Monthly Archives: April 2013

Zillow has good news for us.

zillowEvery day or two, I check Zillow to see what it says about my house. And it always goes up at least $400 any time it changes.

We bought this house five years ago – just about to the day. And for the next four years, it kept going down, down, down in value. Last year we refinanced, purely on faith that it might recover some value. And it seems that that is happening.

In fact, a realtor friend tells us that Zillow is like three months behind. So that is great news. We are still a long way from this house being worth what we paid for it, but we might actually have positive equity. And that’s an amazing thought.

Every spring, when we come back down the mountain and see the damage from a winter without maintenance, I’m ready to just walk away. It’s not that there is that much damage; it’s just been that feeling of “we keep paying for this place, and working on it, and it keeps losing value”. Now, that sentiment is changing. It’s a joy again to do stuff to the place. Perhaps my attitude is mercenary, but so be it. I don’t think anybody likes losing money, but I’m willing to accept the possibility, unlikely as it seems.

If this place does go above water again, I don’t know that I’ll be in any hurry to sell it. We’re watching the yard fill in from all of the planting that we’ve been doing for five years; that, in itself, is a pleasure. The mesquite in the front yard, that was a twig in a 24″ box in the fall of ’08, has almost reached the point where the canopy is completely above the house. When that happens, then we’ll have a real shade tree.

The queen palms out by the pool keep giving me grief, but maybe someday that will be the quasi-tropical paradise for which we’d hoped. And the volunteers – desert broom, creosote and palo verde – are doing all that they can do to lush the place up.

So we’ll keep it, and keep paying for it. And keep working on it.

And keep climbing out of the hole. WHAT? Or to WHOM?

connectedInstead of just saying “Order #110-1063073-8252209” I should also  have said “What is your name?” Then he could have told me his name again and asked me for the order number.

We could have kept that up all day : )

Amazon lost my stuff in transit. Actually, it was ETHEL’S order. What does “guaranteed’ two-day free delivery” mean? If it’s not there in two days, I get my “free” back? (Pawan is still thinking about that question).

Speaking of questions that have kept me thinking:

* Why do you see business cards that say “Attorney At Law” but never see a business card from an “Attorney At Cooking” or an “Attorney At Accounting” If you can only be an Attorney At Law, then why add the At Law?

* Was Tom Skerrit born that age?

I’m still studying Spanish daily. While I’m reading or writing, I can muddle through, but as soon as I start trying to speak, I stumble, and as soon as I start listening, Church is Out. Reading and writing is like filling out a puzzle. Speaking is like loading a gun and shooting at a target; listening is like trying to catch somebody else’s bullets.

Speaking of questions that won’t go away – why does the spell checker hate “else’s” when I’m using it as a possessive? This spell checker is NOT going to coerce me into doing something stupid. I refuse.

Well, Pawan has possibly decided to find another line of work:

I have checked that there is no tracking upate and it seems that the order has lost in transit.
If you wish, I can process the replacement for the item.
Me:So what does “guaranteed two day free delivery” mean? if it’s not here in two days, I get my “free”
Pawan:I can try to reship the item to you with the saturday delivery.
Pawan:Allow me a minute.
Me:I’m still stuck on the “guaranteed” thing.
Pawan:I have processed the replacement with the saturday delivery.
Guaranteed Delivery Date: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Me:Since the last guaranteed delivery date was yesterday, what does the “guarantee” mean?
Pawan:Guarantee means you will receive the item on time.but the item was lost that is the reason you didn’t receive the item.
Me:I mean, we’re fulfilling the two-day delivery guarantee by delivering it in four days. If that doesn’t make it, then does that mean that I’ll have to wait eight?
It just seems that I’m paying for something that I’m not getting here….that being the “guaranteed two-day delivery”.
Pawan:I am sorry, the order was got lost.otherwise, we would have delivered the item to you on time.
I assure you that you will surely receive the item on saturday.

Me:Okay, thanks.

Pawan:Is there anything else I can do for you?

Me:No, thank you. Sorry to trouble you.

Pawan:No problem, we are here to help you.

Mi amiga Nangel asked me the other day what kind of fountain we had.

The only answer I could give was “A Mexican fountain” because that’s what we call it, but how do I know where it came from? I suppose “three-tiered circular” might be a better description, but I’ve never heard any fountain talk, so I really don’t know

This year, we had to replace the pump, which meant that the whole thing had to be broken down, which meant that it had to be put back together. This is an exhausting process, due to the precise leveling that has to happen to keep the streams even around the tiers. There’s also this little fact; when I get a tier level, I then add the tier above it. And adding the next tier, and getting it level,  tends to disturb the one below it; So then, when I relevel the lower tier, that means that the upper tier has now lost ITS level, and so it goes, ad infinitum.

