Big Bhai (Hindi-style)

You MUST read this: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-us-can-learn-from-indias-move-toward-cashless-society-wadhwa?trk=eml-email_feed_ecosystem_digest_01-hero-0-null&midToken=AQGN_uvUyT7mWw&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=1EdC3LATEUeTE1

As most of you know, I am a smidge resistant to Big (Bhai) Brother, personal information collection and modern tendencies to surveillance and loss of privacy.  I am not freaked out.  I jut don’t like it.  (I do not even like being controlled like cattle by airports and BC Ferries so I am a bit odd).  I just don’t see the point of it and I can easily envision the misuse of it.  The second book even has a bit about that sort of thing in it.  I advise, for instance, using cash instead of credit cards as much as possible. But I won’t bore you with that right now.  There are volumes written on that kind of thing. To my mind, there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost when Big Brother gains greater influence in your life.

And now India has taken it to a whole other level. It’s scary.

We, in Canada/USA, are registered at birth and given a social insurance number. That number does a lot of things for us but it also is a way in which Big Bro tracks you, knows you, taxes you and controls you.  The SIN number is a tool for government control.   But India couldn’t do it because the people weren’t born with the numbers issued automatically. They were too disorganized, too many people, too much bureaucracy  – over 1.1 billion people. They just never got it together.

Not til last year.  Then Modi (the PM) changed everything…he eliminated the 500 and 1000 rupee notes (85% of the nation’s commerce is conducted with those bills) and implemented a retinal scan and finger print system so that people could be registered with a bank and get ‘electronic’ currency in exchange for the old bills. Now they are registered.  Now they are in the data bank. Now they can borrow.

Whooppee.

Now they can be taxed, too.  They can be tracked.  They can be found.  They can be controlled.  Within a single generation every single Indian will be scanned, printed and in the oh-so-very-trustworthy Indian system. The Matrix, Indian style.

We, of course, are in denial about that sort of thing.  The same system is being implemented here except more subtly.  We started with simple SIN numbers and passports.  Then driver’s licenses and credit cards.  Dental records, DNA, medical records, credit checks, police checks.  Lately, we have added IP addresses and cell-phone SIM cards plus more and more surveillance cameras.  For the most part, Big Brother can find you anywhere, anytime and for any reason.

“But we have laws limiting their access to our information.”

Yes, we do.  Those are the very same laws that the governments violate all the live-long day.  So, we have the laws and we have the government in place to enforce them but, of course, the government rarely polices itself.  Nor do they catch hackers that access the same information.  So, we do NOT really have the laws nor do we have the enforcement.  Don’t kid yourself.

“Dave, you are being paranoid.  If you got nothing to hide, you got no worries.”

I am not paranoid.  Nor do I have anything to hide (thus I can afford this rant on the blog).  It’s just that Orwell predicted Big Brother in his novel: 1984.  He was a bit early (by say, 30 years) but, by 2014, he was almost 100% right.

“Dave, is this OTG stuff?” 

Yeah.  I think it is.  Living OTG does not get you truly off the radar but it does lower one’s profile.  The bastards know I am here and they can come and get me anytime they want to but, as I am hiding nothing, they probably won’t.  And, if they choose to do it anyway, it will cost them much less to go collect up others already corralled up nicely in the city first. Jus’ sayin’…..

 

Whew!

Back online.  We have been ‘down’ for a while and now are back!

Not that it means anything, really.  

I have this to to report:  I have traveled somewhat extensively through the “Merican southwest and, to be honest, I have not been overly impressed.  Brown, tan, beige and more beige with a sprinkle of purple now and then is how I see it.  Plus some cactus and buzzards.  Mind you, I am including half of California, Texas, New Mexico, the Baja and Senora (Mexico) in that blanket condemnation – all the way through Nevada and Utah. NOT a big fan of burnt ochre.

But I have changed my mind.  Or, rather, have opened it.  The rain helped.  A week or two after the rains we experienced in the first five or so days, the surrounding world changed. We have had a chance to see the impact water has on the desert and it is gorgeous-making.  Literally.  A few days ago, Sal and I went out to Tortilla Flats National Park and did the tourist ‘loop’.  It was stunning.

