Time – How barbaric is DST

Having lived for 11 years in the civilized enclave that is Arizona, my first cycle back to barbarism is today. I speak of the biennial changing of the clocks.

Today is supposed to be the “good” switch, where you gain an hour. At 2:00AM the time is magically 1:00 and you get this extra hour of sleep. And you get to hear all the people at work say how they “gained an hour” over the weekend.

Balderdash, you gained nothing, because in the spring you set the clocks ahead, and lose an hour. That week you hear nothing but grumbling about the hour that they lost when the clocks switch ahead.

Of course the common misperception is that Benjamin Franklin was the father of DST, and that it was instituted to serve the farmers of our agrarian population. Again, more bollocks.

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House Selling Blues

Down in the dump today. I am being relocated from Phoenix back to the San Jose area, and things seemed on track for a smooth transition. Got our house cleaned up, fixed up and ready to sell. A month earlier, houses like ours was low inventory, and in demand.


Put it on the market April 2, and priced it to sell (about $12 – $18 sqft below the comps), and did our thing. Went out of town the first weekend so as to not be disturbed by the viewings. Got 6 or so that weekend, and an offer.

But the offer fell through due to some of the restrictions of the relocation company. Bummer. Back on the market.

And very few showings. We just had a non-holiday weekend without a single call.

I am wondering what the listing kryptonite is? A few blocks a way (short walk) three single story houses went on the market about the same time as ours. All three of them sold within 5 days (to property management companies and investors who will turn them into rentals).

We are still well below the local comps, so I really don’t want to reduce the price. But we may need to do something to get interest back. This sucks.

Leaving Arizona – Some more good stuff

While Arizona has many flaws, there are some wonderful things that are worth bragging about.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Truly a wonderful place to get a good snapshot of the ecology of the desert. Well run, fabulous docents, and a great place to get a feel for the diversity of the desert.

We were members every year, and we were certain to take all our visitors to the ASDM.

The Pima Air and Space Museum

Located adjacent to the Davis Monthan AFB, the Pima Air andSpace museum is a jewel. A fabulous overview of the history of flight, and many fabulous planes (including a complete SR-71 Blackbird, worth the price of admission on its own).

A real treat that everyone enjoys.

Cafe Poca Cosa

A restaurant in downtown Tucson, it is a local favorite. We used to take all our out of town guests there. Fabulous food, made fresh every day, with a menu that changes twice a day, it is well worth the drive.

The owner, Susanna Davila, also the principal chef, loves to mingle and interact with the guests. Their bar makes terrific Margaritas, and if you are interested in a less alcoholic experience, their white sangria is fantastic.

Recommendation: Get the Plato, a mix of three of their entree’s at the Chef’s discretion, it is sure to please. No ability to pick what is on the plate (but if you have a shellfish allergy, they will accommodate you), it is the best way to get a taste of Cafe Poca Cosa.

The Musical Instrument Museum

Up to Phoenix now (actually Scottsdale), the MIM is wonderful. When I visited, I expected it to be good, but I was completely blown away.

They have assembled a huge collection of music, musical instruments, and related it to cultures and the spread of civilization.

Music is something that is innate in all of us, and it was fascinating to see the most humble of components, how they were assembled, and then to hear the music that came from it.

Truly a wondrous display, and a worthy trip! If we weren’t moving, we would definitely be annual members. It is that good.

The Butterfly Wonderland

This is a new addition. Also in Scottsdale, the butterfly wonderland is a bit out of the way. It seemed expensive, but with the AAA discount it was better.

You start with a 3D movie that explains the cycle of the Monarch butterfly. It was cool, but not great. Then there is a display of butterflies and moths in their metamorphosis. Again cool, but not overwhelming.

Then you go outside. Wow. Butterflies, Moths, in all different sizes and shapes. Vibrant colors, large, small, they were all there.


Plenty of great things to see and do in Arizona. If you should visit, I can recommend these (in addition to the standards: Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Antelope Valley, Monument Valley).

Leaving Arizona – Part II – the politics

I moved to Arizona in 2003 to take a job. Landing in Tucson, solidly in the southern part of the state, I grew to love the area. Fabulous weather (albeit blazingly hot in the summer), quirky neighborhoods, and outstanding outdoor activities like hiking, and biking.

I lived in Tucson for almost 10 years, and while I enjoyed it, there are problems with the area. Civic planning is at best an afterthought. Poor growth policies and pathetic allocation of greenspaces was a frustration. Still, it was home.