I often post pics of my view from my home office; here is what Ethel sees from her desk, looking into the front yard:

lafuenteLa Fuente is on the left, through the middle glass (the right side of the French doors) you can see the Bama Banner up on the hill (that smudge of crimson) and on the right, the small oleander.

That bundle of sticks you can see above the small oleander is a dead saguaro skeleton. Those are considered “cool” to have in your yard.

We have a lot of work to do in the yard, still recovering from the winter. Floyd and Angela brought us twenty or thirty small agaves; we lost Alice, our huge agave, this winter;. We can’t figure out what killed her, as other agaves much smaller survived the winter just fine. She must weigh over a hundred pounds – I had to put her corpse into a wheelbarrow to roll her away. We’ll plant a replacement there, and another thrity or so attendants : )

We still haven’t hit 100 F at the airport, much less up here in New River. This is the coolest April that I can recall.

The sunlight is starting to look a bit summery, although it only got up to 91 F today here in gorgeous New River, AZ.

A great time to sit and just look. Too bad I had to work : )

Today, on an email list of which I have been a member for over twenty years, somebody said something to the effect that “I know that we are all stressed out about Boston”.


Look, I know that bad things (if you’re into the whole good/bad idea) happened in Boston. But I’m not the least bit “stressed out” over it. In fact, I can’t IMAGINE being stressed out over it. Those things happened. A lot of other “bad” stuff happened all over the world that very same day.

So I posted and pointed out that, no, I actually wasn’t stressed out about it at all. I said that I didn’t want to start a conversation about it, but that it had occurred to me that perhaps other folks might be stressing out because they are being told that they should be stressed out, and they aren’t.

Not only that, but there was a sub-context going on – the email list is the Dead Runners Society. Some folks are saying that we shouldn’t wear our t-shirts because folks might find them offensive.

I allowed as to how folks who want to find offense will find it, but that other folks won’t – and used as example a fellow who said that some of his co-workers actually thought that he was wearing a shirt that said “Dead Runners Society” to show support for the injured and killed runners.

Turns out that there are folks who find not being upset…upsetting : )

I got backchannel email from a guy who found my email upsetting – told me that it wasn’t just the deaths,but the “terror” in Boston that I should be upset about .

I thanked him for his note, but have to admit that I found his statements amusing. What, exactly, did he expect me to DO? Pretend to be upset? Decide to get upset? : )

I didn’t ask him. There didn’t really seem to be anything to discuss….



Med changes can cause a fellow to lose sleep and feel bad.

When I feel bad, then I wind up drinking caffeine, and then I can’t sleep, and then I feel bad.

So Ethel picked this week to buy a new bed.


By ‘a new bed’ I don’t mean the humungous timbers of raw pine that hold up the mattress and box springs; I mean the mattress and box springs itself. Why did we buy a new one? Well, it’s complicated.

We are refurnishing the small Purgatory condo to put it back into the rental pool and put it on the market to sell. So we’re going to take the bed that we pulled out of there when we moved across the parking lot to the big condo, and we’re putting it back. Thus, we needed another bed to replace it.

We were going to buy a new bed for up there – and we are doing so, when by ‘bed’ we mean ‘the thing that holds up the mattress and box springs’. But when we looked at how much we would be spending, we decided to replace our bed down here with the new stuff and put the old stuff up there.

(editor’s note – over the last few years, I believe that a count of days would show that we’ve spent more days in Colorado than in Arizona, but it would be close. So maybe it really doesn’t make sense to replace the bed down here, when we are spending just as much time up there. But it is possible that we might sell that place and move to Steamboat or some other ski town, and if we do, then we will sell it furnished, because that’s how you sell ski condos. And if and when we sell this place, we’ll be taking the bed with us. So, there is some rationality here).

So this week, when I’m having troubles with my meds and with caffeine, Ethel brings a new sleeping surface into the house.

..To be fair, I’ve also got work troubles. I had a project that I got stuck on several times, and finally spent last weekend getting it to work, then I couldn’t figure out how to deploy the application to QA (it was a major rewrite, using different tech, and I couldn’t get it to load and run int the old website). This messed with my sleep, as well.

So I am very, very tired.The grainy-eyeall kind of tired. The having-trouble-concentrating kind of tired. Which isn’t helping my productivity at work. Which isn’t helping my stress levels. Which isn’t helping my sleep.


Here’s one of the new plants we’ve put out as part of spring planting – a pygmy palm.


