One for the (biblical) road

Get ready for a question at the end!

I was biking in Scottsdale the other day and ran across a most unusual piece of road debris.

Normally I like to keep myself out of the photo but it was early in the day and no way to shoot into the sun.

So..what do we have here?…an open, full-size bible and a bag of some kind of snacks.

Disclosure: I didn’t actually open the plastic bags to determine the contents but the trail of ants (not shown) was enough for me to call off further inspection.

Here’s another look at the mid-road tableau:

I’m going to guess that the loose page from the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah is simply, um, luck of the draw.

So the question now is:

What the heck is an open bible and a bag of snacks doing on an otherwise innocent road?

(The road leads into the massive Vista del Camino greenbelt park that runs through Scottsdale, if that makes any difference)

  • a random toss from a car window?
  • disposed of by a disgruntled homeless person who received a free bible with a snack bag from an evangelical?
  • a heavenly gift from above for the ants, birds and bees?
  • your guess…………….

In case you’re unfamiliar with the book in question, here’s a look at a typical full-size (1,300-page) “Sunday-go-to-meeting” edition that appears to be roughly equivalent in size






So Sco Pranks

Scottsdale, Arizona has a reputation for high-class living. But when you ride around south Scottsdale — aka “So Sco” — you can find a wide diversity of socioeconomic options in this city 27 miles long and, at places, a mere 3-4 miles wide.

First, we look at the Ariz. Heritage Center (technically, NE Tempe but So Sco for our purposes.) Along with our revered former governor Rose Mofford, (2nd row of bricks from top) who worked her way up the ranks to become the state’s first female secretary of state and first female governor when Evan Mecham was impeached, are a number of other worthy contributors to the familiar brick walkway.

But wait, who’s this prankster tucked in amongst them?

Just a few hundred yards from the center are a  beautifully flowering cactus…








and a vaguely pornographic saguaro

Of course, not all So Sco driveways have the mansion-like ambiance of No Sco

and some addresses, despite the hopefully expectant mail box, simply aren’t there

But moving east to the otherwise busy (pre-COVID) intersection of Scottsdale Rd and Roosevelt St. we now find <drum roll> a quiet place:

Not really sure what that critter down at the base is…

…but it kinda looks like a little dog sculpture — like the classic RCA Victor dog, Nipper — with a horn for a head

Bleak mystery “in the House”

I was moseying around in one of my paperback bookshelves the other day, looking for my copy of The Way of the Pilgrim. The problem was that the book is an anonymous devotional account by a Russian peasant featuring the so-called “Jesus prayer” and I had no idea how I had filed it: ‘Religion: hardcovers’? ‘Paperbacks by author’? The ‘quirky titles’ shelf? ‘Salinger stuff’?¹

As long as I had the light on I started musing on some of the other titles and came across Dickens’ Bleak House–a somewhat monstrous 900-page paperback.

Although I rarely buy a book without reading it, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember this one at all. Presumably, I picked up the tome at a library book sale where a lot of my library comes from. So I started fanning through it to see if I had marked it up.

And then…and then…a mystical thing happened!

The book flipped open to the middle, revealing a well-worn dollar bill.

Now, I’m pretty dang sure it wasn’t me who placed it there. And I could tell from all the notations throughout the book that I was not the original owner. (I do like to mark up paperbacks, esp. books I used in college, but I usually use yellow highlights. There were some other elements of the notations that were not in my handwriting style.)

But what the heck: a dollar bill?

Was the original owner a dollar short of a handy book mark? (so to speak).

Was this a sort of emergency cash stash?

I’m open to theories!

And now…the big question: Should I take the dollar bill and use it? Or should I respect the original owner’s secret and leave it in there for some future book sleuth?

Oh…and should I finally wade into the War & Peace-level Dickens novel?

¹The Way of a Pilgrim is probably best known as a major plot feature of J.D. Salinger’s dual novella Franny and Zooey (1955/1957). Pilgrim recounts the adventures of a 19th-century homeless wanderer as he journeys throughout Russia and Siberia incessantly reciting the “Jesus prayer” based on the The Philokalia — a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Charming scenes of Russian peasant life and prison convicts are interwoven with spiritual matters.
FYI: I eventually found Pilgrim on a side shelf of my theology books, next to paperbacks on The Dead Sea Scrolls, Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels and Lauri Lebo’s The Devil in Dover.

