Saturday, June 30, 2007

New Fish

I put a bunch of new fish in the aquarium today.

One of the fish that I added was some sort of long finned tetera whose name already escapes me (pictured to the right).

I also added a bleeding heart tetera pictured below. You can kind of see the red spot on it that gives it, its name.

When adding fish to an aquarium it is not unusual to have conflict between the new arrivals and the existing residents. Today was particularly bad. Within five minutes one of the rabrorsas that I added was gutted by one of the gouramis, ironically the one that had so recentley been a victim of bullying. The other rarborsa is now hiding behind the heater.

I also added a silver hatchet fish, which unfortunately I have yet to take a good picture of

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

Inevitabley when I tell people that I am an urban planner they ask "what does a planner do?" Well now I have any easy way to answer them. I just finshed a blow by blow report of an eight month planning. So if you have ever wondered what a planner does this will tell you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sun Room

Recently we got new furniture for the sun room. It has dramatically improved the usability of the room. The old table and chairs that we had in there were not bad, but for whatever reason the room was just not comfortable so we never would up using the room.

We were at Kohls the other day when found this patio set, composed of two chairs and a love seat. It was extremely comfortable and we really liked how it looked. Unfortunately they wanted about $600 for the set, a lot more than we were prepared to spend.

However they were having a 10% off sale which brought the price down, but not enough. My wife turns to me at tells me that she thinks that she can get an even better price on it. I had no idea what she was talking about but told her to go ahead and see what she could do.

She then went and got the manager and began to haggle. I wandered off
at this point. I am no haggler and would just cramp her style. After about a half hour of looking at running shoes, she calls me over and told me that gotten manage to reduce the price to $250. She got them to knock back the price for, it being a floor model, having a dents, and opening a store credit card (since closed).

I have to say that she impresses me, who even knew you could haggle at stores like that? This is not the first time I have seen her do this. We got our fish tank cabinet at a much reduced price after bargaining with manage at PetSmart. I am so different, to me prices have always been like the speed of light, unchangeable. Good thing I married someone smarter than me.

The sun room is now a lovely place to spend time. I can hardly wait for cooler weather so that we can use it even more.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Fun With the New Camera

I love letting the dogs run off leash. They are such natural born runners. They just just look so natural flying across the desert floor. I only wish that I could run so natural and free.

With my old camera I had a hard time taking pictures of the dogs when they were in motion. So this morning I took the dogs and the new camera and went out into the empty field behind my neighborhood and let them fly. While
they ran around I tested out the new camera. I am very happy with the results. I was able to capture Zack & Berkeley in their full high speed glory.

Now that I have a new camera and as a result good pictures, I have dusted off my old disused Flickr account and have started to add pictures again.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Camera

We got a new camera tonight, so Berkeley hammed it up.

I also got two fish for my aquarium, a red and blue female beta, so far no fish warfare.


An update on this post, the gouramis are now getting, even being able to coexist within inches of each other without fighting. I wonder how fish are able work disputes like this out. Their quick resolution of the conflict makes we wonder if in some ways gourami are smarter than people.

I am going to add another fish and plant to aquarium this weekend, despite the resolution of the conflict I think I will back off my plan to add another gourami for a while. Right now I think want something red, both fish and plant. I will have to see what PetSmart has along these lines.

Keeping with the aquarium theme my wife is picking up a fully equipped 55 gallon aquarium that she found for $50 in classifieds today. She going to set it up in her classroom next year. I think that every science classroom needs some sort of live creatures in it. I can't wait to set it up for her.

I also would like to bitch about the temperature that they have been keeping the office. It is so cold that about half the people are wearing sweaters. Considering that it is over 110 degrees out right now, this is beyond farcical. I shudder to think of the amount of electricity that it takes to keep a building 40 to 50 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy Anniversery

Today is my wife and I’s fourth wedding anniversary. We got married on a riverboat on the Mississippi in New Orleans. A month prior we had moved to Louisiana from Peoria, Illinois, so that I could attend grad school. We bought our first house in Madisonville, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, so we decided have the wedding in Louisiana, rather than in California or Colorado, where our families where. Also a riverboat wedding in New Orleans just sounded like fun.

The one downside to having the wedding in Louisiana is that all of our friends and family had to travel from several states away to attend. However because our friends and family are so spread out, no matter where we had the wedding a large percentage would be traveling from several states away it seemed to be the most fair just make everyone travel. Besides a trip to New Orleans is not exactly a hardship. Though the required travel kept the wedding on the small side, a surprising number of people did make the trek. The nice was that all the people that we truly cared about made the trip.

