursuit; for some unaccountable reason the Australian Edition seems to expect knowledge of contemporary (or contemporary for the time, mid 1980s) movies. For all I know the US edition or the British Edition might have a similar focus but no one plays Trivial Pursuit anymore, do they?

It became a standing joke amongst my friends of the time that whenever called upon to name the actor who played such and such a role I'd always, after a moments reflection, come up with Ricardo Montalban. It seemed as good a guess as any and consistency would eventually see the odds go my way and Ricardo Montalban be the correct answer! Indeed, they'd confer whenever it fell to my lot to answer movie questions, to ensure the answer wasn't Ricardo Montalban!

Monday, March 03, 2008

How does Google work, again???

Morgan knows I blog. I'm not sure she knows why (nor for that matter am I sure either) but she does know that she gets the occasional mention. Naturally she's consumed with curiousity to know just what I've written about her but I have to admit I'm not in any hurry for her to read it. She does know that her special category is 'The bitch from hell'. I fear she's rather proud of that!

Thus, whenever she asks (which isn't all that often), I tell her to Google! Strangely enough she hasn't managed to find it yet. I wouldn't have thought it all that difficult a search. I just Googled myself and at the time of writing the first seven matches on my name are to things I've written. Number eight is an impostor. He must be. I couldn't afford to be a member of the Rolls Royce club, let alone be a member of the board!

Even Andrew chuckles that she can't find my blog and I think we all know by now just how resourceful he is!

Juggling Pizza Boy

Today we took Andrew out for his first driving lession. It's taken quite a while to get him sufficiently interested in driving to get his drivers permit though both Sonya and I suspect that it wasn't so much a lack of interest as fear. Perhaps I've overdone it a little when pointing out that driving a car is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Perchance telling him he'd be at the controls of a ton of steel quite capable of killing was over-egging the pudding.

On the other hand, better that than a devil-may-care attitude. I told him nothing more than the truth.

Be that as it may, I found it all somewhat hard to believe. It seemed we had the only teenager in all of North America who didn't want to drive! But what with his father pushing from one side, me pushing from another and Sonya pulling, we finally got him to the learners permit test. He failed the first time. He failed the second time. He barely squeaked past on the third try.

Thus to today. I found myself elected teacher so we used my car. As I pointed out, mine was paid for! Sonya held out for her car and methinks Andrew secretly would have preferred hers. Indeed, now that I think about it, perhaps Sonya had another reason; I've adamantly refused to let Morgan ever drive mine. Perhaps she was worried about ructions later when Morgan finds out. Well, Morgan will just have to face up to harsh reality and the sooner the better.

We took him out to an industrial area with an enormous, mostly empty, carpark. We swapped seats and I held the keys. Poor bastard jumps in to the drivers seat and instantly reaches for the ignition. But nope, that wasn't how it was going to be. First he had to go through the importance of seat position (he's taller than I am) and adjusting mirrors. Ever tried to describe, in words, the correct position for a mirror? We ended up with Sonya standing beside the car and asking him when he could see Mom and when he couldn't.

Preliminaries gone through and Mom safely seated in the rear, he was ready to go. But I was still holding the keys. 'Er, can I have the keys?' he timidly asked. 'Nope, you've forgotten something very important' was my reply. Hmmm, some head scratching as he anxiously rechecks the mirrors and the seat position. Nope, he can't imagine what's holding up the keys this time. He's watching me finger the edge of my seat belt and he still doesn't get it.

Now you have to understand that, as old as I am, I've never driven a car that didn't have seatbelts. Nor have I, so far as I'm aware, ever driven where seatbelts weren't compulsory if fitted. It's so automatic that I don't ever think about it unless I try and drive without fastening the belt; that feels so uncomfortable I can't even reverse a dozen feet without fastening it. I'm not even sure if seatbelts are compulsory in Arizona. But I ain't driving without em, nor are any of my passengers. I remember going through this with Morgan four or five years ago; 'but I trust your driving Rob' she'd protest. 'That's fine', I'd reply. 'But I don't trust my own driving - put the bloody thing on'. I also don't trust anyone else out there on the road. Maybe this is why I've managed thirty five years driving without a serious accident. Maybe not.

And if none of my passengers are driving with me without seatbelts then guess what my feeling is about a brand new driver on his first lesson? Sheepishly he put the belt on and I handed him the keys.

The lesson itself went about as well as can be expected for a first time out. No, he didn't total the car but yes, he swung so wide on turns that I reckon he must have ancestral memories of driving an oxcart! He didn't like getting out on the roads one little bit; there he had to contend with two other cars! But you have to push Andrew or he never tries anything. As I said when he complained that I was making him take too many turns, 'if I didn't you'd drive straight and never make a turn'. He would too! And you can bet we were careful not to overdo it. I can remember my first time on a public road. Nervewracking. At the end of half an hour we pulled over so Sonya and I could have a smoke and Andrew intimated that perhaps this was enough for the first time out. Sonya seemed to think not but I stood up for him; let's not overdo it.

Sonya congratulated me on remaining very calm through the experience. Like I wouldn't. Everyone has to learn, and wide turns, forgetting turn indicators, doing a left from the right hand lane etc are par for the course. There's a reason we chose the industrial car park! I thought he did very well.

I drove us back home via the supermarket; we needed to pick up dinner. Sonya didn't feel like cooking and she suggested a pre-made pizza. I hate pre-made pizza with a passion but the wise husband learns to shut up lest he find himself cooking dinner himself! Thus we grabbed a pizza and, since Andrew was with us, what more natural than to expect him to carry it? 'Keep it flat' I warned, as he showed signs of carrying it like it was a book. Thence to the other end of the supermarket to get some tinned cat treats; Andrew twirling the pizza and basically doing everything imaginable with a pizza short of cooking and eating it; all the time keeping it flat. Of course disaster struck; the box flew open and our dinner shot across the floor, topping side down! How fortunate it was sealed in plastic!

Andrew turned about three shades redder than I've ever seen in my life and ever since then his nickname has been 'Juggling Pizza Boy'. I'll stop ribbing him about it, eventually!

In the end, the pizza wasn't bad!