Ranger Dave                                                                Photo: Mary Hoffman

Superstition Mountains are the classic western backdrop for a now-green desert of giant Saguaro and Prickly Pear cactus with colour-enhanced boulders of many hues.  I have never seen desert so lovely.

This snowbird thing ain’t all bad.

But, if I was to admit it, I am getting a little homesick.  I find myself planning the next projects in my head, listing the materials I will need, wondering how to get the whole show back on the road when we get home.  I am thinking ahead….

A very brief word about politics.  The news is openly frank and critical of Trump but otherwise silly and shallow…cats-in-trees, kids collecting for charities…celebrity sightings, pro-ball spring training…that kind of thing.  Much more than I would have expected.  No real news.  But the average Arizonian doesn’t seem to care or have a political thought in their heads.  Some do.  But the majority do not.  No one wears MAG (make America great again) hats.  The odd whacko sports a huge ‘Merican flag on their beater truck but they are in the minority (seen only two).  It is clearly business as usual in Phoenix.  Honestly, I think more Canadians are interested in Washington than are ‘Mericans (percentage wise).

One thing is noticeable, the ‘Mericans are uber friendly.  Everyone talks with each other like they are friends or neighbours.  We are included in all sorts of spontaneous conversations.  It’s very pleasant.

And things are so cheap by our standards!  I bought a couple of T-shirts that were already inexpensive ($12.00) but, when the cashier heard our Canadian accents, she discounted them more by 15% and then offered us a 30% discount later when we bought some more crap.  How does a big box store like Kohl’s stay in business selling me (nice) T-shirts so cheap?  Gas now at US$1.97 a gallon.  Food cheap-like-borscht.  Only restaurant food is the ‘same’ or higher than the equivalent in Canada.

But, enough of that.  Jus’ sayin’….

Book is at the last stage.  It’s now with some beta readers for proofing and critiquing. Could be harsh.  But, we are getting done what needs doin’.  So, we’re good.

Hope all six of youse are good, too?

 

 

To: my dear friends…so sad…..

…you are stuck in a foot and a half of snow.  Sal and I are in Arizona getting a tan.  Life is so unfair sometimes.  Poor babies…..

But it is not like it is all wine and roses here, ya know….well, that’s not true.  We have wine every day.  Roses in a few days (Valentines)…..but, you know what I mean.  It’s hard here sometimes, too.  The internet is patchy.  The desert doves can be a bit noisy in their cooing now and then.  We have our challenges.  What to make for dinner, for instance?  Or do we go out?  Nothing new on Netflix.  Can you feel our pain?

Well, never mind.  We’ll muddle through.  We’ve gotten through worse.  This, too, shall pass.  In three weeks, actually, dammit!  Gawd!  I hope it rains softly and warmly for a week between then and now.  I am not looking forward to slush.  Hell, getting the Avalanche dusty is about as much hardship as I can deal with right now. I haven’t even dealt with that.  “Oh, I’ll wash it on the weekend.”

I’ve said that for the last few weekends.

Car washing is a thing here.  All the guys and some of the women get out on the weekend and wash their cars. It’s weird.  I guess it’s the Arizonian equivalent of Vancouver suburbanites cutting the lawn but, here, the lawn is astro-turf and no one has a lawn mower.  So, washing the car is showing pride of ownership, I guess.

Sal went out and swept the astro-turf.

It’s the thought that counts.

Here’s weird: I am starting to like the desert.  Kinda.  My host has a nice yard and he has planted cactus and palm trees with patches of astro-turf and paving stones to make a very pleasant ‘Palm Desert’ kinda thing goin’ on.  With the BBQ and the gas fire-pit, it is American south-west domestic and pleasant.

If I start wearing cowboy boots, please shoot me.

My host’s buddy (also BC based) has just pulled in to his house right next door. Last night. He’s here for his few weeks of ‘break’.  The next generation (they are in their 40’s) of snow-birds is in the making.

Circle of life, eh?

The cusp between the fourth and fifth estate

We are in a time of transition.  It used to be that, if someone was caught out in a bald-faced lie, they were embarrassed and humiliated.  The liar would probably also be shunned for a while and then..after some time…maybe forgiven by those around him/her.  Maybe not. But they would not be trusted again and it would take years for them to be trusted in much of anything, however trivial.

Not so much these days.

Why is that?