Throwing shade on summer tennis

These days I’m only playing tennis during long-shadow times of the day–early morning or early evening.

Yeah, some people have called me a block head in past days . . .

. . . now the evidence is incontrovertible.







but I’d like to think I can balance the blocks on both sides

Sometimes, when there’s no one around to shoot your shadow, you have to photo-bomb yourself!

Of course, no tennis pic collection is complete without a victory fist clench (though most players don’t do it behind bars)

And when I come out from the shadows, I wonder why it’s so tough to find partners.

First photo taken at Phoenix Tennis Center, which has somehow managed to remain open during COVID, with appropriate social distancing precautions.

The Birds Is Coming

Hitch tried to warn us: “‘The Birds’ is coming.” But we hardly credit our pigeon and crow friends for their willingness to pose without pay.

Thus, today we pay homage to pigeons and crows who seem to want nothing more than an opportunity for their closeups.



Not to get all evangelical on you, but this one does have a sort of saintly ambiance.

These folks used to roost in the eaves of the pool ramada…until we put spikes up. I’ve got nothing against pigeons roosting, but really, guys, the droppings!


I took this in June 2020, just outside a 6th-century Wupatki ruin in way-northern Arizona, just past the San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff. The sign specifically remains silent about crow parking.

Situated between the Painted Desert and ponderosa highlands of northern Arizona, Wupatki’s ancient pueblo ruins of the Cohonina, Kayenta Anasazi, and Sinagua offer views of red-rock outcroppings across miles of rolling prairie. The Wupatki was first inhabited around 500 CE and seems to have been abandoned by 1225.

Here’s a wider view. Looks like Mr. Crow has the parking lot to himself.


This was from early May 2020 as the cacti were blooming at the Arizona Heritage Center in Papago Park, Tempe  —It’s almost like the pigeon is guarding the emerging flowers.


Pigeons observing social distancing (except for the teens at right) at Starbucks

Glendale Community College overlords: “Where’d all the students go?”

Do you know how hard it is to get the moon and an airliner lined up while the pigeons take their time preening for their closeup? (Glendale Community College)
Arizona Capitol. One of these flying critters won’t be taking off any time soon.


One of the the “sign crows” at Wupatki. Not sure where his head is at…but maybe that’s what happens when you hang out at a thousand-year old ruin.
Here’s another view at right:Image may contain: sky, bird, cloud and outdoor
Getting a crow to pose shouldn’t be this hard. 



Wupatki ruin (c. 500 CE), with crow (c. June 2020 CE).

Here’s another view


Now, a high-wire quail taking a stroll above my backyard


Toronto. I’m pretty sure the birds below are part of the installation. (click on pic to see the bird’s diet on statue’s head…if you dare)
  • And just to show that birds aren’t the only ones who like to roost on old statues…this cool cat is hanging loose at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

  • Did someone mention statues? (Barcelona)Image may contain: sky, bird, plant, cloud, tree and outdoor
  And finally, an early morning business conference outside my house

Canal curiosities

For my morning COVID bike ride, I ventured over to the west side of the Arizona Canal–what some people call the “rough side” due to the number of homeless folks doing major campouts.

Here are some of the curiosities I found on July 6.

1) A campfire pit.

Now, what strikes me as odd about this is that it appears to be pretty solid and well-constructed — not something thrown together at the last minute. But who would do this? I doubt the homeless folks would take a risk of building a fire that could be seen for miles. And what would they do for a grill rack? On the other hand, would a nearby resident bother building this when they could have it inside their property walls?

2) Wire…palooza

Who leaves a bundle of wire, much less cuts it into pieces to be strewn along the actual bike path?



3) Now, onto pleasanter things: Baby ducks!


I don’t claim to be a duckologist, but my experience is that these guys are usually hatched in April or thereabouts. (But I did see a Google article mentioning July)



4) For some reason, the thousands of shells I always see embedded in the canal banks always still surprises me. Where are they coming from…the upper Salt River? Or homegrown?

