Friday, September 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

--Agatha Christie

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Brett Carter, the Democrat nominee to fill the 6th District seat in Tennessee for the ougoing Bart Gordon — a seat once held by Al Gore — is trying to fulfill his lifelong dream of waking up next to the severed head of a horse."

-- Doug Powers

OK, a little background: Carter is urging Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi NOT to seek the speakership next year. (via Michelle Malkin)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not Working

I'm working. That's not the problem. It's the things around me that are the issue.

First, it was the lamp in my room. It's a pole lamp with the main bulb on top, hidden by a nice upward-facing shade, and a reading lamp halfway up the pole, which I keep turned off. The main bulb has been getting dimmer, and I figured that just meant it was close to burning out. That seems to be the way those fluorescent twisty bulbs work. Then, earlier this week, the bulb went out.

No problem. I turned on the reading lamp and made the darkness flee again. But that only lasted about 20 minutes, and then that bulb went black.

So I went outside my room and flipped on the hallway light switch, but nothing happened. I deduced that the circuit breaker must have been tripped. At the box, none of the switches had tripped, not even the one marked "Bedroom lights & outlets." Hmmm... The outlets were working, just not the lights. I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning I put a new bulb in the top socket (it was incandescent, not fluorescent) and tried again. Nothing. Put the old bulb back in and went to work.

After work, when I came home, out of habit I flipped on the light switch in my room. The light came on. I checked the light in the hallway. It was on too. Much happiness!

I ran some errands (turned the lights off when I left), came back, and my lamp was dark again. Hallway too. Later, the lights worked again and have ever since.

Meanwhile, we have an alarm system in the house. Over a month ago, it woke us up in the middle of the night with the slow beeping that tells us the battery is running out of steam. Unfortunately, the battery is in the attic, and neither one of us wants to go up there. Creepy things like spiders probably live up in the attic. Uh-uh. No thanks. Not me. No sir.

But after beeping at us now and then over the course of a week or so, it must have figured we knew already, and it hasn't done that anymore. Instead, this week it decided that it wasn't going to let us set the alarm. It tells us when we open a door (beep, beep, beep), but it's as though the thing doesn't have the strength to go on patrol.

My roommate scheduled the alarm company to come out and check things out, but then the alarm started working again. When it let us set the alarm when we left the house and unset it when we came back home, she canceled the appointment, because it wasn't worth spending the money for something that was working.

Yesterday morning she left for a long weekend visiting family. Shortly after her departure, I tried setting the alarm when I was heading to work, but it wouldn't go into alarm mode. Great! No alarm and no appointment.

Last night before bed, I tried again, and this time it worked just fine. I was protected from bad guys for the night.

Until 4:00 am, when a scary loud beeping woke me up. I punched the "I'm home and everything's fine" code, but it wasn't paying any attention to me at all. It just kept beeping while I tried all kinds of combinations of setting the alarm then disarming.

Then after about five or ten endless minutes, it stopped. I went back to bed. I couldn't get to sleep. I finally got up and turned on my computer.

It started beeping again at 4:30 am. I punched buttons again, hoping to shut it off, and then I tried calling the alarm company, but it said it was the customer service number, so I hung up. And then the beeping stopped.

Back to bed. Try to sleep. Start to doze off. Beeping again at 5:00.

This time I called the alarm company and finished listening to the message. It said to hit '4' if it's an emergency. It was for me, so I hit '4.' After giving the secret password and other locater info, I explained to the guy what was happening. He had me try stuff, while the beeping continued, but nothing worked. Then he said he'd have a Tech guy call me.

The beeping stopped by itself again, and a while later a very sleepy-sounding Tech guy called. After I described what had happened, he said that the only fix was to find the main box where the battery is, remove the battery, and unplug the alarm system. Oh. The attic. No. I thanked him, we hung up, and I went back to bed. It beeped at 5:30.

This time, I tried pushing buttons again. No dice. Then I thought of smothering the thing. I grabbed a big, fluffy throw blanket from my room and held it over the buttons in a homicidal embrace. The sound was muffled. Bingo!

