Four Perfect Things

There are four things that I knew right from the instant I was introduced to them that they would be something I’d be enjoying for a long, long time. The first was the Apple Macintosh. I was working for a retail software store when it first came out, selling PC-compatibles, and the ease of use of the Mac and the clear vision of the future that it showed made me a Mac person for life.

The second was the Nikon FM2. I was a Pentax guy through my first years of college, but picking up an FM2 and feeling how it fit my hand and how the controls just seemed to drop into place was eye-opening. You just knew that this was how a professional camera was supposed to look, feel and operate.

The third was craft-brewed beer. Like most teens, I’d had the occasional sip growing up, but could never figure out why adults drank this stuff: It was both vile and tasteless at the same time. I’d much rather have ginger ale or another soda before anything beer-related. They say beer is an acquired taste, but I happened to acquire it the instant I had a beer worth tasting. Since then, I’ve been winding down a long road of pale ales and stouts and lagers, avoiding the major labels and the banal horror they offer my palette.

And today, I think I may have found a fourth: The CZ-75 9mm double-action semiautomatic pistol. From uncles on their farms to friends down there, I’ve been around guns most of my life: I enjoy the calm concentration of the sport and stress release I get from a few hours at the range, and find few things more enjoyable and entertaining than competing against myself and throwing lead downrange. Going to the range today and trying a CZ for the first time just felt right, as if that pistol was built many years ago just for the sole purpose of being used by me to hit my target.

I’ve seen the light, and that light is a muzzle flash.

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March 31st, 2007 by exurbankevin

RE: “One way to recognize a failing state…”

Concerning gated communities, I find it sad that so many people choose to live in cages.

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March 29th, 2007 by admindude

“One way to recognize a failing state…”

“…is to examine the extent to which its cities are subdividing into gated communities.”

Hmmn, so where does this leave North Scottsdale?

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March 29th, 2007 by exurbankevin

Heated Debate…

N.html”>over solar power vs. an HOA.

On the one hand, I like having an HOA to prevent things from getting out of hand in our neighborhood, and solar water heaters ain’t exactly the prettiest things out there. On the other hand, I’ve seen the power that an HOA out of control can wield, and it’s not like he’s painting their house purple and orange and letting cars rust in his yard. The guy’s heart is in the right place, I say let him do it.

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March 28th, 2007 by exurbankevin

Pride and Prodigy.

I spent Saturday going through my mom’s house to determine what should be kept, sold or tossed. I ran across a small drawer in her bedroom containing a few memories of our childhood. One of the items was a series of stories I wrote for Mr. Mulvahill’s third-grade class at Indian Bend Elementary.

Ladies, gentlemen and the Editorial Staff of the New York Review of Books, I present to you the lost literary triumph, One Day in the Life of Super Rooster:

On Tuesday, January 21st 1975
Super Rooster and his army
had a shootout so Super
Rooster and Bad Bill made
a war! It was a good war for
Super Rooster because Bad Bill and his gang
Couldn’t shoot! So super Rooster won the war.

Thank you. Thank you very much. No, no, you can sit down. Great, now I’m blushing.

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March 28th, 2007 by admindude

RE: Neighborhood Circulator Expansion

My experience with mass transit has been a little different: We would regulary catch a bus within half a mile of our home, then transfer to another express route at the local mall and go wherever we wanted to from there; either via C-Train or another express. The whole city was our oyster for only a buck, and it all started with not having to trudge a long ways in a mid-winter blizzard, a task easily as disheartening as a similar walk in a Phoenix summer. And it was convenient to use for popular destinations: We’d take the bus out to McMahon for a Stampeder’s game or we’d take the train down to the Stampede or we’d take the 111 downtown for shopping.

Now, Calgary’s shaped a bit different than Phoenix; For starters, there’s a downtown hub, (which makes traffic planning a bit easier), but it has a lot of the same growth and transplanted resident problems that Phoenix has. There’s a lack of basic mass-transit planning in Phoenix that makes things like TIM seem radical. I live a new neighborhood in the southeast Valley: Right now, if I wanted to catch the bus, any bus, I’d have to drive 6+ miles to the nearest bus stop, while up north, the bus stops moved in right after the houses did (and in some cases, before).