From what I can remember Bourbon Street was a hell of a place to have a bachelor party. I have never had random strangers buy drinks like that before. My wife reports a similar experience at her bachelorette party which was also held on Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street really is perfect for these sorts of events

For our wedding we charted the John James Audubon, which normally ferries tourists from the aquarium upriver to the zoo. The ceremony started with the ship tied up in front of the aquarium, the ceremony was preformed by the ship’s captain. Interestingly I was watching show on the history channel about the Mississippi River a few years later, and the Captain that married us was interviewed, which was cool. Once the ceremony was done, the ship went on couple hour cruised down the Mississippi while we had reception on board.

An outdoor ceremony on the first day of summer in New Orleans, showed our total ignorance of the climate that we were moving into. The heat and humidity were wicked, however I was so amped up for wedding that I didn’t notice despite wearing a tuxedo, however I think our guest were grateful for the brief nature of our ceremony, after which everyone retreated below deck for the reception. As the ship departed for the reception cruise one of New Orleans wandering jazzmen played an impromptu serenade on the wharf.

An outdoor ceremony on the first day of summer in New Orleans, showed our total ignorance of the climate that we were moving into. The heat and humidity were wicked, however I was so amped up for wedding that I didn’t notice despite wearing a tuxedo, however I think our guest were grateful for the brief nature of our ceremony, after which everyone retreated below deck for the reception. As the ship departed for the reception cruise one of New Orleans wandering jazzmen played an impromptu serenade on the wharf.

The reception was blur of congratulations. One thing that do remember is how tasty the cake was. Usually wedding cakes tend to rather vile tasting, but this one good. People went back for second and thirds, to point when I went back for seconds the cake was gone. I also remember how good the jazz band we had for the reception was. It seemed like the cruise/reception was over in a heartbeat, though I can’t complain at all about what followed that night.

I have now been married for years, without question they have been the best four years of my life. I am still deeply in love with my wife, without question marrying her was the best thing that I have ever done. To me this is what made that day so magic

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another Tattoo Post

Even though I have already blogged about this topic here and here, I have been thinking a lot about the tattoo that I want to get lately, so I am going to indulge my self and write another post on the topic, because with my anniversary coming up I have been thinking about this topic a lot.

Given the symbology of my design I would have been a nice thing get for my anniversary, instead we got patio furniture. I got no regrets there, I love how our sun room is now, but still the desire for this tattoo is there nagging at my subconscious, and frequently breaking through into my conscious thoughts.

I would have gotten it by now, but it just does not seem a responsible use of money, given that it is totaly decorative with no practicable applications. I suspect that a large part of its subversive appeal is that it would be such an irresponsible way to spend our money. Oh, well maybe for my birthday in August.

This is the design for my next tattoo. The 21 point sun represents the day I got married. The sun because it was the summer solstice. The 3 large points represent the year, 2003, the six larger points the month, June, and all 21 points the day, the 21st. I am not sure what will be in the rest of the design. The thing in the center is an old alchemy symbol for fusion.

Monday, June 18, 2007

War of the Gouramis

This weekend I added a second gourami to my aquarium. All the literature that I have read describe gourmais as a peaceable fish, suitable for community aquariums. This is not an entirely accurate description.

As it turns out gouramis are reverse racists, they hate there own kind, but get along well with everyone else. The second I put the second gourami in the tank, open warfare erupted between the two gouramis.

The gourami that I already had, began continuous and vicious attacks on the newly arrived gourami. Around the tank they went. One of the the reason that I picked the new gourami (pictured above) was it beautiful flowing red tail. With in a few minutes the other gourami had reduced this beautiful tail to tatters. The fighting is totally one sided.

It has now been a few days and some sort of fishy detente seems to be reached, which mostly seems to consist of the smaller fish hiding when ever the larger comes out from the rocks. So, hopefully this will not wind up being a fight to the death. Never the less I need to reevaluate my future plans for my aquarium. I had planned on putting in about six gouramis, this no longer seems like a good idea.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers Day

(My father, me, and my late grandfather in 1997)

Kind of crazy to think that if everything goes according to our plan that next Fathers Day I will be a new father. Though that thought makes me a little nervous, I am comforted by the knowledge that if I am half as good father as mine is, that I will be all right.

Friday, June 15, 2007


It is 6:40 pm and 112.7 degrees out, which driving me nuts because I want to run so bad. Normally I run once when I first get up, and then again some time between 6:00 & 7:00. I have gotten use to this routine, so not following it, bugs me. I start getting filled up with a pent up energy, and start pacing, I feel like spring that it progressively getting wound tighter. I feel compelled to get up and do something. 112.7 Degrees is simply to hot to run, so I watch the thermometer and wait

Making this worse is the dogs, who get even more agitated than I do when their running routine is disrupted. They get wilder and wilder as they get increasingly impatient with me. This in turn makes me even more anxious to run.