2012 found us moving to a suburb of Phoenix for my job. It was a culture shock to say the least. Urban sprawl everywhere, yet with some clear planning so that the neighborhoods are well laid out. Plenty of green space reserved. Adequate distribution of shopping and restaurants. It “feels” like a real city, where Tucson felt like a town that just kept bursting at the seams.

While I lived in Tucson, I was aware of how bizarre the politics of Arizona are, but we lived in a pocket of rationality. Moving to Phoenix was a culture shock. Arizona has always been a Republican leaning state, with some characters that make you facepalm often. You get this front and center in the valley. Intolerance, bigotry, hatred are front and center.

I used to read about places in the deep south and shake my head at their antics, but Arizona seems to want to outdo them at every step. I shouldn’t be surprised at a state that didn’t observe Martin Luther King‘s birthday until the loss of tourism dollars made it really painful (they were denied the 1993 Superbowl due to their backwards-ness)

Things that should be no brainers, like shoring up public education, improving the lot of the residents, and promoting freedom and equality are ignored, instead the politicians here want to punish gays, and hispanics, protect the unborn (or restrict women’s reproductive freedom), promote the propagation of firearms, and in general hassle brown people.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is hailed by the constituents here as a great man, but he is a walking liability, and is probably costing the state more in defending his inane tactics at the federal level than the cost of illegal immigrants. All the rest of it is just being mean, trying to extend the old white male domination.

Oh, and making it legal for anyone without a felony conviction to be able to just carry a concealed handgun, no permit required. Fairly often, there is a push to allow college students to carry concealed on campus. Yeah, barely out of their teens, lots of emotional issues, and rampant alcohol (and drug) use goes great with deadly weapons. SMH.

On concealed weapons, it is really bizarre here. Getting a concealed permit is easy. Take a class, pass a background check, and some pretty easy marksmanship test, and you are golden. While I think it should be a bit mroe strenuous (particularly the safety and marksmanship part) I am cool with that.

However, a while back the legislature made it legal for anybody with a clean record to carry concealed. No background check, no safety training, no basic shooting skills. Sigh. Anyone who thinks that random people should be able to just carry a weapon anywhere should be required to watch a class of their fellow citizens who are taking the extra step of getting a CCW permit do their shooting qualification. Some of the worst marksmanship I have EVER seen, and they are the “good” ones who are taking the effort to get the permit. They would have trouble hitting the side of a barn from the inside.


Arizona has a lot of good things going for it. However, the politics are a bit wacko. In most of the backwards states (like Texas) the tide of demographics will reduce the power of the old white male bigot. Alas here, while demographics are changing, a unique phenomenon seems to happen. Being a destination for retirees, we seem to be replenishing our dying racists with imports from the north faster than the population browns.

This leads to some of the most insane policies, and laws from our legislature. Things that make most rational people shake their heads in wonder.

There are plenty of sensible people here, it is just that their voices are squashed via gerrymandering, and the inanity of legislature.

There are some signs of progress. Last election saw Joe Arpaio coming ever closer to losing his office, we often have a democrat in the governor’s mansion to balance out the wackos, the racists, and the homophobes that seem to win local seats.

I am under no delusions, California has its own problems, but 11 years in Arizona has given me a new appreciation for my home state.

Leaving Arizona – Part I, the good stuff

We moved to Arizona in 2003 for a job. We spent nearly 10 years in Tucson, then in 2012 moved to Chandler for another job.

In general I liked Arizona, and will miss much of what the state offers. This post is what I will miss. Some of it greatly, some of it less so, but I am headed back to a place that has equal yet different charm.

The Weather

While my wife will grumble about the brutal summers, you do get acclimated, and the mild winters are awesome. With planning and preparation you can do outdoor activities all year.

When we lived in Tucson, there was an impressive summer monsoon pattern. Brutally hot in the morning, building clouds by noon, brief but INTENSE rain in the afternoon, and then a remarkably pleasant evening.

The monsoon rains really brought out the fresh smells of the desert.

Chandler/Phoenix, not so much monsoon pattern. This leads to a more brutal summer, as there isn’t the rain to bring respite, and the monsoon storms are replaced by brutal haboob dust storms.

The Critters

Living on the edge of civilization in Tucson was always exciting. We had plenty of wildlife walking through our yard and property. Javelinas, Coyotes, a variety of snakes (venomous and non venomous), wolf spiders, tarantulas, and even our local den of gila monsters.

Our last year there, we had a nest of Cooper’s Hawks and their fledglings flying around the neighborhood. It was always exciting.

In Chandler, the closest we get are scorpions (lots of bark scorpions) and stray dogs.

The People

We were fortunate to make several good friends in Tucson. There was a very nice “homey” community there that felt great to be part of.

