I spend the day with my tribe. Yes, I have a tribe.
There have been Tweets, there have been Facebook postings, and now there is the Blog Post.
We have a bit of a surprise in that we have a new family member, Taz, a six-month old Lab/Shepard mix of some kind that we adopted through the Humane Society.
No one is as surprised as me. My wife, Irene, comes from a society that doesn’t really value dogs as pets. On my first visit to Taiwan in 1998, ferrel dogs roamed the streets of Taipei, alone and in packs and while most of them seemed quite content to ignore me, they certainly weren’t dogs you wanted to run up to you, and, in some of the more rural parts of the Taipei metroplex, some packs were downright menacing.
Irene, having grown up in that environment, and have been bitten was not hugely enamored of dogs on the whole when we met, although her host family had one or two small, friendly dogs that she liked.
(On our latest trip, you could hardly imagine the change in Taiwan, pet shops and crazed pet owners who think their dogs are children are everywhere. You would barely recognize the attitude towards dogs since my first visit. I can only imagine Taiwan’s world’s-lowest birthrate of 1.0 has something to do with it.)
I’d like to think that, despite her protestations, Kiba, with her gentle and loving nature slowly won Irene over, for no one could not like Kiba given enough time. It certainly didn’t hurt that everyone, from the police to the handyman all immediately said, “get a dog” after our recent burglary. (Of course, we did have a dog, but Kiba’s wasnt much of a watchdog. She was kind to everyone, and, in her later years, deaf and partially blind, which means she probably didn’t even know they were breaking into our house.)
I think every kid should grow up with a dog, but, there was one thing Kiba didn’t have when my kids were younger – she didn’t have youthful vigor. By the time Michelle was big enough to go outside and play with a dog, Kiba was past her playing years. Because of my opinion on kids and dogs, I did want the kids to have that opportunity, but it’s been clear for years that Kiba would be our last dog, so when, last week, Irene wanted to discuss the possibility of getting another dog… I was pleasantly shocked.
Since we had a three-day weekend, unpaid though it was, I decided we might go peruse the dogs at the Arizona Humane Society. It’s been 15-20 years since I was last at the Humane Society, so I hopped on their website to find their address(es) and hours. I really shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised that (apparently) every animal in their inventory has their own webpage of information, which picture. While their searching and sorting functions don’t work worth a bean, you can get an idea of what they have. One or two dogs on the site caught my eye; Taz being the standout.
We were down that way on Saturday, so I decided to check out the Humane Society’s southern campus. As we toured the kennels, one puppy was particularly bright and friendly. It was Taz.
So, after we’d finished checking out all the dogs (heart-breaking though that is) we went back and asked to have some introductory time with Taz.
Taz is about six months old and had a previous owner, who was forced to given him up because of no place to keep him. The details aren’t given, but little clues are around that seem to indicate that, perhaps, Taz was in a house, with a pool, but then the family had to move to a new place that either didn’t allow pets, or that the space was just too small. No matter what the circumstances, so things were immediately obvious when we leashed him and took him out to the play pens: He was leash trained and housebroken already. He was friendly, but gentle with the kids; smart enough to stay in the shade while still obviously excited to have someone to be with. He was a puppy just begging to go home with us… and he did.
We weren’t even remotely ready for a new dog. There’s a bit of fence that needs repair in the back yard and there was cleanup needed in the backyard, plus it’s much too hot outside for a puppy and while Kiba never seemed to mind the heat, Taz needs to be kept inside during the day, but we’re not going to give him full run of the house, that means there’s doggy fences to erect and then he needs a kennel, so he can be cage trained, plus there’s toys, food and who knows what we’ve forgotten.
When we go him home he continues to behave in an exemplary fashion. He’s not made a mess of the floor, he obeys most rules without a problem. In fact, on the first day we had to erect a makeshift barrier. He could have easily gone over it and, at first tried. I simply told him, “no”, and not only did he back down, but he didn’t try to go over it again.
The kids are a little nervous around him, but apart from licking them a lot, he’s not given them any reason to be concerned.
We’re quite pleased with our new family member. Now, if it turns out he likes Doctor Who, he’ll be the perfect pet.
Yesterday was the last day of school for the kids, which I’m finding an oddly bittersweet affair.
The fact is, it wasn’t just the last day of school for the year, it was the last day of school at their current (now former) school.
It had not been our intent when we started having children to send them to private school, but there are no public pre-schools, so if you want your child in pre-school, they’re all pay-as-you-go.