Eventually as the summer wears on both the dogs and I will adjust to our much later running time, but it is always annoying at the beginning of the really hot season. Thank god that Arizona never goes on to daylights saving time, our we have to wait had an extra hour for the sun to set on summers hottest days.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I just found out that one of my close friends from high school, who was the best man at my wedding, is getting married. This exciting not just because he found someone great to marry, but he is getting married in Hyderabad, India. I have always wanted to go to India. Unfortunately my ability to go is currently clouded. The wedding is set for August of 2008, right now my wife and I’s plan is to have our first child sometime early that summer. Who knows whether things will go according our plan, or even if they do how our ability to go to India would be effected. I am sure that these things will sort theme selves out over the next couple of months. Still I am very excited for good friend and the possibility that we might get to go to India.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Ninth in Series about the menial jobs I have worked

I got my bachelors degree in December of 2002, my soon to be wife would not graduate until the following May. The long standing arrangement that I had with my parents was that they would help support me while I was in school, but once I got my bachelors I would have to totally support my self. I still had my job at the planning commission, but the loss of parental subsides put a major dent our budget. With an impending move to Louisiana, purchasing of house, and a wedding all occurring that summer, it was clear that I was going to need some more income. So immediately after my graduation I began to look for another part time job.

I got a part job at Lowe’s unloading trucks. It was a goof fit because it was part time in the evening so I could go there right after getting of at the planning commission job. At 5:00 I would leave the planning commission and head across the river, I would grab a quick dinner at an adjacent conscience store, almost always a couple of hot dogs, a bag of Chili-Cheese Fritos, and a Mountain Dew. Fortified by this nutritious meal I would work until about 9:00 unloading merchandise from trucks. It truly was a boring job. We broke a lot of stuff. Management never reprimanded us for breaking things, but if we took even a little longer than we were supposed to we got our asses chewed out. This policy lead to a lot breakage on our part. They must have had a similar policy at the distribution center where the trucks were loaded, drunken orangutans would have used more care in loading the truck. The most egregious example of the less carelessness is the time that they loaded a riding lawnmower on to a stack florescent bulbs, well they were florescent light bulbs, by the time truck go to us they were just boxes of glass shards.

It was an extremely mind numbing job, and the fact that I worked after spending the first part of the day at my other job made for extremely long days. Fortunately it was only for a short period of time. With the extra cash that I made were able to make one the best purchases I have made. We got Berkeley, who was a surprisingly expensive little puppy.

Finally May came a long and I left this job and Illinois, I also thought I was leaving menial labor behind forever, sadly this was not to be true.

Next: Bitterness

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Bane of My Backyard

My greatest landscaping dilemma is whether or not to remove this bush. When the original owners of my house moved in nine years ago, they did very little landscaping. While most homes my block are now enjoying the benefits of somewhat mature landscaping we are basically starting from scratch. The bush pictured above is one the few mature plants that we have. Sadly I'm this close ripping the mother f'er out of the ground.

It really is a nice looking bush, it grows well, not a small feat in this climate. Its flowers attract scads of hummingbirds to my living window, much to the delight of the cats. Unfortunately for a bush with so many wonderful qualities it could not have been planted in worse location.

It was planted just inches away from the edge of the pool. This is a problem because it fills the pool with an ungodly amount dead leaves and flowers. I clean the pool, turn my back, and once again the pool is full of debris from this accursed bush. Oh why couldn't the original owners have just planted it few more feet to the right?

I have looked in to if a could transplant it, but have been told that it would probably kill it. Which at this point would not break my heart. I am seriously thinking of replacing it with a giant agave this fall.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Start of a Career

Eight in a Series about my pre-professional jobs

By my Junior year of college I had finally picked a major, Political Science, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I only picked a major because the university made me. Late that fall I saw an notice in the departmental newsletter that the local regional planning commission was looking for an intern. Start of a Career

This announcement caught my interest because urban planning was one of the career paths that I was kind of considering. I have always had a life long love of geography and differences between different communities has always fascinated me. I always found my self wondering why one community developed one way while a community just down the road developed in a completely different manner. Give these interests I decided to apply for that internship. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the first baby step into my career.

The agency that I got my internship with was a regional planning organization composed of all the counties and cities in the metropolitan area. Their basic function was to attempt coordinate the planning efforts of all these various jurisdictions.