We also were quite involved with the local Greyhound rescue organization. Great people and great dogs.

Our neighborhood in Chandler is also full of great families and friendly people. But Phoenix is a major metropolitan area, so it has a much more detached feel to it. I will not miss Chandler too much.

The activities

I touched on this with the weather, but if you like outdoor activities, Arizona is hard to beat. Great cycling, motorcycling, hiking, shooting, it is all good.

From our house in Tucson, less than 3 miles away were trailheads with 50+ miles of great hiking.

25 miles and you are up at over 9000 feet, with a completely different climate. Go to the south, and there is Patagonia, Tombstone, and Bisbee.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is a true jewel of the area, and the destination of choice for our visitors. We were members every year we were there.

And the Pima Air and Space Museum, with their complete SR-71 is a stunning attraction.

Like food? Great restaurants, and the bonus of the summer is that the population drops by the departure of the snowbirds and the students from University of Arizona. Walk into any restaurant, even on Friday or Saturday evening and be seated instantly.

Phoenix is different, but in some ways better. A bit more cosmopolitan, but we haven’t lived here long enough to really get the lay of the land.

Wrapping up

Regardless, I will miss Arizona. It is a beautiful state, it has many wonderful sites from the Grand Canyon, to the Sky Islands, from San Francisco peak to the White Mountains.

Next up, what I will not miss.

My Nomination for the Stupidest Drivers is:

I would like to formally nominate the drivers in Phoenix AZ as the stupidest in the world.

This AM, on the way into the office, there was an accident (not surprising) just before Chandler Boulevard crosses the 101. You could easily see that 2 lanes of traffic were closed about a mile and a half before this (pro tip: 8 or so police cars with lights flashing should tell you something.)

Of course, seeing that, I got into the far right lane, the only through lane.

Of course, idiots kept going into the middle and left lane because they were free. Only to beg and try to squeeze in.

Sigh, I guess that as well as not teaching people in Arizona how to ride bicycles and signal their intent, they also don’t teach them when to merge right due to shutdown lanes.


Big Changes in 2014 for Casa Gander

In 2012, I joined a great company, a cool place to work, and a true leader in Scientific instrumentation. Not quite a dream come true but a good move, particularly at this stage of my career.

Things had been going well, then the Friday before the Thanksgiving week, the bombshell fell. All manufacturing of our products will move to Malaysia (where we have been manufacturing since 1974), and thus the operation as we know it in Arizona will be closed.

Those of us in marketing and engineering were given an option. We could relocate to the home office in Santa Clara California, or we would be managed out by the end of April.

Gulp. Flashback. I moved to Arizona in 2003 to take a job at Veeco Instruments. Prior to that I was in the San Jose area. I gladly left because I realized that my 1,093 Sq Ft condo would be all I could ever hope to afford.

Moving back to that nutty housing and traffic area was something that I contemplated a couple of times, but the finances were never attractive. I even had a couple of good job offers in 2007/2008 to go back, but again the economics didn’t make sense.

This time is different.

  1. The company put together a kick-ass relocation package. Truly top notch, with mortgage assistance, tax assistance, and as painless of a move as possible.
  2. Realizing that the cost of living is pretty out of whack there, mainly due to housing costs, the company is giving a generous salary increase. Enough to help me afford a $600K mortgage (my generous house here in Chandler was $245K in a great neighborhood, 12 minutes from the office)
  3. I am rapidly approaching 50. A decade ago that wouldn’t have been a huge deal, the fact is that becoming unemployed at 50 would be a serious risk in this economy. Far too many people never find meaningful work again. While I fully expect to be a greeter at Walmart after I “retire” I don’t want that to start today.
  4. I really like the company, and believe in the products, the leadership, and the ethos of the company. At this point in my career, and I have worked for some really slimy operators, this is a big deal. I know that I have a lot to offer, and as much as I grumble about my profession, I am quite good at it.

So we are going to suck it up and move. I have until January 31st to officially accept or decline the relocation offer. In a week and a half we get a preview trip, which we will use extensively to scope out neighborhoods.

I am terrified, but if we are ever to relocate back to the Bay Area, this is the only way we will be able to do it.

This blog will be a useful outlet for my sojourn, so I hope you don’t get bored and leave.

Why I rarely use car washes

When I bought my Stewie, I made the commitment to keep it clean. I washed it every week, waxed it typically once a month (give or take) and polished/sealed the paint every year. I have all the gear, and all the chemicals to do this, and I actually enjoy it.