Part of the reason, of course, is that lying by omission is something we all do.  We do not feel the need to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth all the time to all and sundry.  The ‘whole truth’ is no one’s business.  AND the questioner has to be ‘verified’ as being on a need-to-know position. The questioner also has to ‘hit on the right words in the question‘ to get an answer that may not even be the whole truth.  Bill Clinton’s famous “I did not have sex with that woman” is unforgettable as an example.

Another reason is that we are bombarded with lies so much that we don’t believe much of anything anyone says who is not closely ‘invested’ in us.  Friends and family, for instance.  So, a salesman is more than half-expected to lie.  Politicians lie like rugs.  Advertising exaggerates at the very least.  We expect little truth from a Craigslist ad and, of course, we expect no truth from institutions who present a brick wall as a form of doing business.  Think: “We value your call and will be with you in a moment.”  

But we have kicked lying up a few extra notches lately.  The president of the United States has been caught out in so many lies, I cannot list them all.  That so many are so trivial and stupid makes it even harder to remember them.  And, of course, he has surrounded himself with similar truth-challenged people to support him.  So, the highest office in the western world is now held by proven liars.

That has to be considered strange even by our Conservatives and their Republicans.  Don’t you think?

But this is not about that.  Nor is this about the very odd effectiveness of it all. C’mon, admit it…you not only can’t remember all the lies, you are already (two weeks) starting to not bother listening.  In effect, nothing-but-lies has the effect of anesthesia on the public.

This is not even about our own government lying. Trudeau, Clark and those in positions of responsibility in OUR lives (though, I admit, Trump affects us all) are also proven liars.  Our PM lied about electoral reform, for instance, and that seems to be going OK for him.  Clark lies, her ministers lie and she has even hired bona fide professional liars for her campaigns….and that seems to be going OK for her, too.  Rob Ford, the previous mayor of Toronto became world famous for his outrageous lies.  We are living through an epidemic of lies at the moment and it is unprecedented.

But, like I said, this is not about the obvious.  The lies are obvious.  This is about the response.  What does one do when one is told an obvious lie?   And, even when the truth is pointed out, it seems to make no difference?

The media (the fourth estate) – themselves not renown for veracity or accuracy – have taken to extreme fact-checking as a response to this new initiative by the deceivers. The logic, of course, is that, if the lie is countered with sufficient facts, the liar is made impotent in their message.

I love that the media have finally come to the party with bundles of facts but, the truth is, it isn’t working.  They are not at the right party.  For almost fifty years the media dissipated it’s Kronkite-era credibility for the sake of infotainment, celebrity, brevity and the bottom line but I do not believe they were intentionally lying to deceive. Lying to sell.  Lying to entertain.  But deception and manipulation?  I think that outcome was just an unfortunate consequence of making news-for-profit an industry. Sadly, the mainstream media’s new-found commitment to journalism is too little, to late and more surprising, anachronistic.  The world tweets now.  The party is next door.

The real ‘response’ is being played out by Google, Facebook and Twitter.  They, it seems, have awoken to the fact that the liars lie by way of social media and that they (the social media are the fifth estate) are, in a large way, now complicit.  They enable the liars. They are the unwilling accomplices.  And Zuckerberg and his contemporaries do not like that. Neither do the spawn of the Zukerbergs, the hacker group Anonymous.  The righteous, it seems, are outraged.

But, so what?  The public, by and large, have been dumbed right down and they wouldn’t know the truth even if they were paying attention.  And they are not.  Most of them weren’t invited and the few that were are lost.  They can’t find the party.

So, how does this all play out?  Assuming the sheep continue to graze and the battle for their attention plays out, will honesty, truth and goodness prevail?

If the Zuckerbergs and Anonymous prevail, will that even be good?  Can the media ever reclaim their exalted (and partially exempted-from-law) position as the all-powerful fourth estate or will they be eclipsed forever by the unregulated and currently rogue fifth?

My guess?  The fifth will prevail.  Why?  Because the net is easier for the government to control.  Big Brother prefers the fifth.

 

Start: (enter stage right) one whole pig. Ending: (curtain falls on pig’s ear)

OK…I admit it…sometimes you simply cannot make any kind of purse out of a pig’s ear.  The book is 95% done but it is still dull.  NOT good.  Gonna finish up and publish anyway, tho, because I gotta get this book-monkey off my back.   But it is not good.  I just need closure.