5) And now, a short nearly tragic tale of a Spiderman biker. Here’s the set up:

As I was stopped along the canal path, hydrating and taking duckie pix, I happened to gaze across the canal and saw what I call a “Spiderman biker” — my term for a competitive cyclist on a racing bike with “drop handlebars,”

…wearing a form-fitting polyester spandex triathalon outfit, à la Spiderman.



And here’s what I saw:

I noticed the biker speeding along the canal path on the opposite side, not thinking much of it. Except that he didn’t seem to be slowing down as he approached the busy city street (19th Ave., if you must know). Now, there are underpasses at each street along the entire canal so there’s no need to slow down. In fact, one usually speeds up a bit through the tunnels to make the uphill spurt easier.

But in this case, our Spiderman didn’t slow down. And he wasn’t using the underpass.

I’m not sure why I kept watching. Maybe because I casually wondered why he was still speeding along, not in the tunnel, as he approached the busy commercial avenue north of Dunlap. But I did watch as he barrelled into the street at 7:30 a.m. — not even a hint of a slowdown or lookaround — and probably what caught my attention was hearing a vehicle screeching horribly to a stop. The biker heard the screech — or maybe observed the front bumper 10 feet away — and to his credit, Spiderboy pulled a “Steve McQueenie” as he skidded his bike into a 90-degree turn, thus providing near-heart attacks for the driver . . . and me, who would’ve had to testify to the police when they showed up.

So, like the 8 unrelated teens who went shoulder-to-shoulder in my HOA jacuzzi, did this guy think he was invulnerable? Was he just so intent on his timing that it didn’t occur to him that there couldn’t possibly be cars on a city street that he wanted to cross. Or, maybe he’s just watched too many Marvel movies and relied on his outfit to save him.


Wine Wars: The Animals Get Ready to Mix It Up

Can’t we all just get along together?

Having personally mediated in the Holy Wine Wars and exposed the nefarious machinations of Deep State Wine, we thought that this most wholesome and peace-loving fermented product might have been just the beverage to put aside the current political situation.

But oh no! It appears even the critters have taken to their respective sides of the wine aisle (literally).

Yes, these two items are almost directly opposite each other in my local Safeway (home of the 4-price wine label scam)



In one corner, the cantankerous 2018 Hogwash rose.





Facing it, the feisty 2018 Bar Dog red blend.








Note that it took my own personal finagling, away from the normal watchful eyes of Safeway employees, to even get these rascals to stand for photographic purposes.

But lo, what’s this?

A soulful mediator bent on bringing them together in peace and harmony! (Well, resting on the same platform anyway.)

Yes, it’s our old chum, Old Soul, a 2017 cab, to the rescue.

One could hardly expect an Old Vine Zin, much less a buttery Chardonnay to perform this kind of dangerous service so we asked Old Soul how it managed this WWE-level handshake:

“They’re both known for their subtle plum notes, deep-woods tannins (‘nutty but not too squirrely’) and ‘grapey’ finish so I just played on their commonalities instead of letting them dwell on inconsequential palate and pairing issues.”

“Wine clink” image modified from Pixabay [for noncommercial reuse with modification]

Ruh roh…what’s this!

Dream City Church ionizes guests

“Slow down the testing, please!”

(Trump statement at Tulsa campaign rally, June 20, 2020 (or… “2-20” as Trump likes to say. Source: CNN)

New air purification system “kills 99.9 percent of Covid within 10 minutes”

(Dream City megachurch pastor Luke Barnett with CFO Zastrow)

I’m not sure which statement is more dangerous.

Ahead of Trump Visit, Church Makes Unproven Claim of Virus-Killing Technology

Dream City Church, an Arizona megachurch hosting President Trump on Tuesday, June 23 misleadingly claimed that its new air purification system “kills 99.9 percent of Covid within 10 minutes” pastor Luke Barnet, accompanied by church CFO Brendon Zastrow said in a video, but then backtracked the next day.

The technology, the church’s pastor said in a Facebook post that has since been removed, was developed by a local company whose C.E.O. said he sometimes attends the church.

