Late September Neighborhood Oddities

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

Here are a few of my favorites in and around Phoenix. (click on any pic to enlarge)

Just in time for Halloween, the local library branch (Acacia) insists they had no idea how their plastic bag dispenser became a ghost.

This guy was just hanging outside of a thrift store. The clerks inside said they had no idea how it got there.  I believe them…why would they lie?

Meanwhile, over on the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, an abandoned scooter keeps vigilant for quail, roadrunners, rabbits — and the odd bicycler.

There seem to be a lot of boxing facilities in my neighborhood — along with an upscale wine bar, American-Italian club, dozens of Mexican restaurants* as well as Oaxacan (bonus points if you can pronounce it), Salvadoran, Middle Eastern, Asian, and a fine German bakery — so take off the gloves and let’s eat.

“Not today Satan” (Ok, we got it the first time, no need to repeat yourself)

Fortunately, the gnomes are out in force for our protection.

I’m almost afraid to know what’s going underneath this sidewalk, near the canal, that would elicit so many pavement markings. It’s almost as if the various utilities decided to have a graffiti contest.

Now this is what I call good gas pricing! (Match this Costco!) But seems to be an unusual gap between the unleaded and the “plus.”We’ve commented on this sort of thing before: seemingly random droppings of various drugstore items such as Bic lighters, dental floss containers, toothbrushes, Bic razors…and now, cotton swabs. No one in the nearby CVS had any theories about how this stuff gets distributed in their parking lot.

And we love this creepy midnight figure so much, we have to reprise it for All Hallows’ Eve

Who abandons their shoes in a SoSco** neighborhood park? A schoolgirl? (the shoes appear to be designed for a female and the park is next to a school). Someone on the lam from parents? A happy-go-lucky-“Two for the Road”-woman who yearned to feel the grass under her feet…and then got called for dinner?







Finally, a balloon parade!

*e.g., Via Delosantos, Cocino Presidio, Ladera, Los Reyes De La Torta, Barrio Cafe, Joyride Taco, Centrico, Mariscos Playa
** SoSco=South Scottsdale. Here’s another shoeview–sort of a Stonehenge’y feel to it.
And now, a closer look (as Seth Meyers likes to introduce his “rapid mumble” segment)

And now…some oldies but goodies!








Wake Up for the Bougie, Man

I fell asleep in front of the TV the other night and woke up about midnight. Here in Phoenix, even in September, midnight is about the only time of day it’s safe to go out without feeling a rush of enveloping 100° heat, so I decided to wander out and see what the moonlit night was like. Temperature: mid-80s. Air: just right. Moon: in an out of the clouds.

As I glanced up at the moon peeking through clouds, I saw the light shining against my bougainvilleas. Twenty minutes later (and sore knees from kneeling down to angle my tripod for 8-second exposures), I came up with these.

(click on images for a better look)



…and then, strolling out to the corner, this creepy figure suddenly appeared!

Most of these were taken with my Nikon digital camera at exposures ranging from 8 seconds to 1 sec at various f-stops that I set so as to play with the focus and depth of field. The camera determined the ISOs (for those that care about such things) ranging from 80 to 1250. However the tree and the palm shots were taken while I strolling the street with my cellphone cam. Not surprisingly, for anyone who plays with photography, I had to delete about 20 images while I played with exposure settings and focus.
…and for those who wish to see the full creepy shadow figure, here’s the uncropped frame

Trump accidentally leaks re-election options

Former President Donald Trump commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by visiting a police station and coyly signalling his intentions — both ways — for 2024, saying, “it’s a tough question” and “it’s an easy question.”

On Saturday he said:

“I mean, I know what I’m going to do, but I’m not supposed to be talking about it yet from the standpoint of campaign finance laws, which, frankly, are ridiculous…But I think you’re going to be happy.”

However, the Words In Action blog has now received insider information on Trump’s avowed plans.