No one needs ‘opening’.

There was an interesting aspect to the book, tho.  I wanted to write about the thought process and feelings one has when trying to make the initial leap out of the frying pan and, of course, when trying to spike the landing somewhere OTG. Especially when you don’t quite know where or what you are leaping into.   I was being philosophical (and we all know how that usually appeals to an audience).

Result: Socrates drank the Hemlock. Voluntarily.  I started with Apple Cider vinegar. And now moving up to Kombucha.  Very similar poisons. Hemlock later.

Still, it could have been interesting.  Maybe.  There are the confusions, the fears, the unknown, the challenges and the loss of the familiar and comfortable to deal with but, then again, you are also trying to deal with the growing dissatisfaction, the increased stress and alienation of the status quo. So, the book was and is about mental choices faced and dealt with, rock and hard place…kinda thing.

But it is not all about just the bleak choices.  It is also about learning and growing and feeling alive again.  It’s growth, death and re-birth, actually.  Maybe we should release it at Easter?

Maybe we just nail it to the wall.

This mostly philosophical view might be more interesting when woven into another story rather than written in a sermon.  Maybe I’ll try again by book 10.  I may have just chosen the wrong format this time.  Still, what’s done is done.  Almost….

Now it goes out to beta readers to see just how bad it is.

“Dave, aren’t you being a bit hard on yourself?”

Not a bit.  It’s all Sal’s fault.

Oh, no it’s not, only kidding.  Once again, she polished the rock until it gleamed but there is only so much one can do with a lump of granite.

It’s just one of those things, ya know?  Ya just gotta do it.  Get it off your chest, get it off your back, flush it, move on, get it done…whatever…it is time to move past this chapter on chapters.  But we may still ‘cut and slash’ more.  If you are going to publish babble, the least the author can do is make it short and punchy babble. Fewer pages to wade through at the very least.

Now I know why I use the imagery of a sow’s ear.  That’s all that’s left after all the necessary cuts are made.

 

So…? Maybe I am the luckiest person you know…?

Gasoline at $2.07 a gallon – less at Costco ($1.97).  Avocados are 3 for a dollar at the trendy Sprouts grocery store – cheaper at the farmer’s market.  Pineapples are 88 cents each.  Most fruit and veggies seem free.  Ribeye steaks are $4.99 ($3.99 on sale) a pound and lean ground round is at 99 cents a pound.  Cucumbers at 50 cents each. A full week’s groceries lacking nothing in the way of good, nutritious food of the highest quality, all-in: $85.00. Same ‘basket of goods’ in Campbell River?  Easily $200 plus.

The golf cart sports 6 x 12 volt shiny, new-looking Trojan batteries.  Hardly ever used.  Still, they are swapped out every three years to ensure performance.  The ‘cart guy’ comes with a truck, loads the cart, takes it away, services everything, replaces the ‘power pack’ with brand new batteries and returns it two days later for $800.00. Couldn’t be done for twice that back home.

The golf cart guy said, “Hey!  Just so you know, Fry’s has a sale on beer.  Thirty six large cans for $19.00.”  

This very well built, attractive 3 bedroom home, nicely landscaped in a beautiful, safe neighbourhood is $200K (30 year fixed rate at 4% = (with taxes) under $1,000 a month).  And you get to deduct your mortgage payments from your already-lower income taxes in the US. IF you had US income.

The golf courses are green.  Car washes (automatic, drive through) are $3.00.

Can someone explain to me why Trump thinks NAFTA ain’t workin’ for ‘Mericans?

And let us not delude ourselves, fellow Canucks.  The pineapples came from Costa Rica, the avocados came from Guatemala and a good portion of the gasoline came from Canada. But, once the product is on the truck from Central America, it is just one or two more days of driving to get to Canada.  So, extra distance and currency exchange simply does NOT account for the price difference of an avocado at C$2.49 and a C$5.00 pineapple in BC.  Nor our gasoline prices at $1.15 a liter.

And we have way higher taxes.

I am not  a cowboy.  Deserts aren’t my thing.  I don’t get flat and straight. Seriously…I get disoriented.  It all looks the same.  And dry is weird to me.  But I hafta say, the snowbird phenomena now makes some, if not more, sense than ever before.  At the very least, you save in living expenses what you spend in getting here.  More, if you stay three months like many do.  It’s a wash, financially speaking. And it is sunny and pleasant when a Canadian winter is extra bleak.