I got a broom from the garage and propped up the blanket on the end of the handle, but the broom wanted to slide on the floor. A kitchen chair shoved against the broom kept it and the blanket in place, and I went to bed in peace. I dreamed that my roommate came home, and I told her what happened with the alarm, so she went out to the garage to turn off the circuit breaker to the alarm system, but I noticed my alarm clock start flashing from losing power and having it returned, and I thought that I should get up and reset my clock so I wouldn't be late for work, but I slept...

My alarm clock went off, and I looked at it, and it said 6:06. I thought it would say sometime after midnight from my roommate having flipped the power off... Oh... It was really my roommate's clock going off, because she must have accidentally turned it back on before she left for the airport yesterday. I got up to turn it off and realized the house alarm hadn't beeped at 6:00. So I pulled the blanket away, and it let me disarm it to say I was happily at home and not in danger. Then I went back to bed for another half hour until my clock woke me up to get ready for work.

My lamp and the hallway light were still working and the alarm system was still silent when I left the house this morning.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hanging Out in Texas

I arrived in Cisco Saturday night. It was an uneventful trip until about half an hour before I got there, probably somewhere around Clyde. I was driving about 5 or 6 mph over the limit, when I saw a law enforcement vehicle's lights go on. There was nobody else on the road near me who could have been the target, so I pulled over.

The officer was nice-looking with a strong jawline reminiscent of the evil terminator in Terminator 2. It left me unsure what to expect. He told me I was driving a bit fast and asked me where I was headed, and I said, "Cisco." Then he asked me why I was going there, without conveying any sense of surprise that anyone, especially from California, would choose to go there. I told him, "Family."

He took my license back to his car to check to see if I was a wanted fugitive from the law, then he returned with my license and a small piece of paper. "I'm giving you a warning. There's no cost." I thanked him and drove away at slightly under the limit and then got to my mom's house.

When I told my family about my warning, they all agreed that Clyde's speeding enforcement is brutal, and it's usually the local cops, rather than the state troopers, who are patrolling the interstate in that area. Duly noted for my return trip.

I had expected my arrival at my mom's house to be announced by her little dog Misty, but I managed to get there while Misty was away for her every-other-month grooming. Not long after I arrived, Misty was delivered by her groomer, who lives only a block away from my mom. Small towns sure are different from city living!

Misty had two bows on her head, one of which she lost almost immediately, and a pink and blue bandana around her neck. She started biting on the end of the bandana, and soon it was her newest tug-of-war toy.

Unlike Scooter, who kept my mom and me entertained on our big trip together, Misty doesn't play by herself. Scooter's favorite toy was one of my dad's old socks with a knot in the middle, and he would shake it until it was dead. And then he'd kill it some more. Scooter chewed on balls, but he didn't chase them.

Misty, on the other hand, loves nothing more than to chase a ball and bring it back so you can throw it again for her. She allows the variety of occasionally playing tug of war with her rope or her grooming scarf. This is Misty:

And here she is in the back yard yesterday morning, when I was trying to wear her out so she'd be calm in the house (she still, at just over a year old, has puppy levels of energy and relentlessness). Going for a catch:

Successful capture of prey:

Coming back for more:

My efforts were rewarded when Misty took the ball with her through the doggie door, dropped it on the kitchen floor, and drank lots of water. Then she found a spot in the living room to take a nap.

I was without internet access for over a day, because my mom's modem konked out since the last time I was here, and she had a new one with a new secret code that nobody knew. Only my nephew, who is the computer guy of the family, knew what the code was because he set it up, and he couldn't come over right away to give his sister and me access to the wireless. We're good to go, now.

Yesterday, my mom and I went over to Eastland to get groceries at Wal-Mart. The countryside around Cisco is mostly flat with occasional slightly rolling hills. Here are a couple shots from road to Eastland:

Once we got to Wal-Mart, we spotted this truck parked near us, and I snapped a picture right when the owner was coming back. "You like my truck?" she asked. We chatted for a bit.

Yes, I like her truck.