About the time that I started my internship the data from the 2000 Census was released, I was tasked with analyzing to see what kind of interesting information was hidden deep within it. I found doing this demographic analysis to be totally entrancing. I loved how from a mass of seemingly meaning jumble of numbers that an interesting story could be told about a community. This experience was one the major factors that lead me to pursue a career in planning.

Like many other internships this one had its share of menial tasks, a good example being the stuffing of countless envelopes When the director forgot his hat in mittens at meeting across I was the one sent to retrieve them. Menial stuff like this bother much less at internship did not bother, because unlike the other menial jobs that I worked, paying my dues here could and did lead to something much better

One project that was educational and menial at the same time was the plotting with GPS the entire sewer system of an entire town. The good part of this project is that help me become proficient in using GPS. The down side was that in order to collect the necessary data I had to stand over an open sewer manhole for about a minute as the GPS registered its position and I measured the depth of the manhole. The stench of the sewer gas could be quite horrific.

As an intern I never had my own official office, rather I used the office of whatever position that was vacant at the time. The office was located on the top floor of the tallest building in town. The view from the 20th floor overlooking down town and the river was spectacular. My current office is great and I am grateful to have a window, but the view is nowhere near as awe inspiring, I gaze out on to the Super Wal-Mart parking lot across the street. For about a half year I occupied a corner office, not bad for an intern, a corner office of the top floor of the tallest building in town.

Another thing that made the internship/job so wonderful was how well the organization treated me. Initially the internship was to be unpaid six month experience. At the end of that term I was given the chance to stay on for in paid position. Granted it was only $8 an hour, but the hours were totally flexible and that was at the time most I had ever made. Not only that they applied this rate retroactively to my prior six month of unpaid work, a very nice gesture.

By the end of my two and half years there as was well on my way into the planning profession, I was doing the work of an entry level planner. By this point I had no doubt that urban planning was the career that I wanted to pursue. So I began the process of applying to grad schools. Thanks in large part to the experience that I got at this job I got a full scholarship plus a paid assistantship to the University of New Orleans.

Next job: More Menial Labor

Monday, June 4, 2007


To me it is now officially summer as the temperature smashes though 110 degree barrier this afternoon. To me summer down here is defined by day after after day of 11o+ degree days, and now it has begun. I guess those perfect 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky winter days have to be earned some how. At least this year unlike my first two summers down here I have a working A/C in my car.

Five Years Running

The beginning of June marks five years since I took up running as a hobby. Five years ago I noticed that I was for the first time in my life starting to get fat. I had no interest in trying to diet, it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing that I would stick with. When I was a senior in high school I ran cross country, I enjoyed it, but had stopped running when I went away to school. Taking up running again seemed like a natural way to fight my growing gut.

So I dug my running shoes out from the deepest depths of my closet early one June morning and for the first time over four years went for a run. That first morning I had a hard time just circling campus, a distance of less than a mile. However I did rediscover how much I enjoyed running, I was hooked. I continued to run not for weight loss reasons, though within a month I had taken the extra poundage off, but because I enjoyed it and it made me feel good.

Running quickly became my main leisure activity. Getting dogs, cemented running as a permanent daily activity. As much as I love running, they love it more. Their enthusiasm is infectious. On days when I don’t feel like running they ensure that I do, they raise an ever increasing ruckus until I relent and take them running. For the past year I have also been taking a neighboring friend’s Weimeraner along on all of our runs. Having another dog along only makes the experience more fun for my dogs. Now any time a meet someone from my neighborhood they almost always recognize me as the guy who gets towed behind three Weimeraners through the streets of the neighborhood.

I now have fallen into the comfortable pattern a beginning every day with a two mile run at dawn, and then ending it with a three mile run at dusk. It is great way too mentally prepare for the day, and also to unwind from the day. I hope that five years from now that I am still running.

Friday, June 1, 2007

8th Street

The best place to eat in my town is not in one the innumerable chain restruants, but rather at the taco stands on 8th Street. Cheaper and tastier Mexican food can not be found. Tonight I stuffed my self with six tasty canrne asada taco for about six bucks.

Eating at the taco stand on 8th Street is an experience on to its self. At night the site pictured above fills up with about a dozen mobile taco vendors and hundreds of hungry people. The smell from all the grilling carane asada fills the air, as does lively Mexican Banda music. It is an experience that have not found anywhere outside the borderlands. Just down the road another impromptu food court is set up nightly in a defunct car wash.

As great as all of this is, it makes the urban planner in me cringe a little bit. A location at which over hundred people are eating without so much as running water and totaly inadquate parking. For a varrity of reasons the county and city have had a hard time regulating these types of businesses. Though I think most people are just happy that the health department inspects them and are willing to leave it at that.