Monday, June 29, 2009

Hoping a personal visit and a bit of fast footwork will make up for not quite understanding anything

or, "I'm from the Chamber of Commerce, and I'm here to help you."

[Disclaimer: the problem described here has been resolved.]

Several weeks ago, Alan, our manager at the store, was reading the Chamber of Commerce's website and came across the page for the second annual "Next Big Idea," a "festival of discovery, invention, and innovation." On the page was a selection of science toys and kits, with the information that "if you can't find these items at Otowi Station, you can order them from our website."

Well, naturally, we'd want to sell the items--none of which we currently had in stock--but nobody at the chamber talked to us about them, nor indeed about the Next Big Idea. I asked Terry, our toy buyer, to see what she could do to bring in some of the toys in time for the festival. She said that with the vendors' minimums, she'd have to spend thousands.

Then Alan went back to the website and started "buying" toys. When it came time to check out, he was directed to [cue ominous "uh-oh" music] Well, I mean to tell you, all three of us were completely unhinged. I myself couldn't even speak, instead making some of those low, agitated tones that one normally associates with the chronically insane. The chamber is supposed to support local merchants, not direct business to the Great Satan. What the heck?

Terry began to probe a little more. ToyStew (not its real name) was the vendor of the toys on the website. She had never heard of the company. When she called the number for ToyStew on the Great Satan's webpage, she got somebody in Oregon. She asked about the toys and got a vague, evasive, desultory response. The person didn't seem to know a lot about the toys, although he agreed that the company did indeed sell them. Hmmmm.

Later that day, Terry got a call from one of her regular vendors, and asked offhandedly whether they had ever heard of ToyStew. The vendor said it was a Canadian company. When Terry told us that, we went bananas. Totally unavailable to reason. Not only had the chamber directed customers to, but they were also directing customers out of the country. And in today's economic climate!

I was ready to get a two-by-four, go across the street to the chamber, and commence to beatin'. Instead, I took a deep, cleansing breath and left a friendly voicemail requesting that the director swing by the store the next day.

The director came over the next morning and asked what was up. Terry and I explained what we found on the website and what Terry had learned. From the look on his face, I guessed that the director obviously had no idea what was going on with the webpage. But he was determined to make it right. He said, "Let's make Otowi Station the official toy store of the Next Big Idea Festival!"

I thanked him and asked that he please be sure his staff talks to us first before putting anything involving us on the chamber's website.

Anyway, the website has been changed. I'm happier.

Otowi Station: your official toy store of the Next Big Idea festival.
P-doobie: your admirably nonviolent owner.

I need something to make me feel better.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Suppertime, and the livin' is easy

Earlier I posted images of an English sparrow in the hole in the poplar. Yesterday we watched for a long time as the mother and father fed the nestlings. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Are you in there, Myron? It's time for dinner.

Just be calm. I'm regurgitating as fast as I can.

I'd really like a green chile cheeseburger instead of masticated insects.

What do I have to do to get something to eat around here?

Open wide, Myron.

Let's get it in your mouth. Don't drool.

And a cut of pie for dessert.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

That particular brand of chutzpah is known, where I come from anyway, as cruisin' for a bruisin'

On Thursday evening Michele and I were in the store for the signing with William Tucker (hi, Bill!). Competing with the signing, however, was an event at the library, an Authors Speak lecture featuring Los Alamos author James D. Doss (hi, Danny!), who is a good friend to the store and who often drops in to sign books and visit with our customers.

Another frequent visitor to the store is Ina, a local self-published author. And she visited Thursday night. And I listened from the office to her discussion with Michele, Perry, and Susan.

"I want to buy Snake Dreams before the talk at the library. Danny said I could get 20% off the book for his talk," Ina squawked her her going-deaf voice. Apparently she wasn't wearing her hearing aids.

Perry said, "He didn't talk to us about that."

"Well, he said you would."

Susan said, "We offer 20% off on the author's book when he signs here in the store."

"But it is a signing! Danny said that we can get 20% off all his books for tonight's events!"

Michele stepped in and, enunciating crisply and loudly, said, "Danny did not talk with us about any discounts. If Danny were planning a special event that we'd be involved in, he'd come in and talk with us, and the entire staff would be aware of any discounts. We are not discounting his books for signings at other venues. They are 20% off only when he signs here in the store. You do not get a 20% discount on this book."

"Well, I do get a 10% senior discount. I am a senior citizen after all!"

Susan began to ring up her purchase. "You should give me another 10% in honor of his talk over at the library," Ina squawked.

Susan asked, "You want a purple shopping bag for that?"

Ina: "You should give me my entire purchase for 75% off because I am dressed like Jane Austen."
Perry: "Why is the big roll of packing tape always in the workroom when I need it at the counter?"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Yea, the sparrow hath found an house"

Yea, and Chuckbert hath identified the bird in the poplar tree. It's a house sparrow. Last year we had the chickadee.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My little chickadee!