Michelle was and is extraordinarily bright and when it came time to put her in pre-school, we decided to go with one of the very best private schools in the state, Rancho Solano. There’s a campus near us and while the tuition wasn’t cheap, we could afford it. We intended to put her in a highly-rated public traditional school when she went to kindergarten.
Although the curriculum runs a year ahead than a standard school, Michelle absolutely thrived there and has been essentially an A+ all the way. We simply had no desire to remove her when it came time to go to Kindergarten because both she and we loved the place.
Similarly, when it came time for James to go to pre-school, we started him there also. He’ll be going on to Kindergarten next year.
Unfortunately, the school has been raising tuition most every year and with the state budget crisis, we’ve been loosing income. Even with the tuition donations of some very nice people and scholarship assistance from the school, we simply could not afford to continue on – not if we wanted to keep making house payments.
And so, when I picked up the kids yesterday, I knew it was the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of a new one. I’m genuinely sorry that this had to happen and I feel like I’ve let them down. It is, after all, just their entire future I’m trying to lay the groundwork on and I’ve not succeeded in arranging the best possible situation.
It’s both funny and sad how one’s plans can be derailed by the capricious nature of external forces.
Spring in in the air here in Phoenix, and with it warm, comfortable outside temperatures. We’ve often got the doors open to let in the outside air.
Monday, when I was home taking care of a sick James, it was rather windy, and I kept hearing this noise. It was a very familiar knocking noise and yet at the same time, I couldn’t quite place it. I was certain it was something rattling in the wind.
Today; however, it was dead calm, but the noise was still there.
It was then that I realized what it sounded like: A woodpecker. I’ve never seen, heard or even heard of a woodpecker in Phoenix, but they’re not uncommon up in the mountains.
I went out to the back yard and there in the pecan tree was a little red-headed woodpecker, knocking away at the tree. It also seemed to be paying a lot of attention to a hole in the tree I’ve never noticed before. A nest hole perhaps?
Despite my life-long fascination with extinct dinosaurs, I’ve never cared much for our modern, avian dinosaurs – save for a few of the larger, majestic (and terrifying) birds of prey.
Nonetheless, it was kind of cool to discover something other than those damned pigeons around the house.
Full disclosure, there is no Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in my backyard because they, like non-avian dinosaurs, are extinct.
Other photos of the woodpecker
I’m not the most “glass half-full” person in the world, but I do try to pry some minor comfort from a situation that can only really be called a “loose-loose situation.”
Last week, our home was burglarized. I can tell you, it’s quite an unusual feeling to come home on a normal day, start about your normal home-arrival routine and start to notice that “…things are amiss.”
After the obvious almost-physical impact of discovering our Wii, all the games, two computers, iPods, jewelry and other sundry items missing, there’s days more of stumbling across little things, like a pair of headphones or a knife missing. Each time you stumble across something it drives home again that… no matter what you do, you cannot fully protect against this sort of loss and it is an enormous invasion of your personal space.
So what’s the positive side? Well, it’s hardly a positive side, but I’ve spent the better part of the week re-enforcing the home defenses. New deadbolts, metal re-enforcing plates, new doors, surveillance systems, alarms and most importantly… and this is the part I like… a security system with frickin’ lasers.
I only wish I could have worked sharks into it somehow.
No, not in Phoenix.
We decided – and when I say, “we”, I mean the collective Glover family unit as a democratic whole, not necessarily as a unanimously united gestalt – to go to Flagstaff so that the kids could experience a natural and wholly unpleasant phenomena known as “snow.”
I can tell you that, growing up in Tucson, it snowed twice, both times perhaps only an inch or so and, I can recall being excited before going out into it. In Oracle, where I lived for a brief three-year period, it snowed with monotonous regularity – once a year. Since I’ve lived in Phoenix, it’s a joke to say that it “snowed” twice here. At best, it could be called a light dusting. Insufficient to stick or last even more than an hour or so, and not at all since the kids have been born.
Because of the outrageous number of times I’ve been subjected to snow, I can safely say that it is nature’s blanket of misery upon the world. I’ve had enough.
Nonetheless, Saturday, I found myself, along with Irene and the kids, plus another couple and their child, bound for Flagstaff for the weekend.
Temperatures in the proceeding week had been around a low of 0ºF to a high in the upper 20s, but conditions were clear. Although there was a warming trend forecast for the weekend (a balmy 40º) I hoped it would be cold enough that the kids would learn to want to avoid snow like the plague.