Fuggedabout ‘vacationing’…this is NOT that….this is just living cheaper and in better weather.

And, while Trump is poisoning the planet politically and making me sick to my stomach, he is no more offensive viewed from here rather than there.  And it is not like Trudeau didn’t just renege on the promise that got him elected.  Or Clark admitting that all her BS has amounted to nought.  Politics sucks all over.

But, like most places I have visited around the world, the people here have been, with no exceptions so far, pleasant and friendly.  Even the idjut MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat seller at the local market was in a happy (tho obviously demented) mood.

No bugs, either.

Don’t get me wrong.  I will not be reviewing Arizona for the local tourist bureau. Wouldn’t have anything to say, really.  In a vacation sense, it is dull.  In an alternative winter lifestyle sense, however, it is turning out to be great!  In a demonstration of friendship kinda way (our stay was a gift), it is over-the-top generous and wonderful.

 

So THIS is how it works….


Written this morning:

Most politicians lie about the future, making false promises and providing fake visions.  They try to create hope and, whether intentionally (Clark) or unintentionally, (Trudeau), they fail to deliver and thus eventually prove disappointing – the facts, results and their inaction proving their inadequacy and fallibility. They lie and then get caught.

Trump is different. Trump tells the truth about the future, insane and ridiculous as most of it is, and he lies about the past.  His claims about his deals and decisions, “It was the greatest!  I am brilliant. The people loved it.  It was a Yuge success! are lies.  Trump lies about facts, lies about history and generally lives in an alt-reality.

Yesterday, the US was in travel chaos following the unconstitutional edict Trump issued regarding Muslims and those traveling from Muslim countries.  New York Times: Earlier in the day, at the White House, Mr. Trump shrugged off the sense of anxiety and disarray, suggesting that there had been an orderly roll-out. “It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared,” he said. “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.” 

And his White House coterie of liars jumped up and claimed on Saturday that there had been consultations with State Department and homeland security officials about carrying out the order. “Everyone who needed to know was informed,” one aide said.  Patently false.

That assertion was denied by multiple officials with knowledge of the interactions, including two officials at the State Department. Leaders of Customs and Border Protection and of Citizenship and Immigration Services — the two agencies most directly affected by the order — were on a telephone briefing on the new policy even as Mr. Trump signed it on Friday.

Bottom line: Trump told the truth about banning Muslims and then lied about the fact that doing so created chaos and likely more harm to the economy, public safety, well-being and peace than any one terrorist action could have.

So, expect a Mexican Wall.  Expect a revised NAFTA that disadvantages Canada even more than the current one does.  Expect a victim-bully relationship with the US. Expect Putin for lunch at the White House. Expect incredibly worse international relations for all Americans in every respect. Maybe even expect a war with China (although they are more likely to wait him out).  Expect tax cuts for the rich.  Expect the poor to get poorer.  Do not expect the Congress to resist anything.

Expect protest and litigation.  Expect American divisiveness to get worse.  Maybe riots.

And, after the first four years, expect Trump to boast of his great successes ad nauseam.  Already, I wanna puke.

Trump’s modus operandi: telling the truth about his intentions, lying about the results. Now you know.

Added tonight:  Seems Trump ordered a raid on an Al Queda camp in which everything went wrong.  Lots of civilian casualties.  Op gone bad.  Maybe it was because the CIA and the military aren’t onside?

 

Just 1450 more to go

Perhaps the scariest incident to date of Trump’s insanity was unveiled yesterday. Yesterday, he kicked the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the CIA off the need-to-be-there list of the national security council.  If they are needed, they will be invited.  Instead he appointed his quasi-Nazi friend, Steve Bannon.

The NEW YORK TIMES:  Separately, the president gave Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Committee. While elevating his adviser to a position alongside the secretaries of state and defense, Mr. Trump downgraded the roles on the committee of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

What that means is that any concerns the US might have regarding national security may not have the head of the armed force’s input.  Nor the CIA’s.  The Chairman of the JCS is the head of the army, navy, air-force, marines and special forces.  In effect, Donald and Steve can now make war decisions without the top military general or the top intelligence officer even being consulted.