However, lately I have been pretty busy, and my schedule has slipped. I have gotten lazy, and there is a pretty decent hand wash place nearby. My time is valuable enough that it is worth the $15 to get my car cleaned. They do a good job, and take pretty good care of the finish. Not as good as my three bucket wash, but it is a good compromise.

But it reminds me of what I hate about commercial car wash places. They have a “greeter” who keeps trying to up-sell you. Are you sure you don’t want the VIP wash for $12 more? “no”. But it comes with a free exterior wash in a week. “no”. How about a hand wax/detail? “no”. You can bring it back for it later if you are in a hurry… “no”.

Now, I get that they are comped on how much they sell, and I appreciate the effort. But, the third time I decline, GIVE UP THE GHOST and move on.

And then there are the vultures who want to repair your windshield. For the record, I have several repaired dings in my windshield (hey, I live in Arizona, the capital of cracked windshields), and it never fails that they zero in on me to offer their services. They are almost worse than the greeters.

At least the team of finishers do a great job, and are appreciative of the few bucks I toss at them as a tip.

It is time to get back in the habit of washing my cars myself. I need to lay in some supplies, but that is cheap.

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When being a nice guy backfires: Traffic edition

I have an easy commute. A hair over 7.5 miles straight up a surface street, never too bad traffic. I am never in a hurry (well, very rarely), so I am often willing to let someone in who is leaving a driveway.

But today I goofed. I waved some lady who was trying to get out of a gas station. I figured she wanted to just merge into traffic. BZZT

She took my opening, then proceeded in slowly obstructing ALL traffic to get to the left turn lane. Sigh.

So I, and several other (justifiably pissed off) people missed the green light while this tool stopped traffic to get to the left turn lane.

When I am in a similar situation, I :

  • Take a deep breath. Really, it isn’t the end of the world.
  • Merge into traffic, but look for the next convenient (and safe) place to make a U turn.
  • And get to where I want to go a minute or two later.

What I don’t do is obstruct 3 lanes of traffic, hanging in limbo, just to “make” that next left turn. Sheesh.

Idiot Bicyclists

The weather is (finally) cooling down, and that brings more people on the roads and trails.

A while back I posted on the lunacy of cyclists here (not knowing hand signals, riding against traffic, riding on the sidewalk etc), but today I saw some new ass-hattery on the canals in Gilbert/Mesa.

First, I was passing a slower cyclist. Wide open path, plenty wide, and he was well to the right. So I called out “On your left” and breezed by. I am no longer surprised by cyclists wearing earphones, but as I was passing at 22+ mph, with a bit of wind noise in my ears, I could clearly hear his music. Wow, that is one dude who will be having a date with a set of hearing aids.

I never ride with headphones/earbuds. Running?  sure, I jam out, but cycling on the road, and even on the car-free path of the canals, you need to be aware of your surroundings, and you can’t while blocking an essential part of your sensory input.

Second, some jackass with his little kid trailer on his bike just pulled across the trail (there was a bridge). No looking at what he was riding into. The fool was fiddling with his smartphone, headphones in, and completely oblivious that he almost took out someone walking on the path as well as making me jam on my brakes hard. He never once glanced up from his phone.

Third, as I was approaching a street crossing, a couple were riding on the sidewalk, the wrong way (against traffic). I am usually looking left to get an idea of when it is safe to cross. I was luckily able to see them in my peripheral vision and stop, but again, completely oblivious.  They did say “sorry”.

Why the hell do people (adults) ride on the sidewalk. There are bike lanes all over this town. I swear the police could make bank just hassling stupid riders.

Fourth, the group riders. I cut slack for families with kids. Nothing like a family outing, and they are usually very polite as you pass (slowly so as to not scare the kids). But today, there was a jackass pack. I saw them pass me the other direction before I made the turn, so I knew I would see them again. But maybe not, they looked pretty serious, so I hoped that they would stay well ahead of me. Alas, my fears were confirmed. I caught them almost instantly, and had to trail them for far too many miles until I could pass them at a major road crossing.

These idiots were riding 2 and three abreast, taking the whole trail. They were going fast enough that it would have taken a heroic effort to blow by them cleanly, but they were slow enough to let them comfortably talk while they rode.  And they were about 3mph below my “pace” so following them really sucked.

I will admit it, I am not a group rider. Even riding with one or two other people is something I don’t like to do. I consider bicycling to be me, the bike, the road, and the elements all out there doing battle. I get in a groove, and I keep pushing myself. It is why I like running, and hiking as well.

I don’t hate coming across groups of riders, but I do try to get by, or redirect my route to not be caught up in their ride. Not my thing, but more power to them. I do hate groups who are completely oblivious to their surroundings, and who are completely inconsiderate of others.