Over the years, birds have pecked a hole in the trunk of the dead poplar in the back yard. You can see the hole on the right side of the main trunk. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Here's the current occupant, a mountain chickadee.

While I was trying to take another picture, Ike startled the bird, and it flew just as I pressed the shutter. You can see the chickadee in flight in the left-center of the image.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Paper wasps

Today our handyguy, Mark, removed our crappy garage door and took it to the dump. We hadn't lowered it in years, and when I looked at the ceiling of the carport, I saw that paper wasps had made nests in the protected space between the ceiling and the garage door. They don't bother me, because they mind their own business and nosh on flies. They won't survive the winter, and the nests aren't reused. If you're not creeped out, click on the images to enlarge them.

This nest looks like an inverted umbrella.

This is the biggest nest.

This is a starter home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pie: a cut above

Years ago we were in a restaurant--I can't even remember where--and it offered pie for dessert. The price was "$1.50 per cut." (We see the same phrase in Zagat-rated restaurants and in the menu for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, so it seems to be nothing new or unusual.)

The phrase confused me. If pie is $1.50 per cut, does it mean that if you are the first person to ask, for example, for a piece of a pristine raspberry pie, one that had emerged fresh and fragrant from the oven and then taken the air on the windowsill so that it was still warm enough to gently melt the vanilla ice cream, you would be charged $3.00 for your dessert? After all, it takes two cuts to get that first piece. Or is the word "cut" a synonym for "slice"?

I didn't want to ask the waitress, because there are Scared Straight inmates less formidable than the server we had that day. The restaurant must have been in New Jersey, come to think of it.

I couldn't find anything in the Dictionary of American Regional English to clarify the question, so I hauled out the compact edition of Oxford English Dictionary. That was no small feat, because even in the two-volume form, it takes six men and a boy to maneuver it out of the bookcase. And forget about using just that magnifying glass. At my age, I needed my glasses, the magnifier, and the harsh, gynecological light of the bathroom to read the definitions. ("What are you doing in the bathroom, P-doobie?" "Reading the OED to research pie. What do you think I'm doing?")

Definition 23 is "A piece of anything cut off, esp. meat; a slice." Thus, it would seem that a cut of pie and a slice of pie are the same things. So why not just say a slice of pie and not keep me brooding about it for, lo, these many years?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Arizona landscape

This image is from the Meteor Crater overlook. I really like it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"One goes, not so much to see but to tell afterward."--John Steinbeck

On the way home from Santa Barbara, Sophie was moving like a spirited horse heading for the barn, and I debated about whether to make a short detour to Meteor Crater or just keep going. I may have been afraid, as John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley about Yellowstone, that the neighbors would say, "What?! You were that close to Meteor Crater and didn't go?" So I went.

I forked over my 15 bucks (!!!) and schlepped up the stairs to the rim. The wind was howling, and if I had opened my jacket like a sail, I could have been home in about 10 minutes. Because I was so close to the crater, I didn't really grasp the size of the thing. It's big. I said, "Pretty."

The aerial images, however, give a better sense of the size of the crater. In the lower center of the image is the visitors' center. That's one big honkin' hole in the ground.

And so I've told you afterward, and I feel better for it.

Painted and Petrified P-Doobie

On my way to Kev's graduation in Santa Barbara, I took a morning to visit the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. When I first got to the park, I saw a roadrunner and thought, "This is going to be a great day!" And it was.

Click on the images to enlarge them. Here are some images of the Painted Desert.

This is part of Newspaper Rock, where the indigenous people pecked petroglyphs into the rocks. Enlarge this image to see the detail.

The dry climate took its toll on Sophie.

Here is part of the roadbed of the old Route 66, which also crossed the Mojave Desert. I don't know whether I would have made it as a Dust Bowl refugee. I tend to fuss more than necessary and probably would have been the kind of person the pioneers or Okies would have been tickled pink to turn over as a hostage.

Here are some images from the Petrified Forest.

I thought it was so cool that the cactus took root in the petrified log.

Lots of little critters on this plant.

It would have been great to have Izzy the Geologist along for the ride.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk / Along the briny beach

Izzy, Bobbie, Mom, and I took a walk on Hendry's Beach last Wednesday afternoon. The June Gloom had dissipated, and the day was clear and warm, just like we ordered! Click on the images to enlarge them.

Cocoa and Kibble enjoyed racing around like crazydogs.

Bobbie is probably checking the image of a diving pelican.

Izzy, Mom, and Bobbie enjoyed the sounds of the waves and view of the ocean.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A dignified and decorous commencement

I enjoyed the commencement ceremonies for the Dos Pueblos class of 2009. Here is Kevin marching into the stadium with his classmates.

After the music and inspirational speeches comes the moment we've all been waiting for.

Suddenly, a shot rings out!

But he sticks the dismount! It's a perfect 10!

A happy graduate and his happy parents.

Three happy generations.

Kevin and two aunties. Photos by Mikey.

Kevin and Mikey.

Congratulations, Kevin!