Buy my photos!

Notecards for $2.40

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hello to Hollywood!

I'm leaving today for Los Angeles, where my brother & sister-in-law live. My parents are flying out there tomorrow from Tennessee. I'll be there until January 2nd. I may be able to write a post or two while I'm there, but if not, I'll be back next year.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008


It rained all day today. It must be winter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


In an effort to reduce my belongings, I started rifling through the boxes & boxes of mementos that I have stashed in various places. I'm not a very sentimental person, but for me, my memories are all I have of my life so far.

Since my father was in the military, I grew up moving around, so I don't have a hometown or a place that holds my memories for me, waiting for me to return. I will never be able take a physical walk down memory lane. My whole life is only in the memories that I carry with me, & in my boxes of mementos.

Even so, I thought maybe I could pare it down so that my memories would at least be more portable. I had plans to scan old photographs & post them online so that I could get rid of the photo albums. I was going to throw out all of the movie ticket stubs that I've been saving. I was going to pile the most important things neatly in one or two little boxes, & I was going to let go of the rest of it.

But when I started looking through the mementos, they conjured up memories of all the mistakes that I have made in my life. I got through one box before it became too much to bear. I had to stop.

Perhaps I'll try again later.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Heart My Mechanic!

My mechanic Rick is a god-send!

For the last few weeks, I've been debating on what I should do about my transportation situation.

My current car needed a new clutch, which the mechanic said would cost around $700 because it's a 4-wheel drive vehicle & it's super complicated to replace. I believe him because he's never ever steered me wrong - ever.

Then I got the insurance money for the bathroom situation. I was thinking that maybe if I saved enough on the bathroom remodel, I might have some money left over to buy a different car.

But then I thought that even if I did use the insurance money to buy a different car, I would only have about $2000 to spend, so I still wouldn't be able to get a decent car. Whatever car I would buy would probably just come with its own problems that needed fixing.

In the end, I decided that, at least with my current car, I know what's wrong with it, & $700 is a lot less than $2000.

So I took the car to the mechanic on Thursday, prepared to spend a hunk o' cash. I got there just before 7:00am, dropped off the car, & headed over to the nearest coffee shop to wait. At 11:00-ish, the mechanic called me to tell me that I didn't need a new clutch after all. I just needed a new cable, which turns out to be a lot less cash-ola.

At noon, I picked up my keys & paid my bill: $150.

I love my mechanic!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I can't believe how hard it is to get someone to do the work in the bathroom!

I bought a fiberglass shower unit last week for $60 at Home Depot. The other shower units that I saw there, or online, started at $250, so $60 is a great price. Apparently the style was discontinued, but there's nothing wrong with it. What a deal!

With the shower unit at home, I called the contractor recommended to me by the insurance company to see what they would charge to re-hang the drywall & install the shower unit. I told the guy that I was looking for the cheapest option possible while still making the finished product look relatively decent. A few days later, he sent me an estimate for $5000 that included cultured marble for the shower, & all kinds of other crazy stuff that I didn't ask for. I felt like writing a whole bunch of "Ha, ha, ha!"s all over the page & sending it back in the SASE that he provided. Instead, I called to try to reason with him. He wasn't in, so I left a message on his voicemail. That was yesterday morning, & he has yet to call me back.

Then I called another contractor recommended to me by my friend Jay. This guy is apparently so booked that he won't even be able to come by to look at the bathroom for another month. I guess *his* economy doesn't need stimulating.

While I was at the rock gym last night, the manager there recommended a third contractor. She says he did a great job on her own bathroom. When I called him, he balked at coming over, saying he would get my number from the manager herself.

The downstairs bathroom has been out of order since before Thanksgiving. It's more than a little frustrating. I'm sure the roommates aren't happy either. But what can I do?

This is what my bathroom looks like right now.

& this is where my toilet is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thermostat Wars

The Thermostat Wars have begun again.

During the summer months, I had the thermostat set at 85 degrees. That may seem extreme for those of you who do not live in the desert, but in August in the Valley, 85 degrees is still 30 degrees cooler than it is outside.

However, the roommate, whose rent includes utilities, was not concerned with the electric bill. He consistently turned the thermostat down to 78 degrees whenever he got home. Sometimes he'd get up in the middle of the night to turn it down again, after the pre-set program turned the temperature back up to 85. I let him get away with it most of the time, though, because I understand that normal people can't handle an 85-degree home.

For the last several months, we've happily been able to live without the air conditioning. But now it's starting to get cold (if you consider 50 degrees cold). When the weather started cooling off in November, the roommate took it upon himself to turn on the heater. I turned it off again, & it remained that way for several more weeks. But now it's cold every day, so the heater is officially on for the season.

I have the heater set at 70 degrees. I came home a few days ago & the temperature was up at 74 degrees. Hmpf. So the Winter Thermostat Wars have begun. This time, however, I hope to win. It's one thing to expect people to sweat to death in the dead of summer, when there's no relief from the heat. It's an entirely different thing to ask the roommates to find comfort in more clothing.

I found the above LOL Cat, & hung a copy up next to the thermostat. Hopefully this will deter any more mutiny from the roommates.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

International Encounters

While I was out doing some holiday shopping, I stopped at the Ross store at Arizona Mills, where I found quite an international gathering of discount shoppers. There was a corpulent Russian woman talking to herself as she tried on shoes, a seemingly angry Farsi-speaking woman barking into her cell phone, a Mexican family trying out various toys for the niƱos, & a prolific African muslim family patiently waiting at the checkout.

Who says that Phoenix isn't a cosmopolitan city?