“We have heard Coronavirus and Covid used interchangeably. Our statement regarding the CleanAir EXP units used the word Covid when we should have said Coronavirus or Covid surrogates,” the statement read. “We hope to alleviate any confusion we may have caused.” (NYT)

“Surrogates”? Really? Alleviates confusion? Didn’t you just literally say that anyone at the rally would be 99.9% safe from COVID?

(Reminds one a bit of Trump’s infamous “I don’t see why it would be” where he claims the sentence should have been “wouldn’t.”)

The event was sponsored by Students for Trump, a group affiliated with Turning Point Action, a pro-Trump group backed by the financier Charlie Kirk. According to my calculation from event photos, only about 16% of the audience were wearing masks.

Using charged ions to remove airborne pollutants is not new, and such a system could help cleanse the church’s air, but certainly without the rapidity claimed, and it would not guarantee safety, experts said. (NYT)

As a Phoenix New Times story says:

“[E]ven if the technology can eliminate the surrogate virus in 10 minutes, such studies are done in controlled laboratory settings. They don’t necessarily apply to something like the interior of a megachurch. How much air a system can process in a set time would play a role. Clean Air EXP’s website states that its home system takes a few hours to purify the air: ‘Most homes see a 90% reduction of particulates and contaminants within 4 hours, and 99.8% reduction in 6 hours or less.’”

A larger, commercial system can purify more air than a home unit, presumably. But it’s hard to see how 99 percent of COVID-19 could be eliminated from the church auditorium before people arrive. (New Times)

Meanwhile, William P. Bahnfleth, Penn State professor of architectural engineering said that “the scientific community is skeptical of performance claims for these devices.” (NYT)

You can watch these misguided zealots here as they struggle to pronounce “ionization” and thank God for technology and “being proactive.”

On a more personal note, I remember seeing the video of the pastors in a news clip and was amazed at their joyous, almost orgasmic proclamation of the 99.9% effectiveness of “ionization.” I mean, these guys were sold solid that COVID would not be a problem due to the magical new system they had installed. I’m reminded of the evangelical lady leaving a crowded church service a month or so ago who said she wasn’t concerned because she was “protected by the blood of Jesus.”

You can watch their fervent ecstatic performance here:

Dream City Church Touts Coronavirus-Killing Air System

Most of the quotes and info comes from various CNN, New York Times and Phoenix New Times articles as cited though I’ve jumbled them together for purposes of this blog.

“The British, the British are….”

April 1775, Lexington, Mass.

Sorry, fellow Bostonians, I realize these are perilous times for our emerging government and I’d love to tell you the rest but I’m under a restraining order from King George that prevents me from giving out classified information at this time.

But check in with me again in a few months (possibly June) when my book comes out. In the meantime, I’ve got to be boltin’

Book design by Photoshop. (FYI, you know how long it takes an amateur to re-create the look and feel of a book cover? Answer: wayyyy too long)

Of wild things, villains and easter eggs

During this COVID’atine I’ve had a chance to browse a weird variety of old and new reading and listening material, ranging from medieval days to the current year. Let’s start with Holly Golightly. I had just watched the movie and found a vintage copy of the book in a used bookstore:

Wild things

“Never love a wild thing,” Holly advised him. “That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing…But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. If you let yourself love a wild thing, you’ll end up looking at the sky…

Believe me, it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty space; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.” (70)

from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote (1958)

Villains and Easter eggs 

Did you know that villains and easter eggs are intimately connected?

“villein” — “Throughout the period 1066-1307 by far the greater number of people living in rural England were personally unfree, generally described as ‘villeins.’ However there was a very real distinction between the unfree peasant farmer and the slave. In the Domesday Book, the word villanus, villein, means little more than ‘villager.’ It is a useful omnibus word, implying that the men so described are neither free men nor slaves.” (138-139).

