Thursday 29 March 2007

More Birthdays

Last week:

We went to Fibber Magees on Tuesday to celebrate Heather's birthday by playing the pub quiz, only to find out that the quiz is on holiday. Stupid pretend pub! Here's a picture of excited H unwrapping a present from friend Jamie.

On Wednesday, we went to a restaurant called Aunt's Chilada's with Mac and Mary-Ellen. Aunt's Chilada's does Mexican food. The name sounds a lot like enchiladas which is a Mexican dish. This is not a coincidence. American's love starting businesses and they love bad puns. Hence there are some terrible puns out there on the streets.

Off to Prescott on Thursday for Jamie's birthday. (I'm guessing that June is when all the best parties are in Arizona.) As usual, I was discriminated against on grounds of my gender.

On Sunday we went in search of Thumb Butte. I'm not sure how close we got but the journey there was very scenic.

Tuesday 20 March 2007


All of a sudden, the garden has filled with birds. I had assumed that this was due to Mac turning the sprinkler on. However, Heather explains that it's the first day of spring which has some mystical connection to the fact that it's her birthday tomorrow...
Once upon a time, all was cold and barren - even in The Valley - and winter lasted forever meaning that it was only Christmas once ... ever. And everyone complained that it was a bit nippy. Then god sent the greatest gift of all - Heather - and the sun shone and joy returned to the world and everyone said that a cloud here or there might be nice because there's not enough shade and shares in flip-flops soared - especially around Christmas, which happened every year and lasted for a whole month.
... and thus it was that I ended up with 90 seconds of birdsong on my camera this afternoon. Realising that the movie featured more shake, wobble and blur than actual tweety pie, I decided that the only course of action (other than giving up drinking before breakfast) was to enter the perilous world of video editing.

I had a quick look at Kino which has a lot of appealing features but settled upon a package with the catchy title of Avidemux as it can read the AVI files produced by my camera (Fujufilm FinePix M603).

It's still a rather dry affair with little dialog and even less character development. Still, it's a start.

Please feel free to post any good recipes you have.

Saturday 17 March 2007

Creepy Crawlies

I finally decided to clear out the shed in the garden. It's full of odds and ends, all covered in leaves which are wound together with cobwebs. H was a bit concerned that I might get attacked by giant poisonous insects but I figured that they're only going to get more perky as summer draws near. Eviction time!

Sure enough, I came across a few bugs you don't normally see in the home counties. The first one to say 'hi' was Klaus, the scorpion.

He's probably an Arizona bark - or maybe a Stripe-tailed - scorpion.

In a moment of comedy genius, I managed to tip Klaus' jar upside-down, down the back of a work bench which is where I subsequently found Heather:

As you can see, she's missing a limb (hence the name). Also note the red hourglass on her belly. A few birthdays ago, I was given a book called The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators. I couldn't remember the predator after which the book was named but I knew enough not to tickle her under the chin. It turns out that she's a black widow.

Here's another widow from inside the shed:

Can anyone think of a good name?

Finally, I found a rather large wasp-type creature hiding in/near a web in the corner of the shed. Naturally, she's called Blackie.

After I disturbed the web, she flew away, leaving me to study the strange honey-comb structure that remained. I'm not entirely sure what she was up to but she returned later to pose for the camera. She looked a little confused, possibly because I'd rearranged all her landmarks.

Sadly, I didn't spot any leprechauns.

Barry Norman Lives!

To celebrate a friend's 30th birthday, we went last night to Ferrellis: "Arizona’s ONLY restaurant and movie theater". I'm really not sure that their business plan is working out.

Imagine you had a one-screen theater that was nearly empty on a really really really sell-out night. Maybe then you'd consider adding an 18% tip to the bill so that some customers end up tipping 35% unwittingly. You might even give people refills without asking them and then billing for the extra drink.

In the UK, I would fully expect this kind of behavior, simply because I'd have no expectations at all. Every place does their own thing and your eyes leap to the bottom of the menu for the small print. You can always walk out of a restaurant without tipping at all (albeit with a limp) and you KNOW they're charging by the glass for everything except tap water.

I'd only just got used to the way things work in Arizona ... only to end up at Ferrellis: "The People with Nothing to Loose". Tasty chips, mind.

The movie was called The Pursuit of Happyness and it was what I expected from the trailers: a stock broker-based rags-to-riches feel-good film aimed squarely at someone other than me.

It's the true story of a failed sales-man (played by Will Smith) in early 80's San Francisco who is struggling to support his family (Jaden Smith) and decides out of nowhere to intern as a stock-broker for 6 months in the hopes of living comfortably. So basically it's about things being very tough for two hours.

The super-cute kiddie was played by Smith's son and I'm imagining how pissed off I'd be if my Dad starred in two Men in Black movies and had a conversation like this with me:

WS: Hey Junior! Wanna be in my next movie?
Jr: Cool! Can I shoot aliens in space in the future with lasers?
WS: Um, no son but you can get roughed up in Frisco in '81 with no toys, no home and no momma.

Thursday 15 March 2007


The Valley of the Sun is basically a very sunny desert. It's hot and dusty here and it's only spring. I have never lived anywhere so dry which has its good points.

