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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Booty

I've added more books to my stash. I'm such a sucker for books. I realize that this might seem to go against my goal of reducing my stuff. Aren't books just more stuff? Well, perhaps to another person they would be. But for me they are food for the soul.

But in keeping with my philosophy, I do tend to get rid of them once I have read them. I pass them on so that others can enjoy them, & so that I don't have to find a place to put them. Also, I tend not to re-read books only because there are so many out there that I want to read that I see re-reading a book as a missed opportunity to read something new. If only I could read faster!

So, this weekend I took another pile of books over to Bookman's. They gave me $30 in trade, which I promptly spent. Then I stopped at Goodwill, looking for some shoes. I left with some jeans & a book. I also stopped by the Tempe Public Library in hopes of a job. No dice, but I got a couple of books from their sale corner anyway. All told, I brought home nine books to add to my shelf.

Here are my new additions:

Amy Tan, The Opposite of Fate (2003)
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975)
Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian (2005)
J. Maarten Troost, Getting Stoned with Savages (2006)
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (2003)
Robert Hellenga, The Sixteen Pleasures (1995)
Thalia Zepatos, A Journey of One's Own (1992)
Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001)
In Search of Adventure, A Wild Travel Anthology (1999)

If you want to see what I'm currently reading, or to read my comments on books I have read, check out my book blog.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Kar is Kaput

I bought this car last March for $2400. The price was high & I knew it at the time, but I was ready to be done with the car search. I had spent several days driving around in my friend Jay's pickup, looking at cars, asking my friends to go with me for their opinions. I was ready to be independent again with my own car.

In the beginning, I had problems passing emissions, but that was taken care of by my favorite mechanic. In the summer, the AC didn't work when the outside temperature was over 100 degrees (that's a problem here in Arizona). & I've always had a problem with the clutch, occasionally having to get it adjusted.

The last time I got the clutch adjusted, the mechanic said that the next time it starts acting up, I would have to put in a new clutch. Since it's a 4-wheel drive vehicle, that means about $700 for a new clutch.

So now my delimna is this: Do I replace the clutch in a piece of crap car? Do I buy another car? If I buy another car, do I buy another piece of crap car? Do I buy a decent car which will have to be financed? Do I lease a car?

I can't really afford any of these options, so maybe I'll go back to not having a car at all. My roommate does it, & he seems to be able to work it out just fine. With the light rail on its way, maybe I can get away with it until I figure out what I'm doing with the rest of my life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stuck Cat

There has been a cat in the tree in my backyard for the last several days. He meows & meows like he really wants some help. The neighbors came over yesterday to try to help get him down. Elva, one of my roommates, climbed up the tree to try to coax him down. But he only moved farther away from her. I guess we're going to have to endure his constant meowing until he gets hungry enough to come down on his own.

Just like everything else in life: No matter how much you want someone else to save you from your mistakes, in the end, you can only save yourself.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am thankful for:
Loving friends & family
A roof over my head
Food in my belly
A healthy body
The opportunity to make mistakes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Whew! I guess all this excitement has worn me out. I went to bed last night at 9:00 with a headache, which I don't normally get, & didn't get out of bed until this morning at 8:30. Hopefully this weekend will be a restful one.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ridin' in the Back Seat

Because of all this plumbing stuff going on in my house, the downstairs bathroom is, of course, inoperable. As a result, there are four of us using the upstairs bathroom. Good thing my roommates are hardly ever home.

I took a shower in the upstairs bathroom for the first time ever. I've been in the house for four years now & never once took a shower upstairs. It was like riding in the backseat of your own car: odd, but surprisingly satisfying.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Plumbing Update

Today has been quite an interesting day!

I called another plumber to get a second opinion on the bathroom repairs. They came out, took out the toilet, & cut a hole in the drywall to survey the situation. $170 just for that. Turns out it's a cracked drainage pipe in the wall. Another $460 to repair it.

