March 30, 2010

Clash of the Titans – morning person vs. evening person

I am not a morning person. When I get up I would prefer that no one talk to me for a while. I need some time to transition from the state of unconsciousness I was in to the standards of being awake and alert. It’s not that I don’t like people, it is just I need time to reboot the wasteland I call my mind and have it available to process and regurgitate information coming in. I cannot deal with questions at this moment of cognitive vulnerability. There is a disconnect between my brain and my mouth that even a jolt of coffee is powerless against. I just need some time to manually remove the cobwebs, sweep up the floor and get ready for the day. This typically takes 15 minutes or so, to move from unconsciousness to the first stage of “awakeness.” At this stage, I can usually grunt in response to questions but rarely express more that 3-4 words strung together. The DW is aware of this malady and if she needs to ask me a question, or have me listen to a statement usually adds the imprimatur (Wiki: An imprimatur (from Latin, "let it be printed") is, in the proper sense, a declaration authorizing publication of a book. The term is also applied loosely to any mark of approval or endorsement”) that “I know it is early but could you just listen for a second…). I appreciate this, she gets me. She understands that in this state of confusion I CANNOT find her keys, ATM card, nor plan lunch, dinner or the rest of our lives together.

Mrsfabp is a morning person. She hops out of bed and while sipping coffee plans her day, reads her blogs, checks out the rest of the internet for signs of anything important happening while she was asleep. In the 30 minutes after she has awakened, she has finished a list of things to do, has done some, revised her list and started to look for her ATM card, cell phone or keys. She is up and ready to start her day. I’m still trying to remember how to breathe and which foot goes where in order to walk.

Evenings are the exact opposite. I have decompressed after work after my little ride in the country (see CoME Episode 10: A commute to work). Mrsfabp has collapsed into the big recliner in the living room (complete with heat for those oh so frosty New England days…) I am looking forward to doing something with my evening, a little Halo, reading, writing, maybe some MSNBC. She is enjoying her nap and figuring out when it would ok to go to bed. By 10 pm I am just starting to wind down, she is already 4 dreams into REM sleep and chatting away in the sleep between them.

Remarkably we continue to do a pretty good job of communicating. We both just have to remember the rules – no talking about serious before 8 am or after 7 pm. Otherwise you will get the blank stare of complete and total WTF… I am glad we can be so flexible.
BTW, both of our children I suspect have inherited my “evening person gene.”CollegeBoy continues to do his best work after most of us are fast asleep. MillieJupiter hates to face the morning sun and on weekends gets up in time to have breakfast for lunch.

March 28, 2010

CoME Episode 12: Blog to the future...

Let me describe a series of events that happened to me recently. It begins with an email to my friend and co-CSA PodCast host, Maqz. I had received an email from him with some podcast ideas and responded that we should talk. I Skyped him that evening (VOIP: Wiki says “Voice over Internet Protocol is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks) and we discussed some issues. Eventually we decided I would write to another podcast participant with some ideas. The next morning I did so with Maqz getting a copy and then the three of us exchanged several ideas leading to some podcast changes.

Maybe 20 years ago this would not have happened at all, 10 years ago, some might have happened, the emails but I don’t think that Skype was as available so the initial phone call would have been over a land line. This whole process got me thinking about how we communicate with each other now-a-days (I used now-a-days because it sounds so old fashion; old fashion sounds old fashion too…)

Over the last 8 years or so we, and by we I mean me, have been introduced to all new manners of communication - cell phones, email, Skype, twitter and Facebook among others. All of those have become vital ways we stay in touch with each other. When I went to college back in 19ow4yt (sorry typo…) I would call home about twice a month, got or received letters about once a week. (see slash and burn/CoME #8 about mail I tossed away recently) and felt this was keeping in touch. When MillieJupiter was in college 5 years ago we got regular emails and cell phone calls to keep in touch. Now with CollegeBoy, we get 1-2 cell calls a day, regular emails, his blog posting, email attachments of the different things he is doing in class, a YouTube video of his rowing crew or making an opening statement in a law communication class he is in. I like this more modern way more.

Back a few years ago, when I was teaching computer classes to senior citizens in an adult education class, one regular type of discussions we had was about the value of emails. I used to ask them how great it would be if they could get a note every morning on their computer with an attached picture of their grandkid. Invariably this type of discussion would lead to comments about how poorly we write and how we miss letters and the like for these modern conveniences. In some ways back then I agreed with some of these thoughts, because there was no letters to be kept, bound up in a box, to look back on.

In an email from my brother-in-law, Manhattan Man, he made this profound observation about the podcast we do: “I am frankly proud of you guys, and your persistence. I think that both the podcast and the chronicles (and blogs) are a legacy. I hate to be morbid (No, I don't) but this is such "live" data, it is going to be both spooky and special to be able to hear you guys in fifty years. That's something Ms Jupiter and CollegeBoy and Don and Linda's kids will have. And I think that's cool.”

Now Clairz, CollegeBoy and Manhattan Man have made insightful comments about the memories we hold and keep and I want to pass that on. The message - blog if you can, it will be a thing that someone can read and have memories of you.

I feel lucky to have these people and all the other cast of characters in my life. It makes the thought of moving forward and moving on more palatable and more exciting. Thank you guys!

March 27, 2010

CoME Episode 11: What I like to do in Massachusetts. What I will continue to do in New Mexico.

In talking to people I work with now, I have heard many, many times “I don’t know what I will do with my time when I retire.” Let me tell you that I am making a list, a long list of things I want to do. This is just one of them.

I am now an earlier riser. This was not always the case. I like my sleep but as I got older I found myself sleeping a bit less after a time shift. I can’t stay up late anymore. Letterman was a regular companion but now I only catch him on an occasional Friday night. I am now an early riser. As a teen, I rarely saw noon. Now going to bed early means getting up early, rarely making 8 am on a weekend, always by 6 am during the week.

Now, I really love my coffee. I used to have several everyday but over the last 15 years, I have had less and less. Usually not more than 2 cups on any day. No soda caffeine during the afternoon either. Otherwise I will be visiting with Letterman that night as well as the other late night suspects. Thus each cup of coffee I drink is somewhat special. When we moved to the country, I began to drink my morning cup of joe, each weekend day, on my porch looking at the forest, listening to the birds, scanning for bears (see The Bear Story) It is quiet and peaceful and relaxing. Sometimes I can talk the DW into joining me although my tolerance for cold is higher than hers. It is not unheard of to have her sitting on our wooden bench wrapped in a blanket, with a steaming cup of “wake up and get the day going”. The problem with this scenario is the weather. It is really only warm enough at 7 or 8 am for about 4 months of the year, 5 if you have a good blanket. I want to do this even more often after I retire.

When we visited LCNM, it was already warm enough in mid-February to be sitting out in the sun doing this. Warm enough such that the DW will be a willing partner. I am looking forward to sitting on a patio, looking at the mountains in the distance, listening for birds, scanning for road runners and drinking a nice hot cup of Pinon coffee. Ahhhh, Pinon coffee (drools in excitement).