I also like how friendly people are here, although I can hear myself starting to drawl a little. It's one of the hazards of coming to visit Texas.

This morning, we had planned to drive to Abilene to go to Target and maybe Best Buy, but the new day gave us rain sent by Tropical Storm Hermine. The rain should clear up by Thursday, so we'll go then.

For the next couple days, I'll just be hanging out with family. My nephew (the computer guy) will be coming tonight with his wife and little daughter (who won't be nearly as little as she was the last time I saw her). And so far we have no plans for tomorrow. That's the way I like it on vacation.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Halfway There

I made it to Deming, New Mexico about 8:30 local time tonight. I had forgotten about the time change I'd have at the New Mexico border, making it an hour later. That'll happen again tomorrow when I get past El Paso, Texas.

It was eleventy-one (111°) when I was outside waiting in line for the lone restroom at a gas station someplace beyond Yuma. And no, Bekah, I didn't sweat. Not at all. That's why it's called a dry heat.

When I was driving along the stretch of road between Gila Bend and Casa Grande, the place where the smuggler warning signs are supposed to be, my car said it was 116° outside. I didn't see the smuggler signs, but I did see an actual "Miss Me Yet?" sign with GW Bush on it, and right after it was a sign with Reagan's picture and the message, "Remember real Hope and Change?"

Not far from there was a yellow diamond warning sign that said, "Do Not Follow Trucks." I have no idea what that was about.

I had brought snacks with me, so I wouldn't have to stop for food too much and could make good time. But when the temperature outside was 116° and the sign for Dairy Queen magically appeared up ahead, I made a decision to splurge. When I pulled off the interstate, I recognized the exit as the one by Picacho Peak, where my mom and I waited for AAA to come and replace the motorhome tire that blew out on our trip. I ate a chocolate-dipped cone, refilled my water bottle, and hit the road again.

Just as a note, the gas prices in Arizona are about 30¢ cheaper than in California. I should drive to Arizona to buy gas more often...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Vacation Coming!

I'm getting my ducks in a row, getting ready for vacation.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Texas to visit my mom and my sister. It's a two-day drive if I can get at least as far as Deming, New Mexico, which is within ten minutes of the half-way point.

Yesterday I checked the weather reports, only to discover that tomorrow will be Phoenix's hottest day (107º) of the next 10 days. My route takes me near Phoenix without hitting any of the city's normal traffic. Depending on the time I go through there, I could hit some Labor Day weekend traffic leaving the city, so I'll try to drag myself out of bed earlier than I want to.

The weather report for Cisco says that I'll be there in time to enjoy thunderstorms. I'm sure that means I may learn how to read all those satellite images on the Weather Channel. People in Texas like that channel. People in California barely know it exists.

Another fascinating development in my vacation preparation came in the form of a news item I saw at Michelle Malkin's blog. It seems the Obama administration's answer to border security is to post signs warning the gringos that Arizona isn't safe.

The federal government has posted signs along a major interstate highway in Arizona, more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and a local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.

The signs were posted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, a major east-west corridor linking Tucson and Phoenix with San Diego.

They warn travelers that they are entering an "active drug and human smuggling area" and they may encounter "armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed." Beginning less than 50 miles south of Phoenix, the signs encourage travelers to "use public lands north of Interstate 8" and to call 911 if they "see suspicious activity."

Perfect! That's where I'll be driving at 107º tomorrow. I'll have to look for the signs.

But once I get to Texas, I'll have fun. And the fun starts just east of El Paso, where the posted speed limit is 80 mph. Love it! Then, when I get to my mom's house, I get to meet her new little dog Misty. (My mom had to put Scooter down a while ago - He had liver cancer.) I've heard Misty already, because when I call my mom, Misty starts barking to say, "Hey! You stopped paying attention to me!"

When I come back, I'll be bringing my telescope with me. I didn't have enough room for it in my car when I came home from The Trip with my mom.

So tonight is serious packing, followed by serious sleeping, followed tomorrow by serious driving. I have some books on tape checked out from the library to keep me company. Life is good!