In the meantime, another company came out to set up dehydrators & fans to dry out the water that has seeped into the walls & under the linoleum. They said the fans will have to stay there for three or fours days before it's all dried out. I have no idea how much they're going to charge for that, but it sounds like it will be hundreds of dollars.

Then the insurance adjuster came to the house. He took photos & worked up an estimate for the repairs, as well as the replacement of the tile, drywall, carpet, shower, etc. They estimate that it will cost between $5400 & $7700 - not including the dry-out service - to complete all the work & put my bathroom back in working order. The good news is that they are going to pay for everything minus my $500 deductible.

The only thing that still worries me about this whole thing is: How much will my insurance premium go up after this?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lazy Day Off

I love my days off.

I started the day with a group of girlfriends at Solo Cafe, a coffee shop in Tempe. Then I spent some time studying with Juliana, one of my Chinese tutors. Afterwards, I headed over to Someburros for lunch, where I ran into a former student. We ate our burros together & caught up on each other's news. Then I spent the afternoon at Kiwanis Park, listening to my friends play some really great bluegrass music. The weather was perfect for a lazy day at a music festival.

Now I'm home & I think I'll sit back & read a little of my current book, "The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" by Bill Bryson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Park Ranger

I went on the National Park Service website today & applied for all the job openings that I thought I might even sort of qualify for. There is an amazing number of temporary jobs available, from the guy at the visitor booth that takes your entrance fee, to trail maintenance, to interpretive guide. Unfortunately, I have no experience in any of these areas. Maybe they'll let me work for them anyway. I do have lots of enthusiasm!

Friday, November 21, 2008


Wow. Owning a home is great.

There has been some water leaking onto the floor in my bathroom whenever anyone takes a shower. It happens if you take a shower upstairs or down, but the water only accumulates in the bathroom downstairs. Water has also been seeping into the closet of the bedroom next to the bathroom.

So I decided to call a plumber.

The guy came out, took a look at the water on the floor, & said that in order to properly diagnose the problem, he would have to take everything out of the bathroom - the sink, the toilet, & the shower stall. In order to get the shower stall out, they would have to cut it into fours, rendering it useless. So I'd have to get a new shower stall & have them install it, of course. Then there's the replacement of the tile in the bathroom, the floorboard between the bathroom & the bedroom, & the carpet in the closet in the bedroom.

Total estimated cost of the job: $5000

So I called my insurance company to see if I'm covered. I have a $500 deductible, but it sounds like they will pay for almost everything after that. All that's left to do is for the insurance company & the plumber to do some bargaining before they can start on the job.

However, I will have to wait until Monday for anything to happen. No one at the insurance company works on the weekends, apparently.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flat Iron

I went with my friend Laura today to hike Flat Iron. I hadn't been up there since the spring. We couldn't have had a more perfect hike. The weather was beautiful, it wasn't windy like it can be up there, there were no insects, & there was practically no one but us on the trail.

It was a great day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sign Spinner

I worked my first gig as a sign spinner today - or a "human directional" as it's known in the industry. I only worked for two hours, but man, it's harder than you think.

My arms got really tired just holding the sign up for that length of time. Then, I was supposed to "spin" the thing too - the sign was supposed to be moving constantly. That's hard work. Not to mention standing in practically the same spot the whole time. I don't know how people do it for more than a couple of hours at a time. Maybe you get used to it.

The good thing is that I got some Chinese studying in. I brought my MP3 player with me & listened to a couple of lessons while I was honing my spinning skills. At my next gig, maybe I'll bring a book-on-tape with me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I am coming to learn that knowledge & experience do not necessarily ensure wisdom. It doesn't matter what you have in your head if your heart is empty. But I'm still hanging on to the idea that with age comes experience, & with that comes wisdom. Apparently this is not so. I have met some very wise young people & some very naive older people. Perhaps this realization is an important element of my own developing wisdom.