It appears he will definitely run for one of the following elective offices:

Tax Collector. According to Florida sources, Trump said “We understand that the Seminole County tax collector position was recently vacated by Joel Greenberg (a close associate of my great supporter Matt Gaetz) and as a fellow Floridite, this would be a perfect fit, so perfect, for me. After all, I know all the tricks and dodges for avoiding taxes, so who better to catch the perps than me?”

Drug Czar. Sources in the pharmaceutical industry have noted a new arrival on the COVID drug scene: trumvermectin® and the speculation is that the former president has had a small hand in its development, and so is considered to be first in line for the position.

NYC Alderman. Supposedly this is the representative of the people for their wards at city council meetings—but, as Trump says, no one knows exactly what an alderman really does besides fix parking tickets and hustle bodegas for protection money . . . which makes it perfect for the former New Yorker. “People say Chicago is the most corrupt city in the U.S, with 30 aldermen convicted of corruption since 1973, so now’s our chance to elevate New York to its proper place as Number One,” Trump said to a meeting of Boy Scouts.

Dog Catcher. “This important position has been around practically since the first airports, back in 1703, and bad people, very bad people, are saying I couldn’t even be elected dogcatcher. But I’m here to say that I alone can fix the problem.”

Non-Reinstatement Day

Hearing all the talk about Trump’s “Reinstatement Day, which seems to have been slated for Friday the (August) 13th, reminded me eerily of the famous report on cognitive dissonance in When Prophecy Fails*, published way back in 1956.

While failed prophecies, such as the infamous “Millerite” prediction about the Second Advent of Christ which was supposed to happen in 1843, are not uncommon, a mystical revelation to a woman who awoke one morning with news of an impending visit from outer space, is particularly notable for understanding what happens when a fervent belief goes kerflop.

The event centered on Mrs. Marian Keech who received written messages from the extraterrestrial “Guardians.” Her adherents, about 25 to 30 persons, believed completely in the validity of these messages—“an eclectic combination of the doctrine of various [religious] sects, theosophists and the like.” (Festinger, 252**) The messages brought astounding news that a cataclysmic flood would engulf the continent on a certain day, just before dawn.As cognitive dissonance theory points out, it’s really really difficult to reverse your fervent belief or decision when it clearly and unmistakably fails.

In his groundbreaking book, Festinger notes that for the Millerites the reaction to disconfirming news was: (1) initial bewilderment; (2) attempted rationale (e.g., Our loyal actions caused God/Guardians/extraterrestrials to change their minds); (3) increase in proselytizing for the belief (249-250)

So back to present day…

What will happen with the Q’s, Pillow Man, Proud Boys, Cyber Ninjas, Sidney Powells, Michael Flynns and other contemporary extraterrestrials now that Aug. 13 has passed into the dust bin of failed expectations?

Will they select a new date, such as Aug. 21, when Trump will lead the applause for himself at the upcoming rally at the prestigious York Family Farms in Cullman, Ala.?

Or will they say, “Gosh all fish hooks, looks like we blew this one. Best get back to our next project: hunting down that darn Bigfoot!”?

My money’s on Bigfoot. (Tip: look in his birthplace, Kenya)

* Festinger, Leon, Riecken, Henry & Schachter, Stanley. (1956). When Prophecy Fails.
** Festinger, Leon. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.

Phun Phrases – Part III

Some fun phrases I just came across…again

“Just because you use a silencer doesn’t mean you’re not a sniper” (Two for the Road, Albert Finney to Audrey Hepburn as they drive along, arguing)


“Bring them in by limo, send them home by cab” (executive producer of The Jerry Springer Show about transporting guests to and from the show. Springer, in case you were asleep during the 1990s, was called “the worst show in the history of television,” loaded with bleeped profanity and guests who aren’t afraid to embarrass themselves on national TV, usually via on-stage brawls)

 “The present truth becomes the future’s nonsense” (journal entry by Amy Schumer in The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, 146, though in her footnote she disavows any rhyme or reason to this…but it does have a kind of tasty Kahlil Gibran’ish tang)

“soft power” – the ability to get others to do what they otherwise would not — by cajoling, persuading or influencing…as opposed to military or economic aggression (from Joseph S. Nye, Jr, cited in The Man Who Sold America by Joy-Ann Reid)

This next one is just for fun.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right; and three wrongs definitely do not make a right…but three lefts do make a right.” (adapted from comments in a cartoon series)

“wallet cleanse”- What happens when you get sucked into a juice- or “toxin-cleanse” diet from shady internet marketeers and infomercials (the concept — but not the word — has been around for at least 8 years, as in “The only thing a cleanse truly cleans is your wallet”). Online ministries like the oddly resurging Peter Popoff also do a great job of cleaning your wallet.