When Sal and I decided to come to Arizona, it was partially to finish the second book which, to be honest, is nearly done but still not a fun read.  I may have to put it out just to get the monkey off my back.  Sal was keen to put out a second book but was wanting to do something fictional.  She wanted to ‘make stuff up.’

I already mentioned that her idea was to write a fictional account of two elderly Canadians who, because of Trump’s new edicts, have to flee the US.  It is a plot based not so much on the edicts themselves but rather the mood those messages creates. Namely fear.  At first, I thought it a cheap B plot and envisioned driving across deserts and hiding in culverts and all that sort of crap. Fun shoot’em ups. But, basically, I dismissed it and tried to make book 2 more readable.

In the meantime, however, Trump edicts are causing the exact mood change Sally prophesied.  Right wing nut-bars opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City.  Overly officious and likely racist immigration officials ignored legal rulings from judges and detained and barred-from-entry immigrants from Muslim countries.  Canada’s minister on Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, had to get special permission to travel to the US because of the country of his birth, Somalia.  Canada’s very own Prime Nice Guy has had to offer sanctuary in Canada for all those refused by the US.  And the list of stupid situations resulting from Trump in office for just ten days goes on and on.

Gorbachev has stated that nuclear war is now more likely under Trump.  China has stated that war is inevitable if Trump continues to meddle in the South China Sea. Millions of Brits are protesting Trump’s scheduled visit to the UK and only Vladimir Putin is pleased with the events transpiring so far.

Ten days.

Drawing blanks (with epilogue)

Trump?  Who needs it?  There is Trump, Trump, Trump and more Trump all the live-long day.  And that will likely continue for too long a time.  No one needs more Trump from me.  At least not anymore.

There’s me and Sally and all the fun we have, but really?  Who needs more of that? Well, I do, of course, but I can imagine all six of my readers saying, “OK!  So you are happy.  Enough, already.”  I understand.  I can let that topic go for awhile.

There’s Arizona..but, well….there’s Arizona…and that seems to be the extent of it, really.  Nice.  Brown.  Sunny…….you know…..nice

There’s the book.  And that is progressing but….you know….talk is cheap...”PUBLISH or shut the hell up!”  I get that.

I could do some on Trudeau, I guess…but…sheesh….what’s to say?  Teeth, hair, no shirt. Shallow.  Duplicitous.  Corporate sell-out.  What?

I could do Christy but what’s to say that hasn’t been covered by Trump and Trudeau?  There’s this, I guess: she, of the big promises-no-delivery, has kept the light dimmed on site C and LPG and Kinder Morgan (how’s that workin’ for you, Christy?) and is now touting ‘a diversified economy’ as the new panacea for what ails us.  Even tho I basically agree with that, I still think it is actually Christy and the Liberals that ails us.  And robs and cheats us.  But, honestly?  That ain’t news either.

So, here’e what I usually do when I write my blog.  I ask myself, ‘What’s the truth for you today, Dave?  Write your truth whatever it is.  Even if it is just ravens and squirrels.’

My truth today?  I got nothin’…….

But….maybe tomorrow?  Sal goes to a three-day quilting conference (who knew? Who even suspected?). I’ll hang out downtown waiting for her.  I’ll go to a brothel, a saloon, a gun range and maybe a car wash….(not necessarily in that order) something’s gotta happen, eh?

Next day: The brothel was a sleazy bust, full of cracks and holes.  The shooting range was a pointed bore. The saloon was somewhat spirited but the carwash personnel were a bunch of drips.  Only the quilting show got it all together.  All in all it was another pun-filled day.    

 

 

NOT politics

Once again; I am happy to be here.  Honest.  Nice place.  Nice change.  Please believe that.  BUT…some things are different (as you would expect) and it is that difference that I find so interesting and am writing about today.  Well, to be honest, it is the differences that I find weird, even off-putting that interest me the most.  Sal likes quirky.  I like weird. Go figure.

So, the first oddity noticed is on the TV.  It’s the ads.  I swear to god, the ads for pharmaceuticals far and away dominate all commercial air time.  By a huge margin. Way more drugs than Doritos.