Friday, December 12, 2008

No Help for Automakers

An article from

No help for automakers
The proposed $14 billion bailout to prevent the collapse of the US auto industry fell flat on its face on Thursday as it failed to raise the 60 votes it needed to pass the Senate after it was approved by Congress and endorsed by both the White House and the president-elect. The future of Detroit's Big Three (General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC) looks bleak, as CEOs warn that GM and Chrysler may not make it to the end of the year. The jobs of nearly 3 million Americans employed by the carmakers, their suppliers and distributors are now at stake. Stocks for GM and Ford and Chrysler fell by 4.37% to $3.94, 1.59% to $2.48 and 0.45% to $32.85 respectively by close of market today.

Wow. So what do you think they'll do with the $14 billion, then?

La Virgen de Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. Today is the anniversary of her apparition to San Juan Diego. This is one of many forms that Mary takes in Catholicism. It's amazing how much she is revered, especially in such a male-oriented society.

It's quite an interesting story. You can read about it here in English or Spanish:
Article in English
Article in Spanish

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prepare to Be Annoyed

My roommates were surely annoyed this morning when the plumber came at 8:00am to start hacking at the drywall, sawing apart the fiberglass shower unit, & jack-hammering the concrete floor. Those things make a LOT of noise.

But anyway, so the plumbing is now fixed ($1650). I just have to put everything back together again. I still have to get someone in to repair the drywall. Then I'm going to try to install a new shower unit & lay ceramic tile by myself. (Thanks to David for the tile!) Finally, the plumber will come back to reposition the toilet. & voila! New bathroom.

Since I have no idea what I'm doing, I welcome any pointers you may have for me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm in the Money!

The insurance check came today! The plumbers will start tomorrow on the bathroom. I'm so excited!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Road Trip to Tucson

I went down to Tucson yesterday with my friend Michael to see my other friend Michelle play in her band Kevin Daly's Chicken & Waffles. It was part of the KXCI 25th anniversary celebration happening all month. This event was held at El Casino Ballroom, an old VFW-looking place in the back corner of South Tucson.

When we got to Tucson, we were hungry, so we decided to go in search of grub. In South Tucson, your options are Mexican, Mexican, or Mexican. We found a cute little place near El Casino called Mi Nidito. We waited about 30 minutes for a table, which is apparently a short time for this joint.

While we were waiting, we noticed several photos of famous people who had visited Mi Nidito (my little nest in Spanish), including Bill Clinton. They were so proud that the former president had visited that they placed a plaque with a star on it at the spot where he sat to eat this fine Mexican food, along with several photos of the event. I made sure to pick up a postcard of the occasion for my scrapbook.

Back at El Casino, we sat sipping Dos Equis & listening to the bands on stage. Not many people were in the mood for dancing, except for a gaggle of children, & one couple who did not stop dancing the whole time. Only the surf band stilled their twinkle toes.

On the way back to Phoenix we stopped for gas at a TA truck stop. I was amazed at the offerings inside: showers, a barber shop, an auto parts store, a TV room that doubles as a chapel, & an A&W counter. We decided to order some onion rings to tide us over until we got home. The people in front of us in line said in a lilting southern accent that they wanted "ass cream". Before the counter man could send them over to the pharmacy area of the complex, they pointed at the soft serve machine. Ooooooooooh! Ice cream! Gotcha.

We made it back to Tempe by 10:00pm. It was nice to get out of town.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Birth Control

What I won't do for a buck.

I spent Saturday night with a raging three-year-old. She is obviously used to getting her way, so when I tried to exhibit some sense of authority as her babysitter for the evening, she wasn't having any of it. She screamed at the slightest indication that I was in control, throwing an angry tantrum until I gave in to compromise. I tried to get her to play with me in her playroom. "No!", she screamed. "Get down from the counter", I chided. "No!", she replied. "Do you want me to read you a story?" "NO!!", she sneered. (Sigh.)

She was slated to go to bed at 8:30pm. Whatever. After hours of happily wielding her Toddler Power, she finally fell onto her pillow around 10:00pm, exhausted by all the ranting & raving.

When her parents came home, I politely thanked them & left, glad that I don't do this on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Singin' in the Rain

I really feel like loosing it today. But I won't. One of the things that I remember from reading the book Eat, Pray, Love was that you should never break down, never lose it. Because if you do, it'll be that much harder to get a hold of yourself again. So instead, I'm trying very hard to see this as an opportunity to sing in the rain.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Happy 40th Birthday Donald!

It's my brother's 40th birthday today. I couldn't find a good photo of him, but this one's close enough.

Happy Birthday, Don!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2001: An Odessey

As you may well know, I love reading books & I love to travel. But when I read a book on travel I tend to take into account when the book was published: Was it pre- or post-2001? The line that separates the past from the present is quite thick. I see much of what was written before 9-11 as amusing travel anecdotes. The books published after 2001 - or better yet, after 2003 - are much more useful in terms of getting the information I need for my own upcoming journey.

In what ways has 9-11 changed your perspective on life?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Michael Crichton Dies

Okay, so I know I'm late on this one (Michael Crichton died on November 4th, 2008), but I still wanted to acknowledge it.

I'm not usually a star-struck kind of person, but I do have to admit that Michael Crichton has influenced me. He'll probably be best remembered for Jurassic Park & ER. But one of my favorite books is his memoir Travels (1988). In it his chronicles his literal as well as spiritual travels. He admits to making a great many stupid mistakes, & details what he has learned from them along the way. The book starts with this line: "It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw." Awesome!

Learning that he had died made me feel sad, & surprisingly disappointed. I wondered why the death of someone I didn't even know made me feel this way. Perhaps it is because now that he is gone, he can no longer produce great works for me to enjoy. I'm not really sure. But I do know that he has been an important influence on many people. The film-making industry & the book publishing industry will surely miss him.

Here's an article about him from CNN.