If you look under the pygmy, you’ll see a couple of short palms, one of which (the one obscured behind the pygmy palm)  may not make it – these are our Sago palm trees. Yes, I know, they are awfully short for palm trees. Sago palms grow about one inch per year. And these palms got hurt pretty badly this winter, so they may be through growing.

N.B. – “I inch per year” is 2.54 times as fast as the North American continent is moving west. So, in plate tectonic terms, those Sago palms are hoofin’ it.

Speaking of “hoofin'”, you might have expected, given the title of the post, to see my fat feet. But I’m not about to do that to you. My feet aren’t just guy feet, they are running guy feet. Toenails a quarter inch thick. A terrible sight for a sober man.

And they are not as fat this afternoon as they were this morning.

I just started taking a new ADD med (you didn’t know I had ADD? SQUIRREL!) that has Guaifenecin in it – never trust a medication with that many vowels. This stuff is also a med for hypertension – well, okay, I have that too.

But my high blood pressure –

Backstory: in the summer of 1999, I was in possibly the best shape of my life. I was running some 60-70 mile weeks, at elevation, and I was running those miles faster than I’d ever run before. My body fat was negative, and I think my hair was growing back in. I was DOWN, dude!

Then I saw the doctor, and he said “High blood pressure – 155/122”. Huh? My blood pressure had always been low- how could it be high? And how could it be THAT high, THAT, quickly?

Doc said “Genetic”. Yep. My genetic makeup had decided that it was time for me to die, and let younger bulls impregnate the herd. My chromosomes wouldn’t listen when I told them that I wasn’t going to try to impregnate the herd, that Ethel would certainly frown on my impregnating the herd – my chromosomes didn’t care about my intentions, only about my potentials.

The doc said “Lisinopril”, and within a couple of days, my blood pressure was back down to 110/70, and it’s been there ever since.

– was being controlled just fine by Lisinopril, and when I started taking the ADD med as well, suddenly I was getting light-headed when I would stand up. So I stopped taking the Lisinopril.

Well, the last two days, I’ve gained weight. Now, that’s not surprising; I always gain weight when I come back down from the mountains. But it usually caps out in the high 170s, and I’ve gained a bit more these last two days.

And yesterday, I looked at my feet, and didn’t see any veins.

Hands, too. Chubby as the day is long.

So I took out the ADD med and put back the Lisinopril As of this afternoon, I have veins again. Things aren’t back to normal yet, but I have faith.

And, it’s not like the ADD med is that impor-SQUIRREL!

I’ve been REALLY busy, doing work stuff.

And jogging (I’m not ready to call it “running” yet. It just doesn’t seem right. I’m a couple of minutes/mile slower than I was in December. That’s like aging twenty years in a couple of months).

And going to meetings and doing stuff around the house since we got back (trying to repair the damage that gets done in a winter is surprising – especially when you realize that it’s an Arizona winter).

And the doctors and the dentist. Trying to find out what’s wrong with me (see above – aging twenty years in a couple of months) has involved seeing docs more than once, a bunch of tests and a CAT scan (they didn’t find any cats). And I had to go to the dentist yesterday.

I think I’m paying my dentist too much. Here’s the restroom at my dentist’s office:

MunkleBathYes, that’s Madiera Gold granite and travertine walls. And rolled towels. There aren’t any paper towels; no air dryer, either. It’s either use the rolled towels or wipe your wet hands dry on your pants.

I’m just not high-falutin’ enough to be willing to use up a rolled cotten hand towel every time I wash my hands in the bathroom. Since they left me no choice, the last time I was in there, I just rubbed my hands dry on my jeans.

The pool is back up into the mid-80s Farenheit. As long as we keep the cover on, it stays warm. But these spring winds can cool it off most riki-tiki. And those same winds can blow the cover off, so it’s a never-ending job to keep monitoring the pool cover. You don’t have these problems unless you have a negative-edge pool. But the negative-edge pool gives so many benefits (please insert list here) that I’m glad to put up with all of the extra expense and trouble. No, really.

We haven’t played golf since we got back to Arizona. I don’t know why. I’ve had a lesson and been to the driving range. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for Ethel or Floyd to say “let’s play”. I’m not the kind of guy who would suggest golf; I’m more of a follower.

Now I’ve got to get back to work. Like I said, I’ve been busy.

Bunnies. are the bane of our existence at the Chocolate House.

They eat all of the plants that we put out; they seem to have become immune to rabbit repellent, and they’ve gotten quite cocky – they are not afraid of Lucy (even though she got one last month). They just keep coming through the fence and keep eating our stuff.