I once watched ten dreaded-conditions ads in a row – complete with the rapid-speak, fine-print talking about gruesome side effects. When it is not about disabling symptoms, it’s about local lawyers urging you to sue someone or local hospitals that will sculpt your body or treat your addictions.  It seems 90% of the ads are about industrial, commercial, corporate health product and service providers.  Very strange.

We rarely watch the damn TV but, during the inauguration, we did.  And because of weird thing #2, we watched it for five evenings in a row.  Weird thing #2 is the weather.  We are in the desert and it has been raining here three days out of five.

Now, to be fair, Arizona rain is a good thing and, anyway, it seems to lack real volume, real wetness.  Each drop feels like it’s a half-size and a half-step behind our guys back home.  To get an inch of rain in the desert takes hours.  We can get an inch in a few minutes in BC. Still, there were puddles in the yard!  And there are cactus near the puddles!? That’s kinda odd, don’t you think?

Seems the desert forms a surface crust and, when it rains, much of the water cannot penetrate down.  So they get flash floods on less rain than we would handle with our normal drainage systems on a normal rainy day.

Temperatures are around 60F in the day, 35 in the evening and, up north near the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, they have accumulated many feet of snow!  So, Arizona really does have a noticeable winter even by my BC standards.  And I can finally imagine how the aquifer they rely on might have a chance at being at least partially replenished.

Just to be clear: I am perfectly OK with this kind of winter.  I like 60-65 degrees F.  I have never been a fan of 80-85F/30C.  So, this is good.

Weird thing #3.  More and more grocery stores down here are emphasizing health, too.  Lots of cheap good produce. The fruit is wonderful.  Everything is organic and gluten free. Meats without hormones and that sort of thing.  Think Whole Foods.  And the people shopping there are healthy looking and reading labels just like us.  A Sprouts Store (best for organics) is a replica of a Thrifty’s or Whole Foods in Vancouver or Victoria.  Same people. Same emphasis on produce.  Less ‘processed’ foods.

But most restaurants are filled with BIG people. Some are really big.  Dwarfing-the-scooter-riding big.  We went to one nearby Mexican place rated well and I left a third of my dinner behind.  I NEVER leave a tasty dinner uneaten.  But there were so many Jabba-the-huts around us, I just felt that I had to get away and, to be honest, the portion was big enough that I could have left half behind.  And I had the smallest entree.  Sal stuck with the appetizers.  We both felt that we had way too much food.  C’mon!  That’s weird.

I am also having some feelings about these modern adobe-style suburbs.  There does not seem to be a very high occupancy.  If there is, the people don’t go out much.  Not even the kids. Few, if any, people walk.  There is little visible proof of real people living here except when ‘garbage day’ rolls around, every house has their two incredibly immense cans (each could hide the two of us and our weekly output of garbage) out ready for pick up.  They gotta be in there…………………?

There’s room in here for you, David!

Our obligatory Mexican gardener showed up today.  Packing a blower.  He walked around the yard blowing leaves.  That was a surprise for two OTG’ers.  Sal had just mentioned the other day about cleaning up some leaves but I said, “It’s fine.  We’ll tidy up before we go.  Anyway, the lawns are plastic. The plants are cactus.  We’re good.”  Seems I was wrong.  We needed a good cleaning up.

This one is also kinda odd: rush hour is really clogged.  Freeways.  Main streets. Side roads. Rush hour starts about 5:00 and lasts for 40 minutes.  Tops.  Maybe less. For half an hour, you crawl.  All other times, you can fly along on near-empty roads.  If caught in rush hour, stop at the nearest shopping centre, buy a quart of milk and then continue on virtually empty streets.  It’s actually more like a traffic swarm than it is a traffic jam or a congestion by Vancouver standards.  Everyone must get off work at exactly the same time. Weird.

I can’t see doing too much reporting on this part of Arizona, really.  Scottsdale was nice. Expensive homes. But nothing really. We are in the urban heart of Arizona and well, you know what that’s like….urban is urban just about everywhere you go.

BTW:  I measure my writing by how many comments I get.  The last two blogs only generated 5 comments and I was half of them.  So, clearly, Trump, Arizona and whatever it was before that, is not resonating.  I am OK with that.  I do not resonate with everyone all the time.  That’s OK.  BUT – is there anything you WANT to know about?  Meaning of life?  Is there a God?  Best wine under $10.00?