We walked into a breakfast café our first morning in Ruidoso. After being knocked back by the wonderful smell of fresh baked pastries, a second whiff announced coffee, fresh hot coffee. Pinon coffee. It is a wonderfully aromatic blend, naturally sweetened by the Pinon nuts. Pine nuts are often used in Italian pastries and this sweetness is just fantastic.

The first breakfast led to another the next day and another later in the week. Yea, well maybe the delicious handmade southwest/Native American/Hispanic influenced pastries helped (mrsfabp was particularly taken with the Mexican wedding cookies…) We bought a bag of Pinon coffee, got out our coffee grinder at home and enjoyed it for a number of Saturday and Sunday mornings, making the transition back to New England tolerable after our SouthWest adventure. I'll tell you more about Pinon coffee in another post.

Now, I have to get some Pinon coffee, mail order pronto!

March 25, 2010

CoME Episode 10: A commute to work

I have to say that I have really enjoyed living in New England the past almost 30 years. It is even more picturesque and beautiful than I could have imagined, from the town commons to the deep forests to the Quabbin Reservoir to the wonderful architecture. I have made a series of photos of New England Holiday doors and also one I like to call “Portals”, meaning windows, doors and paths, and never tire of seeing something new and different. My friend Maqz, of CSA Podcast fame has a blog and does a series of photos he calls “My New York,” referring to his upstate vista. (Check out some of his work "8 Minutes on High". It is these images I will remember.

One place to see these type things is my commute to work. That is one thing for sure that I think that I will miss - my commute to work time. I know most people hate their commute and I used to be one of those but things are different now for me. Let me explain.

Back in another place and time I hated to commute. I was going to graduate school, classes and field work, 2 hours each way. Drive to the subway, subway into the city, different train uptown. Hot in the summer, cold and damp in the winter. Two hours each way, 4 hours a day.

After I graduated I took a job in Brooklyn, about 20 miles from my house, but across two NYC boroughs. 50 – 60 minutes depending on traffic and time of day. Traffic going in the morning, traffic coming home in the evening. One hour, each way, two hours a day.

When we decided to move to Massachusetts I can remember telling someone that we were less than one days worth of commute away. It took 3 hours to get from our new lives in Massachusetts to NYC. My graduate school commute was 4 hours each day. In Southbridge, MA we lived in a small apartment in a 3 floor walk up. I walked to work, many days, a 10 minute jaunt. But here lies the problem. I was used to a much longer commute and had learned while riding the subway or sitting in traffic, to use the time to decompress from the days aggravation. The short walk or even shorter car ride never gave me enough time.

This brings me to my current job. The commute from North Brookfield is only about 25 minutes but it is just the perfect amount of time to forget about my work-a-day issues. Mrsfabp will often comment that I don’t talk about work issues much and this is because that 25 minute drive lets me let them go. I drive past one of the prettiest commons in New England, lots of forest and trees and for several miles along a nice rolling river. On my daily commutes I have seen deer, turkeys, an osprey, foxes, turtles and coyotes (sorry no road runners though!) I cannot imagine a prettier ride and will miss that very much. I listen with horror to NYC radio stations talking about hour long traffic waits to use the bridge or tunnel into the city and cringe. I think of my brother’s commute from way out on Long Island on the Long Island Rail Road and then subway and marvel at his steadfastness.

So this week I have had two days that required my special commute time. On Tuesday I got into a debate with a couple of teabagging, ultra conservatives who felt that lack of health care was natural selection. My God, you can’t cure stupid. Then yesterday I was subject to a barrage of email related to some work decisions that had been made and someone felt they weren’t consulted and so were going to the union to complain. My God, you cannot cure stupid.

How did I deal? That great car ride home, my special commute time. Window open, They Might be Giants “The Else” blasting from the stereo. That’s how I roll! I can’t call my trip to and from work each day, a commute. I’ll just call it a ride. A special ride. My daily 25 minute ride in the country.

What was I bothered about again?

March 23, 2010

CoME: Episode 9 - Freecycle, Cheapcycle, Recycle

Are you familiar with the Yahoo group Cheapcycle. This has got to be the greatest discovery since sliced bread and E-Z-cheese in a can. Let me tell you about it.

This is a Yahoo group that espouses the philosophy that one man’s junk is another’s treasurers. You got an old lamp in your basement, needing to go to the dump? Well there is someone out there that wants a lamp, NEEDS a lamp and is willing to come to you and pick it up if it is free. Yes, curb side pick up service, for your stuff.

We have been using this “service” for a number of years and have gotten rid of many, many “treasures” including old bicycles, computers and parts, magazines, books, small furniture, big furniture, computer programs and the like. We have gotten needed items like computer parts, cooking items, a Nordic Track and other similar things.

One of the first things I did when we decided that LCNM might be the place for us, was to begin to follow their group. It is a very active community that makes tons of stuff available. I think it could be possible to furnish a house and outfit it with all the comforts of home just by watching the posts.

When you join you can opt to get individual posts as they are made or daily or weekly posts from the group moderators. We have found that the daily and weekly posts have the problem that items that are most desirable are gone by the time you see the listing. Items can go quickly so I opt for the individual emails and scan my Gmail account regularly for the treasures. Doing this in the recent past I have gotten a Laser printer and mp3 player. The early bird gets the worm.

One final note on this is the fact that you can post on the site looking for items. We did that looking for a small hard drive for a computer. Someone wrote they had one and we picked it up. Sometimes these requests go unfilled but most groups allow repeat posts on a biweekly basis so try and try again. Also some of the “cheapcycle” groups allow for you to charge a small price for items. This has been problematic as these group become sort of a flea market clearing house for items. What I have done in this circumstance is to simply block individuals who only sell items and this has eliminated the issue.

A practical example. Mrsfabp and CollegeBoy worked last week on clearing some of the junk from our basement/garage area. He gave me a list of potential items for freecycling. I put up 4 items on Saturday afternoon – a dorm size fridge that needed lots of cleaning, a dehumidifier, an electric chainsaw and an electric weed whacker. Within an hour, all 4 items were spoken for and across the evening I got 40 offers to take one or more of the items. Three are now gone and a fourth will be picked up by 3 pm today.

I love the convenience!

Here is a link to the main Cheapcycle site

March 21, 2010

What a disgrace!