So Ethel put out a bounty – $10 for a confirmed bunny kill.

Floyd was the first recipient.

FloydAndTheBunny“In every generation there is a chosen one. He alone will stand against the bunnies, the vampires and the forces of darkness. He is the bunny slayer.”

Yep, Floyd got the bunny with his compound bow – as you can see, it was a kill shot, through the neck or the head (the difference is not immediately clear with a bunny corpse, and I wasn’t going to do an autopsy). Now he’s ready to head off to the Serengeti to take down some BIG, African bunnies.

(You might have noticed the beard. It’s actually quite impressive – it’s a better beard than his father, his uncles or his grandfather could grow. We’ve all been bearded at one time or the other, but never with the coverage and fullness of that ZZ Top thing that Floyd is sporting. Yep, he’s a stylish killer!)

This morning, I contacted my friend Patrick, who is a hunting guide and outfitter, to get Floyd a trip to go bag a big white-tail or mule bunny in the mountains down near Tucson. With any luck, we’ll have something mounted on the wall in a few months.

I am…BUSY at work.

(“Busy” in this context implies a level of ACTivity, not a level of PROUCTivity – i.e. I’m acting like I’m being productive, I guess.)

So I haven’t had time to post. But I did have time to eat lunch.

Sure, you all knew this all along – but, since I was not in the classes where folks learned how to live life, I’ve had to figure these things out for myself.

For instance – how to microwave a hot dog.

HotDogFor many years, I’ve microwaved a hot dog by putting it on a plate, and while it was microwaving, I’d get the bun and mustard and ketchup out. Then I’d take the hot dog out of the microwave, and put it on the bun, and put on the ketchup and mustard.

However, one thing that I’ve always liked about “commercial” hot dogs is the nice steamed, heated bun. But my hot-dog-microwaving-method didn’t support that. Who’s got time to steam a bun?

But this last autumn, it suddenly hit me – it struck me like a flash, like a vision burnt across the clouds – put the hot dog in the microwave like always, but then stop it with ten seconds to go, and then OPEN UP THE BUN AND PUT IT OVER THE HOT DOG WHILE THE HOT DOG COOKS.

Voila – a nice, hot steamed bun and dog.

Why didn’t you people TELL me?

It’s a beatufiu day here in unutterably gorgeous New River, AZ. The sky is blue, the pool is blue…

bluepool….hey, wait a minute. That pool is just a little too blue!

We put the cover on the pool on Sunday. The pool was warming up during the day, but cooling right back off at night, and the temp was not making it out of the 60s Farenheit. The cover has been on for forty-eight hours, and the temperature is 80 F. I’d call that a win.

It’s April 2nd, which is early for swimming, but I’ll take it. And being April 2nd also means that yesterday was April Fool’s Day.

I’ve never been a big April Fool’s fan. I’ve never liked the idea of it, I reckon. Making other folks out to be fools doesn’t seem fun to me – because I am the biggest fool of all. I’ve never liked movies where the fun was people being embarrassed; heck, I don’t even like sitcoms where somebody being embarrassed is the major plot device.

I cringe when I watch Napoleon Dynamite, because I AM Napoleon. (I laugh later, of course).

My friend Nangel popped off this quote from the Talmud, regarding embarrassing other people, and it really hit home:

“One should be extremely careful to never shame another in public. This sin is akin to murder; just as blood is spilled in the act of murder, so too when one is shamed the blood drains from his face. One who publicly embarrasses his fellow loses his share in the World to Come.”

Now, I do not agree with the sentiment as expressed; I happen to believe that what is being injured when one is publicly shamed is not the person himself, but his ego – and anything that’s bad for my ego is good for me. (Often I would argue with this statement; when that happens, it means that I am, at that time, identifying with my ego, rather than seeing it as the cancerous soul-sickness that it is).

But I am aware that not everybody shares this view, and it’s not my job to decide how somebody else should grow spiritually. So the best way that I know to express my relationship with the above quote is to say that “It applies to me as the perpetrator, but not as the victim”.

My main problem, then, is this – I often commit this sin against others unconsciously, because I am not as easily embarrassed or shamed; things that I often disclose myself with ease or humor are mortifying to others. I’d like to think that this is because I am more “humble” but I suspect that the truth is more along the lines of this: I’ve had such a checkered past, and such a record of failure at everything, that it’s hard to get the best of me…heck, I’m usually the one to expose such things about myself quickly, because I am so scared of living with secrets.

But ignorance of the law is no excuse; the fact that I’m not aware that the gun is loaded doesn’t stop the other guy from bleeding – or keep the blood from draining from his face.