We arrived in Flagstaff at about 10:30AM and the temperature was already 51º. Traffic through Flagstaff was horrific and we had to abandon the idea of going to the designated snow play area north of town, instead we found a place on the NAU campus where others were sledding and making snowmen and we decided to join them.
I should digress for a moment and comment on how rubbish Google Maps were on this trip. I was mostly navigating on the drive up and, although I had the GPS in the car aimed at the hotel, I also had my iPhone and Google Maps doing the same. Although they both navigated us easily to Flagstaff, (Big deal! Get on I-17, head north), Google Maps turned us completely the wrong way once we got off the freeway and left us on a dead end road and an empty field.
Later, when we were trying to get of the log jam that was main street Flagstaff, Google Maps again led us on a goose chase through NAU. Often taken us to unmarked (in Google) one-way streets and even to places where Google clearly showed a road, but reality clearly showed a sidewalk or a building. I was not impressed with Google Maps on this trip.
The kids had a lot of fun playing in the snow, but it was enormously tiring and rather hot underneath all the cold weather gear.
We had purchased two, two-person sleds, expecting the kids to need help, but once Michelle got a taste of sledding, we could barely get a sled away from her.
That night (after a nap), we went to Black Bart’s Steakhouse (and Musical Revue), a place which, as best I can tell, employees the entire student body of the NAU theatrical department.
I had the Buffalo New York Strip Steak and brain fart. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Buffalo, New York had their own cut of steak. How was it different from just ordinary New York Strip? Oops, make that “A New York Strip made from a dead Buffalo” – much clearer.
It was actually pretty good, although, even though I had it cooked medium rare, it tasted rather more like medium well beef. It was absolutely the leanest cut of meat I’ve ever eaten.
During the night it got down to 2º, and it was only 12º when we headed out for breakfast and to play in the snow before returning to Phoenix.
Funny thing about snow, when it reaches 55º the day before and then freezes again during the night, the snow turns into something a lot more reminiscent of ice than snow.
While the kids had just as much fun on the harder surface, I took a couple knocks – first one to my tailbone which is still giving me grief and another instance where I slipped sideways and cracked my hip, shoulder and head against packed ice. Not fun.
Back in Phoenix for dinner and a nice soaking bath….
Pity, though, the kids enjoyed it so much, they’re going to want to do it again.
I just have not been blogging enough lately. The simplistic ease of just making a quick snark on Facebook is a life-drainer from blogging. I’ve decided to have a long snark today.
Yesterday was our 11th anniversary (not yours and mine, obviously, but my wife’s and my 11th anniversary) and we decided, somewhat unoriginally, that we’d go out to dinner – without the kids.
Seafood, save for good old fish and chips, is not my scene, but Irene loves it. On such occasions, I try to make the effort to take her out for seafood. Most seafood places recognize that someone might prefer a steak and so there’s usually one item on the menu that I can tolerate, if not always enjoy. (Seafood restaurants don’t always pride themselves on the quality of their non-seafood and so often I get an indifferent steak, at best.)
Having said that, we decided to go to McCormick & Schmick’s, mostly because Irene really likes it but partly because they’d e-mailed her in advance about our anniversary and they promised “when you make reservations, just tell us it’s your anniversary and we’ll take care of everything.”
What that exactly meant was a mystery.
Before I go on, I want to say, upfront, that we enjoyed our dinner. Neither she nor I would complain about the quality of the food we were served, but that doesn’t mean things went entirely to plan.
Upon arrival, they were ready for us. M&S has fresh fish flown in daily and so their menus are volatile. So volatile, it seems, that they print up menus every day with their changing selection. Each menu has the date printed boldly across the top, but ours were different, they had “Happy Anniversary! December 12, 2009″ instead. I suppose that’s a charming little touch and it almost made me feel like they really did have some form of “anniversary program” in store for us.
Our waiter arrived at our table. He was a pleasant enough fellow with a noticeably vacuous smile. I know I shouldn’t jump to conclusions like that, but after a couple brief interactions, I was feeling more secure in my initial assessment. First he took our drink orders, and when they arrived, we ordered our food. My wife ordered a “mixed steamer basket” and I ordered a New York Strip steak, medium rare. She also had clam chowder and I a salad.
The waiter did not write that down but of course, good waiters don’t need to write things down, right? He thanked us and then took our menus and left.
I wondered, “What good will those menus do for anyone else? Do they just throw them away? Are there other anniversary couples coming in this evening?” Although pointless, in my opinion, I wondered if other people kept the menus as a souvenir? For the rest of the evening, I kept looking at other diner’s menus to see if our Happy Anniversary ones were back in the “pool” of menus. I never saw them again.