Firstly, things dry off quickly - most notably clothes, dishes and hair. It might seem pretty obvious but I've been here two months and the novelty hasn't worn off yet.

In the garden the benefit of dryness(TM) can be seen in the speed at which garden waste transforms into tinder. On the way out the door going to the supermarket the other days, I saw some weeds and decided to uproot them and leave them on the drive. When I returned half an hour later, I walked over them and they crunched underfoot. HAHAHAHA!! DIE WEEDY SCUM!! Ahem.

Secondly, no mold! Initially, it's quite disconcerting to inspect each slice of bread for little blue/greed/white dots but then you realise you can't remember when you bought the loaf. I'm used to throwing the stuff out after a few days but nowadays, it lasts two weeks and I don't just mean for toast; it's still moist.

Last week, Heather and I were reminiscing about life in Guildford and it dawned on us that by now, the shower should have expanses of black growth at the edges. A year ago when we prepared to go on holiday to France, I took the suitcases out of the cupboard and found them covered in fungus. I don't miss those moments one little bit.

Mac's birthday went well. The photos which Heather and I took didn't come out too great but if you squint you can just about make out a gathering of bikers growing old disgracefully.

In other news Heather just called to tell me that she got a job at the Arizona Republic. Either she's referring to the newspaper or she isn't giving anything away...

Update: Heather has asked me to point out that her hair curls nicely and she's not too sweaty. (I think she's talking about the low humidity, not the birthday party.)

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Heather's Heroes

Heather is officially (and predictably) hooked on the TV serial, Heroes. It basically takes the premise of X-Men (minus the spandex) and sets it to a deliberately baffling narrative in much the same way as Lost.

Once again, excellent production misdirects the viewer from how ridiculous the interwoven story-lines are. Right now, I could paint the bedroom black and throw all of H's shoes out and she wouldn't notice. It took all my super-powers to drag myself away from the screen before I got sucked in.

I distracted myself by re-hashing my old 'give me a job' website including a new gallery of trippy computer-generated images. (I'm working on a similar thing with my Python project at the moment. Watch this space...)

Tonight, we celebrate Heather's Dad's birthday. I'd wish him a happy one here but the chances of Mac jacking into teh Interweb are pretty-much nil.

Tuesday 13 March 2007

How to escape from Prescott

Well it's been a pretty action-packed week or so. Some highlights:

Last week, Heather and I went to the spare parts shop to get a new headlight bulb and ended up locking ourselves out of the car. Hilarity ensued.

Also, Heather decided that $6 was a reasonable price to pay for this piece of thrift store tat. I questioned her judgment until I realised it was a good excuse to set up the Bose sound system she got for xmas. Music ensued.

On Friday we went to the Prescott Brewing Company where they make their own beer. Micro-breweries are bigger business over here than they are in the UK. 'Domestic' beer, such as Budweiser Lite, Miller Lite and Michelobe Even Lighter is pretty wretched stuff and nobody seems to mind admitting it. The cans and bottles don't have a strength printed on the side ... they have a calorie count. 'Brown' beer on the other hand tastes vaguely of beer - albeit cold, watery, fizzy beer. Whatever. Blurry vision ensued.

On Saturday Heather went to a friend's baby shower. I wasn't allowed to go because I'm a straight man so I went to see Wild Hogs with her brother (Daniel) and step dad (Jim). It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be although I think being in a theater full of the sort of people who enjoy going to see movies like Wild Hogs helped - bit like having convincing canned laughter. Jim and I both got excited when Peter Fonda appeared at the end. (Well you weren't going to go see it, were you?)

Then on Monday we headed back to Phoenix. I've made another gallery - this time it's some of the sites you see as you head south out of Prescott on Route 69 (titter). I'll have to write more about the town itself at some point and actually take some decent photos.

We aimed to get to an IMAX cinema in the north of phoenix on the way back to see 300 but got fantastically lost and missed the showing by about an hour, wandered around for another hour and then got back and realised that it was booked up for the late night show.

In hindsight, judging how popular a Frank Miller adaptation was going to be by the reviews in gossip magazines was a mistake. It appears to be the biggest hit of the year so far. Pissed-offness ensued.

Monday 5 March 2007

Moving on

Yesterday, I finally completed Zelda: Twilight Princess which was a relief. It's a bit of an epic to say the least and I need to get on with other stuff. I was hoping the other stuff would be Mario Party 8 but that seems to have gotten delayed ... Nintendo style.

To fill the gaping hole in my life, I've taken a few tentative steps towards learning the Python programming language. I'm dead bored of C++ and this seems easier to get stuff done in.

Today, we went to see a baseball training match between the Anaheim Angels and Oakland Athletics. I think this is roughly equivalent to a friendly warm-up.

The Anaheim Angels are actually the L.A. Angels in Anaheim because they're from L.A. but they live in Anaheim, CA. But I saw them today in Tempe, AZ and the Oakland Athletics were the visitors because this is where the Angels train.


Basically, imagine that Wimbledon F.C. moved to Milton Keynes and then decided to call themselves
Wimbledon Dons in Milton Keynes and train in Dundee because they prefer the weather there. For good measure, imagine Milton Keynes sued the Dons for the Wimbledon thing. Finally, imagine the Dons lost 7 - 8 today.