“dead naming” – this is when you use someone’s “old” name—that is, one that they’ve actively disavowed (not just a movie star’s birth name, like Archibald Leach). The term is primarily used in reference to trans people, e.g., someone named Joshua at birth but who switched to Jenny. Continuing to call them “Josh” when you know full well they go by “Jenny” would be dead-naming them. (thanks to my writers’ lunch group for this and the next item). On the other hand, saying a person’s name wrong on purpose just to be nasty can be called “dispronunciation“…e.g. kaMAHLA

“shout line” — very simply: the subtitle of a book. These are increasingly used these days, primarily for non-fiction books where the author wants a catchy, prominent title but needs a bit of explanation, e.g. Brian Stelter’s Hoax, which on its own could mean anything but becomes clear with the shout line: “Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” or Ali-Karamali’s excellent 2008 study, The Muslim Next Door, which makes it clear that it’s about the feminine perspective (in case the photo art doesn’t do the job) with the shout line: “The Qur’an, the Media and that Veil Thing”. My observation is that nearly all…maybe even 100%…of non-fiction books use a shout line/subtitle.

 “size-flation” –  Downsizing quantity but keeping the price the same…as with Ritz Crackers.

…and just one more which I was hesitant to include in the original blog post because I didn’t want to glorify a person who wrote mostly blathering and dangerous nonsense — and hence who’s name shall not be given here. But his book does have one notably heartfelt emotion:

“Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard”

(“Five years of hardship and misery…in which I was forced to earn a living, first as a day labourer, then as a small painter; a truly meager living which never sufficed to appease even my daily hunger. Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard.”) Feel free to inquire if you wish to know the author of this.

Ritz Crackers: Busted!

I’ve been enjoying Ritz Crackers for a lonnnnnng time, probably because they’re what my mom served when we were kids. None of your fancy artisanal rosemary sea salt flatbread crackers or spicy sesame wafers on Arlington Road in Erie.

I even managed to find the brand when I lived in the Middle East at the neighborhood baqala (corner store) from time to time.

So, yeah, I’m pretty familiar with the Ritz box.

The other day I was just finishing up one box so I picked up another and, consequently, had two boxes on the counter at the same time.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the new box appeared to be slightly smaller.








All I could say was WTC!*

I checked the boxes for net weight info and, yep, Ritz has quietly downsized their box by 1.5 oz. I have to say, I didn’t have a chance to compare new and old prices but I’m betting it’s the same price for less content.

And, interestingly, both versions call themselves “the original.”

Now, I’ve noticed this sort of thing happening from time to time — in particular toilet paper which is now narrower and Marie Callender spaghetti, which suddenly stopped including the garlic bread.But Ritz! Dang it all. We were counting on you to stay the course. Apparently you were so busy concocting 15 different varieties that you didn’t think we’d notice.

But I did.

*What The Cracker!
To be fair, it’s possible that Ritz still offers the “original” size and my local Safeway and Fry’s (Kroger) have just opted for the smaller size.

What you might find in a book beside words

(a screenplay short story)

Part One. Present day.



Relatives of a person who passed away 20 years before are going through his books, trying to decide which ones to donate and which ones to simply throw away. As they go through various books, they see handwritten marginal notes and faded yellow highlighted passages as well as bookmarks and odd pieces of memorabilia – like a movie ticket stub or the receipt from a bookstore…even an old recipe.