A few minutes later the waiter came back and told us the soup and salad orders were in, but then said, “I’m sorry, sir, how did you want your steak cooked?” I told him (again) medium-rare and then he turned to Irene, “…and how about you?”
Irene was momentarily taken aback since, as far as we know, seafood steamer baskets are not prepared to various levels of doneness like steaks are. She reminded him that she ordered the steamer basket and he went away.
Our starters came out and my soda was running low. The waiter noticed and asked if it was Coke or Diet Coke. I reminded him that it was regular Coke and he went away.
We noticed that everyone else was getting bread and we hadn’t, but by then our meal had arrived, so we didn’t bother to mention it. He didn’t bring my soda.
Irene was brought a steamer basket, but it was the Lobster Steamer, not the Mixed Steamer – although the difference didn’t matter to her, as they are basically the same except the Lobster Steamer has lobster and corn in addition to the other items. It is a more expensive menu item and she had been debating which one to get, so she didn’t mind.
My steak, which was called officially “14 Oz. New York Strip Steak with Maitre D’ Butter” was shockingly small and thin and not cut as I usually expect a New York Strip. I’m not an expert enough to conclusively say that it was not, though. It was also covered in deep fried onion strings. I like deep fried onions, so that wasn’t a problem, but it’s a darned weird thing to put on a nice piece of steak. (And it’s not what I understood Maitre D’ Butter to be.) I usually expect that sort of topping on a lower quality piece of meat. I didn’t have a scale to measure, but i couldn’t imagine this half inch thinck steak I was given being 14 Oz – or even 10 for that matter.
It was very tasty, but it didn’t taste like a New York Strip, either. Again, I don’t actually expect good steak at a seafood restaurant, so I was pleased that it was cooked right and tasted good.
The waiter arrived, saw that my glass was empty and said, “Another Diet Coke for you, sir?”
“No, regular Coke,” I replied. And so the evening went, every time I needed a drink, he didn’t remember. I would think after the second or third time of me correcting him, he’d remember – but no. He just kept smiling with that creepy vacuous smile and forgetting everything we told him.
When the bill arrived, Irene’s meal had been billed as a Mixed Steamer – which was $5 cheaper than what she’d received, and my food was billed as a “Ribeye Steak grilled with Haystack Onions” – which is no doubt what I actually received, just not what I ordered. The only plus, I didn’t eat as much and paid $12 less than what I ordered.
All in all, the meal was good, but it simply wasn’t handled very professionally.
Oh, and what other goodies were in store because it was our anniversary, you might ask?
Or perhaps there was and our waiter simply forgot?
They say most people consider Labor Day to be the “End of Summer”, but in fact, it’s not till September 21. Typically, though, summer has begun to let off by now. Not so this year, which I think will be remembered not-so-fondly as the “summer without end” It’s still topping 100 degrees every day (101 today) and any way you cut it, that’s still hot.
Nonetheless, we headed out to the back-of-beyond (read: Gilbert, AZ) to check out Nichols Park, which, supposedly, contains Arizona’s only grass cricket pitch. I’m not exactly sure how this flat lawn differs from the handful of other parks that are used, but that’s an argument for the academic types. This is supposedly the real deal.
Although you can’t see it in the video, there are actually crease lines on the ground, although, sensibly, no one has obviously played here since at least the spring. Cricket is not a summer sport in Arizona.
Now, I have in my possession both real and practice cricket balls and real and “beach” cricket bats. Between Michelle, James and myself, (Irene stayed in the car with the A/C running) we haven’t got enough people to really play, but I’ve been knocking that damned bat in for weeks now and I really wanted to let it loose on the ball.
First though, I had to experiment with the ball and the pitch. I had Michelle crouch down at the far end of the pitch and, using the real ball, bowled on at her. My expectation was that the ball would be completely off target, both from my lack of bowling skill and from the uneven terrain, and that it would skitter harmlessly past her and she’d go chasing it.
Much to my surprise, my line and length were right on target and had Michelle been a wicket, I’d have knocked middle stump right out of the ground. As it was, I was quite proud of her as, although she didn’t catch the ball, she did get both hands on it and nearly caught the ball and avoided getting hurt. (She’s had no practice catching the hard ball being through with any force.)
We switched to the practice ball and hit a few. Michelle and James both managed to hit the ball a couple times, and I got to see how lively the new bat was. Compared to a baseball bat, a cricket bat can seriously spank a ball.