On the day before one of the most sweeping political changes called the health bill, was set to be voted on, a most historic day, three US Representatives, public servants, were subject to the most vile display one could imagine. In Washington, DC, Representatives Andre Carson, D-IN., John Lewis, D-GA., a leader of the civil rights era, and Barney Frank, D-MA., were the target of heckling by health bill opponents that went well beyond protest, to the point of verbal and physical assault.
I have no issue with protesting. I understand that this bill for many different reasons has raised the stakes but to do what was done to these gentleman make me embarrassed to be an American today. Representatives Carson and Lewis, African-Americans were taunted with the word “nigger” more than 15 times by the count of security personnel there. Representative Frank was repeatedly called a “faggot” by protesters. Representative Lewis reported being spit on by this mob. I am embarrassed to be a citizen of the same country as these protesters.
Politico published details of these episodes and the was a series of right wing commentary saying they thought the report was exaggerated and many people felt that these protestors were planted by President Obama and the Democratic Party. People, please… President Obama would support people spitting at and calling constituents of his party vile, indescribably vulgar names to what end? I am embarrassed…
These protesters, these ignorant teabaggers, these vile and wretched people are the lowest of the low in this country. After taunting a man with Parkinson’s disease earlier in the week, I thought there was no lower form of life worse than these idiots but I was wrong. There was worse to come and they showed themselves on Saturday and Sunday, showed themselves for just what they are. I am embarrassed. So stupid, they understand the connotations of the word they themselves originally called their group– teabaggers (look up teabaggers in the urban dictionary if you want to know the connotation.) So ignorant, they have become walking billboards for what is wrong with the American education system. So dumb, they act like little “sheeple” under the influence of the far right, ultra conservative, fear mongers they follow blindly. I am so embarrassed.
Rep. Andre Carson, Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Barney Frank, let me offer to you an apology. The haters do not know what they are doing, they have been led to this brink of inhumanity by those who hate even more, who are selfish and angry and blinded by their own inadequacies and ambitions. Representatives, I am sorry for the behavior of these idiots. Please continue to represent the American people, continue to try to do what is best for us, even if there are some who wouldn’t recognize what is best for them if it slapped them in the face. Forgive and forget, and take solace in the fact that with your support, more Americans, more needy Americans, children and those in poverty, will get this health care benefit and protection. Please continue with your work.
I am embarrassed by these people and wish to disassociate myself from their kind, from these teabaggers, these haters, this scum of the earth.

March 20, 2010

CoME: Episode 8 - Slash and burn...

The DW gave me a little present on Wednesday – a box of old papers and mementos from God knows when that I have collected over the years. My mission was to go thru it and figure what I wanted to keep. Sounds harder than it really was but still, a difficult mission
So this is some of what I found in the box:

Letters from my brother as a young teen, when I went off to college; mostly it was reports from home about what trouble various siblings had gotten into and the like. After a short think I realized that neither he nor I would ever want the contents read by other people, especially our other brother or sisters so out they went.

Letters from an old acquaintance, an artist who was the lover of my college roommate; she and I hit it off and continued to correspond for a while after he and my college buddy broke up. Mostly they were thoughts about what she wanted to do in her life – she was an artist. Not really relevant in my life any longer so they hit the recycle bin too.

Letters from a couple of friends who went to college with me and then went on to other things in their lives; one became a reading trainer and spent some time in the Virgin Islands in a school, the other was a machinist who always wanted to be a writer, who became a newspaper reporter, who went to work for a security firm. I still have occasional contact with the two of them but it is just occasional as we have drifted apart over the years. Gone, out you went.

A couple of letters from two guys I knew who became priests; I was on that track for a while. They wrote a few letters after I left New York for Massachusetts. I have talked with each of them once or twice in the last 5 years but we are not close and the letters were not kept.

A package of my college report cards, old school with the marks to prove just how close I came to getting kicked out of college in Freshman year. There was a transcript too, to prove I did graduate with a 3.0 after settling in and settling down. I kept these, at least for a while. Just in case someone says I am too dumb to have graduated from college.

Some old wedding cards, mostly from people we do not have contact with anymore. The only one I kept was from my grandmother because it was written in her hand and seeing that just reminded me of her. There were also a couple of short notes from her. I think I will put all of them in my wooden box.

In the box I also found the old drawings of mrsfabp and my wedding rings. We designed them ourselves and had them made by a jewelry maker in Binghamton. A few years ago I had a finger infection that necessitated having the ring cut off. I found the jewelry maker who did them originally, in another state (thank goodness for the internet, you can find almost anything on it!) I kept the drawings and the original letter. I have to send the ring back to him to have it re sized and thought I would copy those things to send along. I might frame the original too. Still thinking about that, but they are a keeper.

(Not my actual book but an internet facsimile, click to embiggen and bring back your memories)

Finally there was the 8th grade autograph book I had. In my day (gee, that makes me sound real old doesn’t it…) we didn’t have yearbooks but got these autograph books instead. You know the type? In it was scrawled the wisdom of 8th graders – "roses are red, violets are blue, my feet smell and so do you…” It is filled with gems like this, a real pre-facebook, facebook type of thing. A couple of teachers signed too and basically I tossed it out. However, CollegeBoy saw it and started to go thru it, mocking me and my classmates. Then he saw the notes penned by my mother, father and grandmother. I had missed them, the first time thru but his gasp led me to realize that this was an important memory. I have so little written by my father and mother and only those cards and notes mentioned above. As he handed the book back to me he said. “I want this book later…”

Thanks CB for the lesson about what is important or not. Sometimes memories are like that, until you look at them in a different light, they don’t seem important then you turn them over and wonder why you didn’t see it that way in the first place.

March 19, 2010

CoME: Episode 7: Landmark Days

One of those things that people say to us when we reveal our plan to move to LCNM to retire is “Won’t you miss having four seasons?” And I guess the answer would be yes EXCEPT that LCNM does have four seasons. People hear desert and they think Death Valley, but high plains desert is very different. Las Cruces sits at an altitude of about 4000 feet. Think Denver, the “Mile High City.”

We visited LCNM in mid-February, the tail end of the winter. The temperature got to the mid to upper 50’s each day. A little ways further into the mountains, Ruidoso, at about 9000 feet, there was still snow around. In LCNM it got cool in the evenings at this time, lower 30’s and Ruidoso got to the lower 20’s each night. But the sun shine was bright each day and the temperature jumped 25 degrees in just a couple of hours. Our friend Clairz, wrote recently extolling the early spring weather, which has arrived now in LCNM.

So, LCNM gets winter, spring and summer, no problem. The issue, could be autumn, but I don’t think so. Fall is my favorite time of the year with the crisp cool air and warm days early in place of the summer heat. I think LCNM will fit that bill. I know people ask about the leaves changing colors and while I will admit that the number of trees may be less so than in a New England forest, there are still colors to be seen. Check out this Google image of some New Mexico color.

New England seasonal change is identified in my mind by “Landmark Days.” By this I mean there is a day in each season that heralds the next coming season. It is not the “date” that spring or autumn start, but rather an event day. Spring arrives here on the first evening in late March or early April when there is a warm, light rain and the “peepers” come out, the little frogs you hear all spring long. Sure, there can be snow after that first night but hearing the peepers means spring is here. Summer arrives on that day when it is warm, sunny and you smell cut grass for the first time usually in May. Winter is announced by the first light snow on a weekend day when you have something cooking in the oven with that wonderful smell. It could be bread or cookies or even a pot roast. You could substitute wood stove for cooking here. Burning wood too is an autumn smell. Autumn in New England comes gradually. You see some color showing up in mid August even if the weather is still hot and muggy. But it is the trip to the orchard with the warm cider and apple dumplings and fresh honey and that cool crisp New England air that seals the deal.

I’m sure that LCNM will have its “Landmark Seasonal Days.’ I look forward to figuring out each and every one of them.

March 18, 2010

I knew it! I just knew it…

Recently there were some prophetic headlines - Beer Makes Bones Stronger, or Beer Boosts Bones and Fends off Osteoporosis. Being somewhat of a MasterBrewer, I thought I should investigate further (for science. I give my life over to scientific discovery!)