They take the trouble to quickly flip the pages of each book just to see if there’s anything tucked away that they might remember him by. This takes quite a while since he seems to have about 2,000 books and their patience is wearing a bit thin.

Now they come across a book by an author who was famous in the early 2000s with the strange title “What the Dog Saw.” The author is no longer as well known 30 or 40 years later and the book is a somewhat beaten-down paperback, but it’s an intriguing title so the grand-nephew checking that shelf of books does a quick flip through anyway—mostly just to get it done with. But as he flips through, a shiny silver disc pops up and he pauses: What the hell is this? wondering if it’s a bookmark or some kind of hidden treasure.

Maybe it’s one of those music or movie discs that they used back at the turn of the century. But why would he insert it into the pages of an old paperback?

The grand nephew shows it to the man’s niece who is helping sort through books and they both stare at it, keeping it in the page in case it’s supposed to be marking something special as they speculate to each other.

“He would’ve had to be pretty hard up for a bookmark to use a shiny silver disc, so I’m thinking it must be a secret recording that he is passing down through the generations,” the man remarks with just a hint of sarcasm.

The two call over a third friend and they start hunting around for whatever kind of device they would have used “back in the day” to play this disc

Finally, they give up and, not wanting to throw away something that could be valuable, they place it in a special pile of memorabilia that they might be able to sell at a charity auction…just in case it’s actually worth something.

Part Two. Past.



The scene now shifts back 20, 30 years as we see a woman carefully and, perhaps secretly, placing a shiny silvery disc in a book that her friend has left on the table during a visit. The paperback has a well-worn look even back then. We now see her go to her wine cabinet, uncork a bottle of wine, get two wine glasses from a cabinet and then reach into her kitchen drawer and pick out a flat silver disc that looks exactly like this one! She rolls up the disk and inserts it into the wine bottle. The audience gasps a little: OMG it’s an old-fashioned wine-pouring device—the kind of thing wine drinkers used before the industry got rid of foil and corks and started using bottles with built-in pouring spouts.

But why was she taking a similar silver disc and placing it secretly in an old book?


Part Three. A year earlier


The two wine drinkers, only slightly younger, are sitting at the kitchen table chatting up the day’s events. There are a variety of snacks on the table as they relax in the late afternoon glow of hummingbirds feeding and a cat meowing outside. As the woman gets up to use the bathroom we see the man lounging casually in his dinette chair. But the moment the woman disappears from view, the man jumps up snatching items from the snack tray—a piece of bacon, a blueberry, a sliver of cheese—and begins hiding the items throughout the kitchen and dining nook

As apparently is his custom.

One piece goes inside a cookbook, laying flat between the pages. Another piece goes into a Hummel figure’s hand up on a high shelf. A third piece is tucked up high on a fan blade, ready to fly off once the fan is started, probably the next day. A final piece, a flat piece of bacon, goes inside the woman’s travel notebook on the other side of the room.

We hear the sounds of the woman returning as the man hurries back to his chair, once again assuming the comfortably slumped posture of a man just enjoying a late afternoon glass of wine.

As she re-seats herself, he asks, “Where on earth do you find those wonderful pouring spouts? I can’t find them anywhere.”


Rain, rain, stay a…while

Where else but central Phoenix can you wake up and say “Oh goodie…it’s raining! Time for a walk”?

So I did.

Where else do you see everyone’s automatic sprinklers watering their lawns (for those who don’t have desert landscaping like me) in a rainstorm?

This morning, during the aforementioned rainwalk, I saw more landscapers mowing clients’ lawns (2) than joggers (1)

Now here’s a truck sign you don’t see every day. (I hope!)

And a canal water mystery: why is the left half sort of “unperturbed” and smooth while the right half is “normal-flow” looking?

…and just to leave everyone in a pleasant, AriZen, mood…here’s what we get to see looking east on a monsoon morn.