(If you are wondering where the above painting came from, click here.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Things still look bleak for the studio. Even after I cut the prices in half, very few people are coming to classes. I've moved out of my own bedroom in order to rent it out, giving me a total of three roommates. I don't go out with friends anymore. My house repairs are going unchecked. I don't even shop at the thrift store anymore. But it's still not enough. So I'm looking for another job.

But so far, it's been difficult to get people to take me seriously for low-paying jobs. They see that I have a masters degree & that I own a business, & they think I'm just playing around. I'm over qualified, as they say. So I decided to leave the masters degree & the "owner" title off the job applications to see if that helps.

I applied at a hotel here in Tempe for the overnight shift at the front desk. I don't know how much it pays, but I'm thinking it can't be more than $10 per hour. But it won't interrupt my schedule at the studio, which is good for now.

I also applied for a sign spinner position - you know, the guys who stand on the side of the road with a big arrow that says "$199 Move-In" or "Furniture Clearance". I figure I can get some "reading" in by loading up my MP3 player with some books-on-tape & listening while I twirl the sign.

I should know yay or nay for both by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Date with Laura

One of my students who works for the Phoenix Suns (basketball, in case you didn't know) gave me tickets for the game last night. So I invited my friend Laura to join me. We had a great time watching the game & the people, eating big soft pretzels with mustard, sipping beer, & just hanging out.

During the game, I found myself watching the details: the security crew rotated positions every so often; one of the sexy Suns-ettes spent the game happily chatting with a couple of cute guys while the rest of her counterparts sat looking bored; one of the mascots shoved one of the security guards in jest, but the guard didn't think it was so funny; there was a guy whose job it was to pick up all the sweaty towels that the players had used & put them in a laundry bag; & there was another guy whose job it was to mop up the sweat after the players "fell" (you know they were just acting).

Meanwhile, the game was going on. It was pretty close all night, but the Suns won in the end.

Thanks, Laura, for a great date!

Monday, November 10, 2008

All Souls Procession

I went to the All Souls Procession in Tucson yesterday.I had been wanting to go for several years, but never got around to it. The procession is an outcropping of the traditional Day of the Dead celebration, which stems from Latino culture, but is becoming more & more popular among Anglos in the US, especially in areas with large Latino populations.

It was fun to watch all the people going by all dressed up in their best skeletal forms. But it looks like the best part was probably the fire show at the end, which we missed in favor of eating since we were all very hungry.

I guess I'll just have to go back next year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Practicing Tolerance at the Dentist

Wow. I really don't like my dentist. I mean, most people don't like *going* to the dentist because it is painful or uncomfortable, but the dentist is usually a decent enough person. I, on the other hand, just don't like my dentist.

This morning my dentist asked me, "How's the teaching business?" I said it was slow. He replied, "Well, after yesterday's results, it won't be Spanish that we'll all have to learn - it'll be Arabic. & women will have to start wearing veils everywhere." Just like that. As a dentist, this was a very unprofessional thing to say. As a person, it was very single-minded. But that's my dentist.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Haunted Canyon Photos

See more photos from the weekend here.

I had a great weekend in the Superstition Mountains. I went backpacking with my friends from the Hiking Hikers Hiking Group (3H).

Friday night, we drove out to the trailhead where we camped next to ATV's & generators going all night long. It was pretty chilly out, but there were still some meteors falling overhead.

Saturday, we hiked through Haunted Canyon (it was Halloween weekend, you know), through a mostly dry stream bed. We saw lots of fall colors, yellows & reds. It was really pretty. We camped Saturday night at a cabin about 7 miles in. We had a fire, but no ghost stories. We saw a few more meteors before turning in. It got down to 40 degrees overnight. Brrr!

Sunday we hiked out a different way, finishing off the Haunted Canyon trail. It was up, up, up through lots of cat claw, & then down, down, down over tons of scree. When we made it to the road, we still had 4 miles to go, so the group decided to speed walk back to the cars.

On the way home, we stopped at Edwardo's Pizzeria in Superior. I had a pretty tasty pizza, & the rest looked like they enjoyed their meal as well.