Well it seems that silicon, a metalloid element found in glass and sand, exists in compounds within beer, especially pale, hops-rich beers. A paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture stated that commercially available beer contains between 6.4 and 56.5 mg of silicon per liter. A 2004 study from the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research has associated silicon intake with increased bone density. Thus the logical sequence must be 1) beer contains silicon, 2) silicon promotes bone health; 3) therefore, beer promotes bone health.

Now before we all head out to the local tavern, a couple of mitigating factors are present. First the recommended daily allowance of silicon is currently unknown. Second, you can get silicon from other foods and liquids. It can be found in many unprocessed, unrefined foods, especially plants. Lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, olives, cucumbers, radishes, white onions, and even bananas all contain silicon. Beer, made with barley and hops, naturally retains a small portion of this silicon content. Third, since no one has ever been found to be silicon-deficient, virtually any diet contains enough silicon. Hey, even water has it. (Beer has water too!) Finally, more than a few beers may reverse or negate the positive health effects of beer's silicon content. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, while having 1-2 drinks per day was associated with higher bone mass density; having more than 2 drinks a day was associated with lower BMD. Ah, the old too much of a good thing is not a better thing.

So in the spirit of balanced journalism let’s just say these are the facts, you decide. As for me, I think I’ll have another Sam Adams! Want to join me?

(Special thanks to the book of lists web site for doing all the research for me. I was too busy having a couple of beers…)

March 17, 2010

Just wasting some time…

So, I recently wrote about some websites that I had started to follow on a regular basis. Well I guess CollegeBoy didn’t think I was spending enough time on the internet so he gave me the name of a site he follows, mental floss. It is sort of the trivial pursuits page of the internet with a history twist. By this I mean that there are lists of things – sports, TV, science – but also historical facts and other oddities. There are almost countless sections of this web page, things like trivia, fact of the day, and quizzes, to name a few. The only problem that I have encountered with it so far is what CollegeBoy called the Wikipedia effect – you get to the site with a couple of minutes of downtime and then two hours later you are reading about the undersea geology off the coast of Madagascar. On mental floss you begin taking the daily quiz and two hours later you are looking at 9 child stars who failed in later life or 10 provocative facts about raising chickens.

I guess CollegeBoy figured I wasn’t wasting enough time…

Another website I found recently is one called historical tweets. Recently in a visit to a bookstore I saw a book written as historical figures tweeting about their accomplishments. There also was some famous writers tweeting their book ideas. All fictional of course. If you are a fan of or user of Twitter, that last sentence was unnecessary. If you are saying “huh??!?” then a quick explanation. Twitter is a social communication idea that has been around for a few years. You can write things and they are communicated to people who “follow” you. Wikipedia defines it as “a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers.” (Wow, I didn’t know that the eye of the Colossal Squid is the largest of any known animal, at up to 11 inches in diameter. Sorry, back from Wikipedia…) For example, everyone in my family is on Twitter and we use it to learn what CollegeBoy is up to, when MillieJupiter will be home or what mrsfabp thought about our sons most recent escapades. The only caveat is that you are limited to 140 characters per tweet. That means you must be concise, quick and know some shorthand LOL. (did you see what I did there??) Anyway, the idea that some historical figures might be tweeting is an absurd premise which makes it perfect for the internet. Imagine Darwin tweeting to colleagues “LOL, just realized turkeys look like dinosaurs! Wonder if this is important?” or Thomas Jefferson tweeting “just finished DOI, hope the rest of the gang likes it!” Now you get it? So check out this site if you have a bit of time on your hands…

ZOMG, I got to get a life!

Tl;dr; internet is a place to waste time…

March 16, 2010

CoME: Episode 6 Unintended Biblical Metaphors

When I named this blog series “Chronicles of the Mass Exodus” I was thinking of exodus as a leaving, not the biblical book. However, the realities of the last few weeks have hit home hard and have necessitated a change in thought, a reevaluation of the plan, a readjustment of the threshold, so to speak. The dream lives on, even stronger that before but we have had to rethink a few things.

Here is the rethinking part: we have had 2 different realtors into our home in the last week or so and the news is not good, not good at all. In the last 4 years our house value has dropped somewhere in the range of 35%. It is at the point that if we were to sell tomorrow, we could cover our current investment but have no funds to buy in LCNM. A sobering thought and I blame and hold GW Bush and his henchmen directly responsible for this financial debacle. Because of them and this, my ability to retire is compromised because of the payout of my retirement. With little available to put down on a home in a new place, it is more difficult to retire on what I will make if I retire now. So where do we go from here?

Well the dear wife, sensing my own disappointment in all this quickly gave me the old pep talk Saturday morning over coffee. She will not let that dream die. We will need to make changes, reevaluate what we want to do and how we will do it. It might take a bit longer than first hoped, but we will do it. We had a nice taste, a great taste of what our lives would be like in LCNM and we are going to do whatever is necessary, WHATEVER, in order to make it happen. Our new timetable may have to stretch until July, 2012 but that is only 27 months away. It can happen! It will happen!

Step one is one of our realtors looking into the possibility of splitting our land into two lots and selling one off in order to come up with a down payment. Step two is to look into a couple of leads regarding our house. Step three is to have another realtor in, her office does work in the area of special needs housing which we consider our home with handicap ramp and accessible shower and bathroom.
So like the biblical story, when Moses was presented with an obstacle, his approach was one of “can do” not “woe is me.” That will be our approach too.

More on this and the readjustment of the threshold in some later posts...

March 14, 2010

Chronicles of the Mass Exodus Episode 5: Memories…

In episode 4 of the CoME, I talked about how difficult it is to think of trying to pack and move the accumulations of a lifetime. How does one pack up memories into a plastic bin or cardboard box. How does one judge what goes with you and what goes into the landfill.

Well a friend in LCNM wrote a comment and said “Maybe you just write about them, then you have the memory forever!!” Thank you Clairz, it is a good idea and I think I will try that now.

My dad gave me a wooden box many years ago, I don’t really remember when but I have had it at least 25 years. He made it in woodshop when he was in high school so now it has to be 65 or 70 years old. I have kept it on a dresser and more recently packed up in a cardboard box until I took a hard look at it the other day. It’s a box, a simple wood box but it also is a foreshadowing of what he was to do later in his life. I look at it and see the kitchen cabinets in our old house, the ones he built by his own two hands. I see the renovations he did with my uncle to remove a window and put a door on the back of his house. I see the bathroom redo he helped me complete in my and the DW’s first house.

I know that I did not inherit his gift of working with his hands so even this box is not something I could have ever done. Not even this simple box. But he did. When he retired, he spent several years doing things he liked to do, working with his hands. Helping others build or fix things, making simple wooden crafts. These are the memories I want to keep, that travel so to speak in that box of mine. He can’t do this anymore. His dementia robbed him of that ability. It prevents him from even knowing his own kids any more. It robbed him from us.

But I still have that box for all the memories it contains. I will take it with me.

I know sometime in the near future, I will pass that box on to my son. I couldn’t give CollegeBoy the gift of working with his hands, it was not mine to have or pass on to him. But he will have those memories of mine to add to his own memories of his grandfather. Like my grandmothers dishes, it will be the gift of memories, not just a simple wooden box or some china, but memories.