How to NOT forget the tennis score

There’s really only two rules

Nearly every match I play, usually doubles, involves one or both sides forgetting the game score…in mid-game! Some people simply say, “Oh, I guess that’s what happens as you get older” but I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure the answer—and thus the solution—comes down to two basic principles. (Oh, and tennis scoring ‘splained, sort of, at the end)

1. The server needs to call out the score in a clear, “hearable” voice. This is probably the main problem since a lot of servers mumble the score, seemingly for their own use. Now the opposing team, at least in cordial matches, doesn’t want to keep calling out,

“What’s the dang score?”

But unless both sides are duly notified of the current score—and not just as the server is winding up for their serve—it’s easy to lose track. We remember easier when we have a couple moments to digest the info. This doesn’t mean you have to scream out the score…neighboring courts won’t thank you for that and it could just get annoying.

2. As much as many are going to hate this: The traditional scoring terminology should be used, that is: fifteen, thirty, forty…game.* Nowadays, most servers simply call out “five” instead of “fifteen” and often even “four” instead of “forty.” And when the score is even they like to say “all” as in “five all.” But the problem is that “all” sounds a lot like “oh” as in “zero,” especially when it’s mumbled. Now, I know why people say “five” instead of “fifteen”: it’s simply a way of saving a syllable…soooo crucial when your voice is limited to mumbling a couple words! (And by the way, it’s even worse, far worse, in volleyball where the server calls out something like “five three” which could be “fifteen to thirteen” or “fifteen to three” or even “five to three.”)

As a result we typically get a server calling out (or more likely self-mumbling) something like “Forty five” — meaning the score is actually 40 to 15.  But think about how we hear this: “forty five” just sounds like a single number…45…and thus is less memorable than “forty-fifteen.”

So instead of “five all” which sounds like “5 – oh” we should say “fifteen-love” or even “fifteen-zero” though in friendly matches no one wants to call attention to the fact that the opponent has zero points.

The whole point is to be not-lazy in announcing the score. The other team needs to be fully aware of the score, both in terms of agreeing to it as well as everyone remembering.

Of course if you just like hanging out at the net for friendly little mid-game conferences, go ahead and ignore all this advice.

Sidebar: Some tennis groups now simply use “no ad” 1-2-3-4 for tournament scoring to make the games go faster as well as end more predictably when there’s a lot of folks ready to switch partners for a new match.

*The modern game of tennis is said to trace back to a highly stylized medieval game called jeu de paume, from 12th century France.
Now, how we got the bizarre 15-30-40 scoring is not really known, though there are theories. One of the most likely suggestions is that the progression is related to minutes on a clock since clocks were rapidly developing in the Middle Ages and the quarter hour was probably a useful increment of time (though the first clocks apparently did not have minute hands).
But why “40” instead of the seemingly more logical “45”? One 16th-century English text did use 40 for a tennis score and it is thought that French students were simply shortening the word “45” (quarante cinq) to “40” (quarante) — much as we shorten 15 to 5 to save a syllable. (You know how those French students can be!)
As for “love” meaning “zero,” I had always heard that it came from the French l’ouef meaning egg, an object the same shape as the number 0, but there are numerous linguistic problems with that putative etymology. That said, there is a phrase “goose egg” meaning “nothing” which seems to have originated in Britain as “duck egg” between 1350 and 1400.
“I don’t think anybody really knows how it started or why it developed how it did,” says Elizabeth Wilson, who wrote Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon.
Header graphic of “macro speed” tennis ball from Wallpaper Flare

Ask the Witch-Answer Guy: #9 “Open Season!”

A concerned former public servant who desires to remain anonymous wishes to know:

Q: Apparently the Witches are up to their nasty tricks againWhat a terrible time for the country!! It seems to be open season on all honest tax Evaders, unindicted Grifters, Con Men (and Ladies) and property value Manipulators who aren’t doing anything everyone else on the plant is doing!  Pardon me (literally), but what’s next? . . . We start locking up the poor beleaguered Businessman who for no fault of his own doesn’t pay his Contractors? Makes me want to scream into my Pillow!

A: (Witch-Answer Guy): Nothing like a good witch hunt, depending, of course, on whether you’re the witch or the witchee.

“everyone on the plant“, heh heh. (not a typo)