I’m not even sure how to preface this story, so I’ll just plow in.
My wife’s school had a BBQ last night. These sorts of open social events are not me scene (preferring, as I do, to sitting behind the computer and commenting on these sort of things instead) but I feel that as a school is a community, and teachers have an odd, somewhat isolated existence from their colleagues, that I should fully participate in such things for my wife’s benefit.
Besides, what social event is complete without at least one caustic, sarcastic, witty commentator? It’s like the Muppet Show without Statler and Waldorf.
The BBQ started at 6:00 and, despite my efforts to be in-line for the food at 6:00, we were late – at 6:05, and already they were out of hot dogs. “Out of hot dogs” my evoke images of lines of people stacked down with three dogs on every tray, but, in fact, it meant that they had served in total something like 4 hot dogs. You see, the school had bought themselves a nice, new gas grill a couple weeks before, and, apparently, never bothered to check to see if it worked. Frozen hot dogs and hamburgers were being prepared at what could literally called a glacial pace – that is, exactly at the speed of global warming.
There were “experts” trying to help get the grill working, but the consensus was that this new, fancy, large-sized grill was a piece of junk that was designed so badly that it couldn’t have all the burners turned on at once. While I have little faith in merchandise built by slave labor in China and probably sold at Wal-Mart, I also seriously doubt that the design was so feeble that it couldn’t get it all its burners up at once. It seems far more likely that the gas regulator was defective. Any way you slice it, the flames were barely visible in the darkening gloom.
At 6:05 we were second in line to get hot dogs. At 6:20 I couldn’t take it anymore. My back was killing me from lugging around a dead car battery earlier in the day, so I let the kids hit the playground while I went to sit down and watch the ants swarm. I took this picture of the hot dog line shortly thereafter.
6:35, I saw a hot dog being moved towards Chu-Wan and I got up to go help her manage the food. They’d only manage to cook 6 hot dogs since 6:05, and the people in front of her got four of them. We go two of our four dogs, so James and I went back to eat our dinner, while Chu-Wan continued to wait. Even after 30 minutes, the dogs weren’t cooked fully, but at that point, I didn’t care.
At 6:45, the line was just as long, but Chu-Wan had been given two more dogs. She also told me that they had decided to go buy another grill because they had reached an almost catastrophic situation. Virtually all of the parents, teachers and school employees were just standing in line waiting for food. They decided to go for the old reliable standby – a charcoal grill.
Oh, how the comedy potential flashed through mind at that moment. Unless you go to a nice, swanky grill shop, most modern grills required some considerable assembly, so I imagined they’d being buying those pre-made, disposable grills or better yet, going to someone’s house and borrowing a working grill. Nonetheless, did they realize that it takes a good 45 minutes for coals to get up to temperature? The party only lasted until 8:00, so this didn’t seem too viable.
At 7:30, the food line wasn’t any shorter, although they had taken my suggestion and started using the microwave ovens to at least /cookpre-cook the frozen hot dogs. The gas grill had been turned down to only one burner working to keep the gas pressure up but that meant only a couple dogs/burgers could be cooked at a time. In the cafeteria, a lone young man struggled valiantly to put together the new charcoal grill.
At 7:45, as we were leaving, the food line was just as long, the new grill wasn’t assembled and there were parts all over the floor, but it was standing on four wobbly legs, and I heard him proclaim, “That’s good enough!”
I’ll have to have Chu-Wan find out if they ever got any food cooked on the charcoal grill, but I can’t help wondering if they’d remembered to buy charcoal and lighter fluid when they bought the grill.
Yesterday was interesting. We were forced into accelerating our purchase of a new washer and dryer, and we went ahead and got front-loading units. They’re more economical and gentler on the clothes; however, I’ve never actually observed one in action.
I spent hours watching the various programmed patterns: Normal, Heavily Soiled, Delicates, Towels, etc. Each with it’s own unique way of washing the clothes.
There’s only so much fun you can have watching 6 loads of laundry, though.
Today, though, after the kids had left for school, I grabbed Michelle’s cat, put him in a pillow case, tied it shut and tossed him in the washer.
Perhaps I should clarify that, lest you think me a monster: I used the delicate cycle. I didn’t want him to get hurt.
After about 45 minutes of sloshing around, the machine stopped and there was no more movement in the washer.
I removed Sawyer (the cat) and placed his limp, soggy body on the drying rack, for an air fluffing.
An hour a good brushing later, Sawyer almost looked like new.
Sawyer is, of course, a stuffed toy cat, but you knew that already, didn’t you?