Thanks Clairz that helps a lot…

March 13, 2010

My Political Rant for the Week...

How could we have done this?

There were some internal CIA documents released recently that detailed the waterboarding “interrogation techniques” (TORTURE!) of suspected terrorists. It included these startling revelations:

“Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney “specially designed” to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner’s nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing…Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to “dam the runoff” and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee’s mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second “applications” of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee’s nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.”

The controversial “enhanced interrogation” practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney’s description of a “dunk in the water” sounds. It makes me sad and angry to think that we as the greatest country in the world had so little integrity, so little moral compass that we would allow this to be done. ALL of the participants should be punished - from the guy who brought the buckets into the session to the people who ordered it / allowed it / looked the other way about it. This includes the POTUS at the time and his amoral henchman Dick. If you see this differently, all I ask is that you think about how you would feel if one of our brave soldiers in our amoral Afghanistan mission was captured and they released video of his interrogation that included even one minute of waterboarding. The indignation would be over the top. We would be calling for the US to drop the big one and wipe them off the face of the earth for doing this to a US citizen. Well, if you are so inclined, now switch and try to rationalize doing it to someone else, to US officials doing it to other people. If you are not repulsed by this you are a cold, amoral bastard!

March 12, 2010

"You say wat???"

On Countless Screaming Argonauts, the podcast of record, Maqz and I had a discussion about the word “retarded”. We were responding to the Rahm Emanuel, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh dust up. You remember it right? Emanuel made a very coarse comment in a private meeting that got reported by the press. Sarah made some pithy comments about the term, calling for him to resign. Then Rush added his two cents (more like 20 dollars worth) in a 10 minute rant on the radio about all this “political correctness” and used the term in a derogatory fashion at least 25 times. Sarah, dear Sarah was called to offer the same criticism of Rush but chose instead to leave the bashing in a left wing direction and ignore the beast master.

The following is an article that appeared on a Boston website regarding the use of that word in all different contexts and offered commentary on our society perhaps becoming coarser.
Not the type of trend I like but interesting reading for sure. Give it a read and let me know your thoughts. Give our podcast episode a listen on the subject too. You will find it online at or by downloading Episode 126 from iTunes (for FREE) at the Countless Screaming Argonauts section of iTunes podcasts.

I said that I thought originally Sarah, dear Sarah, was correct in taking issue with Emmanuel (not in asking him to resign.) However she then dropped the ball with the beast master. I almost had some respect for her but quickly lost it as she showed she was not concerned with the word, but rather looking to leftist bash. Too bad she didn’t write “stand by my principles” on the palm of her hand, maybe she would have remembered that!.

March 11, 2010

These are a few of my favorite…new websites provides a running commentary on American culture with emphasis on the last 20 years. It is a good place to go to see what is going on in today’s world. On any given day he will talk about Japanese anime, Star Wars, Pixar at the Oscars, NASA and a Mars mission, Japanese commercials, Ramen noodles or vintage video from the original Star Trek movie. Quite the eclectic gaggle of ideas. Check it out at

Book of Odds – takes a look at subjects related to what is going on in the world at this time and talks about the odds of things happening – around Oscar time, they focused on subjects like what actor / actress most likely to make a 100 million dollar move, what are the odds of someone becoming a movie star for example. This was a link from the Freakonomics blog in NY TIMES ( Check it out at

Ray William Johnson’s YouTube channel – this college student makes 4 minute videos about internet videos that go viral or catch his fancy. The channel is called “= 3”. He is very irreverent, has a good sense of humor and offers a chance for audience participation. He is also branching out with some videos about his life in NYC. I have not found these to be as entertaining perhaps because I used to live there. Someone else might though.

Project Kickass – this one is a classic. Lonely nerd boy commentary on life as he sees it – visiting the local fast food place, girls with red hair, a letter from his dog, his plan of attack for dealing with zombies, an open letter to his co-workers. It is just an interesting look into the mind of a possible social outcast. Is he a funny and talented writer – no doubt. Is he an Aspie? Give him a read and decide for yourself. Check him out at

March 10, 2010

Chronicles of the Mass Exodus: Episode 4: Pack Rats

How do you get rid of 28 years worth of junk? How do you decide what will go with you thousands of miles away? How do you leave behind 55 years worth of memories? What will fit in the PODS moving box? These are the questions that I think about on a regular basis each and every day.

When we got back from LCNM, we spent a Saturday morning developing our plan of attack. There were realtor questions and retirement questions and moving questions and all sort of talk like that. For the past year, we have spent some good time going through stuff. Tossing some, sending some off to Uncle Sal’s (Salvation Army) and storing some for our eventual move and for our kids. We did a lot but there is so, so much more to do. You know, miles to go before we sleep meme.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

It will get done, it has to, but the memories run strong. We started to go thru boxes of photos, dividing them into smaller boxes – those to keep, those to throw away, those to give to others, those to scrapbook. We worked separately then compared piles. I took lots out of the DW’s toss pile. She plucked most out of my discard box. We tried to be quick about what we were doing but kept stopping. “Do you remember this? Who is that? Would our kids want this one?” Even the mostly blurry were scrutinized for a while. Should it stay or should it go. Melancholy yes but filled with memories too.

We have boxes of New Englandy / Country accents that we have collected thru the years. They really do not fit in a southwest style home but that doesn’t make the thought process or decision making any easier. Same goes for our “fancy” dishes and stoneware. Neither fits the style but the china was my grandmother’s, the stoneware one of the DW’s and mine first purchases. What about our books, we have had some of them for 25 years. Do we want to drag them half a country away?

We went to the store a few days ago to get some storage bins. We are going to start placing things in them that we want to keep when we move. Keep them safe and dust free and out of the way. Can you get 28 years of memories into a few plastic bins?

March 9, 2010

Chronicles of the Mass Exodus Episode 3: The Bear Story

I was looking at some modern New Mexico sculpture on day and ran across some pieces by Frank Andrews. He is an interesting artist who is not shy about sharing where he gets his ideas for petroglyph sculptures from. "I hike into prehistoric rock art sites in the desert Southwest, take photographs and make drawings, then convert them into sculpture patterns in my studio. My raw materials are copper tubing and copper welding rod. I bend different sizes of tubing to the image of my pattern, hammer the pieces flat on an anvil, then assemble the figure by welding the elements together with an oxy-acetylene welding torch. The design is then coated several times with copper welding rod to build up a texture that replicates the texture of the original stone image." His pieces are nice, the kind of thing you would find hanging on a wall somewhere.

This got me thinking about the different Native American symbols prevalent in these cave/wall carvings. Avia Venefica wrote this about the symbolism of the bear: the bear imparts this advice to both our ancestors and us today - Because the bear is cautious, it encourages discernment to humankind. Because of a fierce spirit, the bear signals bravery to those who require it. Because of its mass and physical power, the bear stands for confidence and victory. Because it prefers peace and tranquility (in spite of its size), the bear calls for harmony and balance. These seemed to me to be such strong yet gentile images, I felt drawn to them. Years ago I had bought my DW some green Jade bear fetish earrings. This past Christmas I bought her 2 more different pairs as well as a couple of hand-carved bear stones to make into a necklace.