But here’s where it gets interesting: In the 12th century (c. 1125) , it is recorded that the duties and payments of the men who lived in the village included rendering 32 hens at Christmas to the lord of the manor. “The full villeins render 20 eggs and the half-villeins 10 eggs” (140). The various payments at various seasons gets complicated but the payment of eggs to the lord at Easter is the origin of the modern Eastern egg. (142)

from English Society in the Early Middle Ages, Doris Mary Stenton (1965)

[‘Villein’: from Old French: feudal serf; from Latin villa “country house.” (American Heritage). peasant, country laborer, low-born rustic (OED).]

Getting Real

Doesn’t this sound like an ominous foreshadowing of The Matrix?

“The Boy’s Uncle made me real,” he said. “That was many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always” (8).

from The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams (1922)

The “Knowledge bomb”

“Can you guys smell fumes or am I going nuts?”

My husband, Funk, tried in his typical bumbling way to console me, explaining that there was a weather inversion happening outside because of the rain but I needn’t worry because once the sun came out, the fumes would dissipate and all would be well again.

“Oh, okay Funk, that makes me feel better. I just won’t breathe again until it’s sunny. Thanks for the knowledge bomb.”

I couldn’t tell you how he finished his most current science lesson. I tuned him out so that my children didn’t have to witness their father being murdered on their first day in Europe (37-38).

from May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision, Gloria Squitiro (2019)

Women lead linguistic change

Research in other centuries, languages and regions continues to find that women are reliably ahead of the game when it comes to word-of-mouth linguistic changes. Young women are also consistently on the bleeding edge of those linguistic changes that periodically sweep through media trend sections, from “uptalk” to the use of ‘like’ to introduce a quotation (“And then I was like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’”). In 1990, sociolinguist William Labov estimated that women lead 90 percent of linguistic change.

“Men tend to follow a generation later; in other words, women tend to learn language from their peers; men learn it from their mothers” (34) citing Labov, “The Intersection of Sex and Social Class in the Course of Linguistic Change,” 205-254.

from Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, Gretchen McCulloch (2019)

The “Iron Imperative” of writing

Re: Transcending bullshit:

Treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own.

That couldn’t be simpler, Bernoff continues. And yet everything that’s wrong with the way businesspeople [and, I might add “educators”] write today stems from ignoring this principle. (5)¹

Re: email:

“Thank you and goodbye. Once you’ve finished, get off the stage. And remember, your signature is part of your message.” (199)

from Writing Without Bullshit, Josh Bernoff, 2016


“Indeed, dodos were so spectacularly short on insight, it is reported that that if you wished to find all the dodos in a vicinity, you had only to catch one and set it to squawking, and all the others would waddle along to see what was up.” (470)

–from A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson (2003)

Invention of Spring

During the early 1200s the word ‘sumer’ (summer) was used very broadly to refer to the warm half of the year, including what we know today as spring and summer. In fact “spring” wasn’t used to refer to a season of the year until the late 1300s.

“Sumer is Icumen In” (also known as “The Cuckoo Song”) is one of the earliest folk songs composed in English. You can listen to it here. (Segment begins at 00:33) It is also said to be the first song written down in the C-major scale, not in an older mode. This makes it the oldest piece of modern music. The episode also includes analysis of a cappella (derived from ‘chapel’… thus, music performed in a church), the morbid Celtic end-of-harvest celebration called Samhain — marking the point when separation between the world of the living and the world of the dead was at its thinnest — that became “Halloween”…plus…Robin Hood!

from — History of English Podcast: Episode 101. Kevin Stroud. (2017)

Lip Service

“elephant juice” and “I love you” appear the same to someone lip reading.

This is called a ‘homophene’: A word or phrase that, when spoken, appears to be the same as a different word or phrase on a person’s lips, for example my and pie. Or mark, park, and bark

from  A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, May 25, 2020

click to enlarge for captions

and now, an amazingly realistic-looking video showing exactly how this might work in a royal wedding:

“ROYAL WEDDING” — A Bad Lip Reading

¹ For example — in an email: making the reader follow a link to get critical information…like your new campaign HQ address and phone (real example, pre-COVID) or what your acronyms stand for; having vague subject lines (“Important message”). In a scholarly book: having extensive end notes but no references in the text itself to hint that there’s an end note lurking.
² Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman, who spoke with Derek Guy, G. Bruce Boyer, Ian Kelly, and Rae Tuturo for this episode.