This summer we had a visitor. I got a call from our next door neighbor and he said a bear had attached his bird feeders and made off with one of them. A couple of my DW’s early morning walking buddies had seen a bear, near a creek where we live, with a couple of young cubs. They dashed across the road. No more early morning walking for a while. We also heard about a couple of reports of a bear sighting no more than a couple of roads away from our house. It was against this backdrop that my story about the bear is set.

I am in the habit of drinking my coffee while sitting on our deck off the front of the house. I look into the forest that surrounds our property and listen for the birds and various rodents of the day. I only do this when the weather is not too cold, not too wet, not too hot and humid. That is about 6 days a year in Massachusetts. No, I kid you Commonwealth, it really is a few more days than that but not too many more. One Saturday morning, working on cup #2 (or maybe #3) I heard some noise coming out of the bush. I looked carefully, seeing nothing at first, but then a large black shape broke out of the woods. My initial thought – wow, look at the size of that dog. My second, more correct idea – WOW, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT BEAR! He was in a full four paw gallop across the edge of our yard, up the driveway for about 40 feet and then made a sharp right turn near the old abandoned pop-up camper. This sight was interrupted by a phone call from our neighbor telling us the bear had struck again and was last seen headed for my yard. For the next couple of minutes there was the crashing of a large animal through the underbrush deep in the woods before the silence indicated the coast was clear.

Now, I never thought that I was in danger or anything like that but I must say I was enveloped with a sense of calmness. Earlier that morning the DW and I were discussing the possible move to New Mexico and how interested we were in the Native American culture. This bear sort of was the exclamation point to our discussion. A sign that we were doing the right thing.

March 8, 2010

Chronicles of the Mass Exodus Episode 2: Saved by a New Mexican Lizard

Let me tell you a story. We were in LCNM on Valentine’ Day this year. The DW and I went out to a very nice dinner. She had the prime rib, we had a couple of micro brews and a good time was had by all. A few days before this we were in Mesilla and decided to get a few little momentos for the kids. A Valentine’s Day surprise. We packed them up in Wal-Mart mailing envelopes, went to the cute Mesilla Post Office and sent them on their way.

CollegeBoy was sent a key chain ornament, a small New Mexican lizard based on the Native American symbol. It is called a “spinning lizard” in Navaho lore, an image that promotes dreaming, agility, and conservation. This touches my thoughts on CollegeBoy.

Avia Venefica, a writer about Native American symbolism says this about the lizard – “They are flexible and adaptive to their environment, and the human psyche translates this as being symbolic of going with the flow and overcoming adverse external conditions. Due to their scurrying natures, quick pace and lightning reaction times, the lizard is considered the consummate escape artist. This makes them symbolic of our ability to recognize danger and remove ourselves from harm's way when the situation calls for it. Furthermore, most lizards are gifted with various forms of camouflage, and trickery to allude predators (like detaching their tails if caught by a hungry predator so that the lizard can escape to live another day). These gifts of illusion are symbolic messages to us that within us (as children of nature ourselves) we have impressive gifts we may utilize for our well-being. The lizard comes with a message about our responsibility to recognize these hidden gifts and skills so that we may avoid harm, and live freely and happily as we are designed to live.”

I got a call last week. CB had lost his keys and was on the verge of controlled panic. He had searched his room and retraced his steps without success. All there was left to do was report it to campus security and hope. After a couple of days he began planning what to do. His car has an alarm system and he had no spare key or alarm fob to get into it. After some calls it was shown to be a “Franklin Fix” as in it would cost him $100 for the tow, new keys and fob. AAA came and took his car to the local repair spot.

But then, the lizard spoke. A call from campus security told him they had been found. He asked if they were sure that they were his keys and the security officer said yes, they didn’t figure many students had a “New Mexican lizard” on their keys.

So, the lizard speaks to me. It tells me of my son’s dreaming, of overcoming adverse conditions, of using our gifts and recognizing the responsibilities these gifts portray to us. It comes to the rescue.

Now we have the bear going for us and the New Mexican lizard too!

(More about the bear in my next episode...)

March 7, 2010

Chronicles of the Mass Exodus : Episode 1 - A New England Mexican Restaurant review

So let me begin by saying that I understand that everything and I mean EVERYTHING from here on will be judged on the LCNM scale of life. Yes, I’m spoiled. Yes, I’ve got a one track mind but it’s my track and so na-na-na-na-na-na. When I go to a convenience store here in New England and all they have is roller hot dogs, no hot burritos, no toquitos, no chips with cheesy goodness, it is a fail, sorry but it’s my blog and that’s the way I’m going to judge it.

So Saturday, the DW and I went to a new, Mexican restaurant in town and my guess was that it was going to get the old “but it’s not in Las Cruces” judgment but I approached it with an open mind and stomach. A few notes on the experience.

Décor – it was done in New England Mexican, which means it was authentic if they wear sombreros in Taiwan. The walls were done in fake brick, hand troweled from a kit but I don’t go to a restaurant like this for the décor. It is all food and flavor, all the time. By the way, I have no idea where all the Mexican wait staff and hostesses came from. I think Worcester’s entire Mexican population was at this place. Hearing the Spanish gave it a very nice feel however, cause I’m all about the decor and culture. Oh, maybe not, but it was a nice reminder of LCNM.

Food – I said in the Chronicles of Las Cruces that “Nachos (are the) the first big test of a Mexican restaurant” so being true to the word, that was what we ordered. They brought us chips and salsa which were excellent – fresh, warm chips and spicy, “tomatoey” salsa. To drink, a Dos Equis ON TAP. Another positive. We were already feeling full when the nachos supremos arrived. Flavor wise they were a 9+ but there was a problem – the menu said “piled high with cheese, beans, shredded beef, sour cream and guacamole. Sorry but these were not piled high, the plate was large the chips and fixin’s were flat and this was a bit of a disappointment. Flavor wise 8, presentation a 5. We got the enchiladas, a mistake. Bill Zees in LCNM were outstanding, My own last week were excellent but these we a bit bland, a little runny and thin on the sauce with pedestrian beans and rice. We got the Mexicano, 3 enchiladas done three ways – red sauce was good, mole sauce a bit too sweet and the green chile sauce, disappointing. Overall a 6 maybe. (Mine were a 9+, Bills an 11 on a scale of 1-10).

New Englanders in a Mexican restaurant – FAIL. Two stories; First, WHY WOULD YOU ORDER BUD LIGHT WHEN THEY HAVE DOS EQUIS ON TAP!!! You must be kidding. Second, as we were leaving an older gentlemen approached us and asked the following question (to be fair, this restaurant is in the place of an old New England standard, ROM’s, which essentially went out of business. But to be even handed, Rom’s had been closed for more than a year and the outside motif of the place is Mexican…)” Do they have baked haddock here?” My DW gently told him, no, that it was now a Mexican restaurant but I don’t think he believed her and he went inside to ask himself. Can you make a burrito look like baked fish?

Thus ends the restaurant review. Ok, let me say it – it is not LCNM! IT IS NOT LCNM!


Thanks for letting me get that out of my system. Oh God, do I miss El Comedor’s in Mesilla…

March 6, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 12 - "Ending on a sweet, sweet note…”

(Click Pix to embiggen!)

In this final episode of Chronicles of Las Cruces, I want to tell everyone about a Las Crucien hidden gem, a desert dessert (I’ve been wanting to do that since I started this series). It is the frozen custard masterpiece known as Caliches. Think Dairy Queen on steroids. Think Carvel with taste and without Fudgie the Whale (That is an inside NYC joke; if you want more about, check Wikipedia, it will tell you the whole story…)

It seems like everyone touts Caliches as a can not miss. We were eating some brick oven Zeffiro’s pizza when one of our new friends mentioned stopping at Caliches for a sweet something. Our realtor Sharon told us she will work out of a different office at times because there is a Caliches up the road from it. It seems as if the proposed opening of a new Caliches is met with the approving nods reserved for the birth of a grandchild. Yes, it is that awesome.

What is it you ask? The official website says “If you were looking for the tastiest, the freshest and the all around best frozen custard on a cone, you came to the right place!” That could be an understatement.

We decided to invite our Sharon out for a “Caliches’ lunch” because of all the time she had given us. When we arrived, a full one minute drive from her office, we ordered and she told us the story of the name. Not to write it all out here, if you’re interested in finding out how Scoopys became Caliches and what caliche is, go to for all the details.

Let me just say this about our lunch. We all got strawberry cheesecake caliches, with real berries and graham cracker crust mixed in. it was our Sharon’s favorite and now it is mine. One other important note is the fact that you cannot find out any nutritional information about this product. Generally this is not a good sign and the internet rumor is that they are afraid to publish what its status is because it might scare away the customers. But my feeling is just how do you analyze “goodness”. How can you put a number on “deliciousness”. Or as our Sharon said “How bad can it be, its yogurt!”

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Well this is the end of the Chronicles of Las Cruces. I enjoyed writing about our trip because it helped to seal these memories in the steel trap I call my memory. Ah, what was I talking about? Oh yea, I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in New Mexico. I promise I will write about any other memories that might pop into this head now and again, and I ‘m sure there will be an addendum or two to The Chronicles. I will also keep you posted about the next step in our plan to relocate from Massachusetts. I think I might call it “Chronicles of the Mass Exodus”. What do you think?

March 5, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 11 - "Oh realtor, my realtor..."

(With apologies to Walt Whitman)

We went to LCNM on a search and explore mission, to see if this was a place we would like to retire to. To tell the truth we had really decided within about 48 hours that it was. The sunshine was great, the lack of snow and ice, super, and the people we befriended, priceless. So the next step was to figure out what we would do for a house.

Enter Todd, our first realtor. We had contact with him over the internet for some 6 months and he followed up with phone calls and emails almost weekly with housing ideas, schools and medical services information and the like. We talked to him on New Years Day about our visit and he was ready for us. We sat in his office conference room and just talked for an hour. Our plans, fears, desires and wishes were all laid out on the table (and a nice table it was with a built in computer and big screen on the wall above it!) In the end he said he felt the best move was to a new construction not started or in the early stages in order to make the modifications I would need. Condo’s and townhomes would not offer the equity and would need modifications at additional costs. Next step was to go look at homes, builders and neighborhoods.

Our Todd had an interesting analogy for describing the builders, comparing them to stores. This builder is like Walmart, this one is like Target, and this one is like Macy’s. We quickly were able to see the differences in quality and workmanship as we looked at 5 different builders’ home that day. All in all, without the carrot on the end of a stick of promise for him, he gave us 4 hours of his time and a wealth of experience.

Day two of our neighborhood and home tour was lead by Sharon, different realtor, different company. Her approach was more home spun, more personal but just as informative. We talked over coffee and then spent 3 hours that day and three more another day looking at more areas, more builders and more models. She didn’t have the “store type analogy” but easily conveyed her feelings about quality and value to us.

So really we are talking about 10 hours of time in which we saw 9 different builders, 10 model homes and maybe a dozen more in some state of being built. We were able to eliminate 5 out of hand due to poor quality/cheap appearance or too high cost for the product. A sixth was eliminated later because the price for what you got was significantly higher than the rest. This left us with three builders, maybe 4-5 models in a half dozen nice neighborhoods. Not an easy choice but I think a choice we will like making.

A quick note on neighborhoods. The areas we are looking at are all in the north east part of the city where there is a lot of development and building going on. The best part about this urban planning is that you are just a quick hop, skip or jump from all the action. We were able to get from this area to downtown during the “rush hour” in ten minutes and from downtown to the suburbs equally as easy. One final point is that downtown LCNM has all the services – federal, state buildings, new town hall, public library and offers easy access to the rest of town, areas like Mesilla and the pecan groves are moments away.

I expect we are going to like living there.

Now, do you know anyone who might be interested in a two car garage under ranch with ramp, handicap accessible bathroom, widened doorways and 3 ½ acres of land. Priced to move!

March 4, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 10 - "The Sonic Adventure..."

Let me begin by stating that I love Sonic. I know, I know, due to my WONDERFUL health, I can eat fast food whenever I want (NOT!). No, this is a special treat, few and far between which makes the experience even more special.

Now, you may wonder why the attachment, the pure glee at the Sonic. I think it comes from several different factors. First and foremost, absence makes the heart grow fonder – there are no Sonics in the northeast. I first had it when we traveled to the outer banks some 6-7 years ago. Secondly, I love the drive in and food delivery style. I can remember growing up when the White Castle (yes, the belly bomber king!) had delivery to the car service where they brought the food on a tray that attached to your car window. Now, everything is drive thru and there is a nostalgia factor driving this feeling.

(Click Pix to embiggen...)

There are Sonics all over New Mexico and I knew ahead of the trip that this would be a stop. The only question was when. We were enjoying all the Mexican food and didn’t want to miss another burrito opportunity but one day when returning from Cloudcroft, the day of the roadrunner sighting, we planned to go to one.

This meant driving thru the heart of Fast Food Hell in Alamogordo at lunch time. There were thousands of people, driving hundreds of cars, stopping at millions of places along the restaurant parkway known as downtown Alamogordo. We spotted one, drove in and like the obvious tourists we were, took about 10 minutes to peruse the menu. People, this is not rocket science but it was a treat and required careful considerations.

First issue – cheeseburger or surprise! Chile cheeseburger. Look Sonic does not make the top 10 list for Best of GCCB Shows but now I am spoiled and so I NEED green chile on my burger. So GCCB it is. I must say this was a good choice as the chilies on the burger make a great combination so my new mantra is “Even a bad green chile cheese burger is better than no cheeseburger at all.” The Sonic GCCB is not great but it gets a passing grade.

Second issue – fries or onion rings. Easy decision, this is a special trip, BOTH! And lets throw in an order of Poppers – jalapeño peppers stuffed with cheese and given the French fry treatment. Good choice! (Sorry doctor, I will be better on my return to Massachusetts – nothing but broccoli and salads for me.

Third issue is drink. I am somewhat caffeine sensitive, I think, and nothing spoils my rest more than some mid afternoon caffeine. It is 2:30 pm so we are on the cusp of trouble here. Complicated by the caffeine factor, I go with the Diet Dr. Pepper. Who needs sleep anyway, I’m on vacation.

Thus our dining experience is complete. I got my Sonic, I got my GCCB, I GOT IT ALL! Thanks Sonic…

One final note - we were at the Sonic and suddenly realized we were surrounded by New Mexican youth. School must have let out and everyone was having a Sonic day. How quaint!

March 3, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 9 - "Alamogordo, FAIL…”

When we first started the planning of our trip, we frequently looked at maps of the area to see what things, areas, and towns we wanted to see. In retrospect we accomplished about everything we set out to do. Desert sunset, check. White Sands, check. Ruidoso, check. Cloudcroft, check. Green Chile Cheese Burger, check *drools some more*. All were more than we had hoped for in terms of things to do, see and experience. Except one – Alamogordo.

Alamogordo is such a nice sounding name. Wiki tell us that “The city of Alamogordo was founded in June 1898, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, headed by Charles Bishop Eddy, extended the railway to the town. Eddy influenced the design of the community, which included large wide thoroughfares and tree-lined irrigation canals. Charles Eddy's brother John Arthur Eddy named the new city Alamogordo ("large cottonwood" in Spanish) after a grove of fat cottonwoods he remembered from the Pecos River area.”

Sweet and almost romantic. That is until you get there. Look I’m used to seeing depressed areas but this one just slaps you up-side the head. Most disturbing is the fact that they plopped this silly strip mall model right smack in the middle of the desert scenery. On the main road thru town, you come across “Fast Food Freakin’ City,” a stretch of about a mile with EVERY conceivable fast food place on the planet. Like McDonalds, they got three. Like Sonic, you can go to two. Looking for fried chicken, at least 4 different options. Want pizza? Here you go times at least 5. It is like Colonel Harland Sanders died and went to fast food heaven. But for me, it was depressing (except for Sonic, which I will address in a later post.).

This could have been a good visit. This town could have been a contender. But it comes up way short. It has so much going for it but just ends up lacking. NASA has a big connection to it. White Sands and Holloman AFB are close by. The big hot air balloon festival flies over the city. Alamogordo is small (35,000 people) but is known for TWO iconic examples of American culture at work – it briefly made international news in late 2001 when Christ Community Church held a public book burning of books in the Harry Potter series, as well as novels by J. R. R. Tolkien and Stephen King, Star Wars material, and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Bard, THE BARD? You got to be kidding me.

The other important cultural happening is best described again by Wikipedia – “In September 1983, the Alamogordo Daily News of Alamogordo, New Mexico reported in a series of articles, that between ten and twenty semi-trailer truckloads of Atari boxes, cartridges, and systems from an Atari storehouse in El Paso were crushed and buried at the landfill within the city. It was Atari's first dealings with the landfill, which was chosen because no scavenging was allowed and its garbage was crushed and buried nightly. Atari's stated reason for the burial was that it was changing from Atari 2600 to Atari 5200 games, but this was later contradicted by a worker who claimed that this was not the case. Atari official Bruce Enten stated that Atari was mostly sending broken and returned cartridges to the Alamogordo dump and that it was "by-and-large inoperable stuff." On September 28, 1983, The New York Times reported on the story of Atari's dumping in New Mexico. An Atari representative confirmed the story for the newspaper, stating that the discarded inventory came from Atari's plant in El Paso, Texas, which was being closed and converted to a recycling facility. The Times article did not suggest any of the specific game titles being destroyed, but subsequent reports have generally linked the story of the dumping to the well-known failure of E.T. Additionally, the headline "City to Atari: 'E.T.' trash go home" in one edition of the Alamogordo News implies that the cartridges were E.T. As a result, it is widely speculated that most of Atari's millions of unsold copies of E.T. ultimately wound up in this landfill, crushed and encased in cement. Starting on September 29, 1983, a layer of concrete was poured on top of the crushed materials, a rare occurrence in waste disposal. An anonymous workman's stated reason for the concrete was: "There are dead animals down there. We wouldn't want any children to get hurt digging in the dump." Eventually, the city began to protest the large amount of dumping Atari was doing; a sentiment summed up by one commissioner with, "We don't want to be an industrial waste dump for El Paso." The local manager ordered the dumping to be ended shortly afterwards. Due to Atari's unpopular dumping, Alamogordo later passed an Emergency Management Act and created the Emergency Management Task Force to limit the future flexibility of the garbage contractor to secure outside business for the landfill for monetary purposes. Alamogordo's then mayor, Henry Pacelli, commented that, "We do not want to see something like this happen again."

One other worthy note to make. They built a bypass road around the center of Alamogordo. This can’t be a good sign, when they divert traffic AROUND the businesses in your city, right? I took that road every one of the 12 trips through this area through except for two times – the first trip to say we saw it and our Sonic adventure. But there is something a bit strange about this situation. A bypass road like this is supposed to get you out of the stop and go of driving thru the fast food wasteland with all the stopping for traffic lights and turns into establishments. That part makes sense but what doesn’t make sense is the fact that they are beginning to develop along the bypass road creating stops for traffic lights and turns into establishments. One night we had lots of traffic because one of the multiplex’s movies had just let out and the damn light kept allowing people to exit the theater parking area, at my expense.

Get real Alamogorians! You blew it on this one. FAIL!

March 2, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 8 – “Pat down Pat…”

I do not like to fly. Make no mistake, this is a Penguin truism. We do not like to fly. There are lots of things I would rather do than fly – a hemorrhoidectomy comes to mind. I just don’t like the thought of being herded onto a giant metal tube and going 36,000 feet into the air at 600 miles per hour to get anywhere. Give me 4 wheels, 80 miles per hour and rubber touching the road any day.

We flew both to and from New Mexico, leaving on 6 am flights, necessitating being at the airport by 5 am. Well, LGA in NY and ELP in El Paso, Texas are very different airports in very different cities but the procedures were essentially the same. I am an amputee which means I cannot go thru the standard screening machine – too much metal. I got a cane and a titanium post in my artificial leg so that is a no go. If you go on the TSA site they tell you that you get to have “special handling” Yea, that’s the ticket, special.

I get to have an overall scan, sitting in a giant Lucite box, like one of those carnival goldfish. Everyone else is walking by, staring a bit. The only thing missing is having someone tossing ping pong balls into the box to win themselves a penguin. After this I am asked to extend my arms and undergo a complete (and I mean COMPLETE!) pat down by a gloved, security officer. Male of course. A female security person may have made it more exciting but no can do. He asks in a soft voice if I have any areas that are more sensitive than others and I long to tell him but figure that might not be a good idea. It takes a couple of minutes until he is satisfied I have no weapons, explosives or contraband. They then use a cotton patch and swab my shoes as well as my fake leg, pants bottom and my hands and take it to a machine to test.

(Click to embiggen / Thanks JD)

Without even a smile, I’m told I can go on my way. You figure that he could at least nod approvingly after subjecting me to the “pat down” but no, he is just doing his job. I do not blame him, I blame the terrorists for putting us in this situation and realize this is just another way they have won but I subject myself to the violation and am compliant and polite and friendly throughout.

Ah, to be back in that sporty little rental, doing 80 miles per hour across the desert floor. Now that’s traveling!