Currently, I don’t have a commute, but when I do again, I’ll give the bus a long, hard look. If I can get to and from work in close to the same time as driving it myself, I’ll give the bus some serious consideration, and DEFINITELY use the light rail for Dbacks/Suns games once it’s in place. From my view, I think the occasional bus in our neighborhoods is a small price to pay for helping free up the girdlock of Phoenix traffic and reducing the amount of “No-Burn” days we have here in the winter. Once you’re accustomed to good mass transit and use it regularly, you’ll wonder what you did without it.

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March 27th, 2007 by exurbankevin

RE: Neighborhood Circulator Expansion

I’m not sure what to think about Tempe’s circulator bus plan. As a Mesa resident, I think it is a great idea to test… in Tempe. Of course, if I lived on or near one of the planned routes, I would fight it with every ounce of my being. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:


  • As I told Exurban Steve many years ago, a massive bus fleet is the only public transportation method that could ever succeed in a region as decentralized as the Valley.

  • The circulator buses are the only way to get many residents from their home to a major bus route.

  • It will be great for students since their housing options will increase dramatically. Also for the elderly who can’t walk a half-mile on a 118-degree day.

  • The buses are small, so it wouldn’t be like a massive city bus was rumbling by your house every 15 minutes.

  • Possible decrease in crime (City employees constantly touring the same neighborhoods daily would uncover and help prevent suspicious activity. Oddly, this wasn’t mentioned on Tempe’s site.)


  • So, you want to reduce road traffic by radically increasing road traffic? Curious.

  • Increase in CO, particulate and noise pollution

  • Are you a non-Tempe resident who wants to catch an ASU game or avoid university parking fees? Park in front of Todd’s house and leave the driving to TIM.

  • Now even the quietest Tempe neighborhoods can feature several flophouses filled with partying college students.

  • What about The Children(TM)? Can residents even let their kids play outside with sleepy bus drivers prowling day and night?
To my first “con” point, I found the following “benefit” listed on the City of Tempe’s Web site:
Most of the accidents, pollution, noise, and parking problems that we see in our city and neighborhoods are the result of the high volume of automobiles. To the extent that neighborhood circulator service and traffic calming measures are successful, automobile trips throughout the neighborhood should decrease. As automobile trips decrease so should overall accidents, pollution, noise, and parking problems. (emphasis added)
And pink unicorns should fart rainbows while they weave diamonds out of leprechaun tears.

Look, the first adopters of this service will not own vehicles; they will be broke students, the homebound and everyone else who already rides the bus. The second adopters will be other people without vehicles who now have an easy way to get from the interior of their neighborhood to the world outside.

If this service stays around for a long time, a few car owners MIGHT give it a try. The first time will be to get to Sun Devils game or to work when their car breaks down. But if any of the buses they ride are dirty, have “scary looking” people on them, or are embarrassing to be seen in, those folks will NEVER use the service again. I speak from experience.

When I returned to the Valley after four years preventing Communist aggression in the Pacific, I got an apartment near MetroCenter and a job downtown. At the time, the transit service was running a “Don’t Drive One in Five” campaign to reduce traffic and pollution. Since I lived next to a Valley Metro express station, I thought I’d be a good citizen and take the bus one day a week.


Crabby drivers, smelly riders and a pre-dawn drop-off in a dangerous neighborhood made for an unappealing experience. I kept at it for a few weeks, but finally just quit. Years later, my car broke down and I needed to take a ~12-mile bus trip from mid-Tempe to downtown Scottsdale. Piece of cake, huh? 100 sweaty minutes later I said never again.

So, Tempe, give it a try. But I might delay our possible move to your fair city since there is no way on earth I’d want to live on a future bus route. (Oh, and stay away from Todd’s street too.)

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March 27th, 2007 by admindude

Phoenix in a day.

Kevin had an excellent post asking the question, “how should a visitor spend a half-day in Phoenix?” I’ve lived in the Valley longer than the other ExLg contributors, so I should be an expert. Still, it was tougher to formulate a list than I had expected.

Phoenix is an odd bird (literally, if you count the myth). The city grew completely inorganically. It would have remained a dusty desert outpost without two crucial technological developments: air conditioning and a macroengineered water supply. No one in their right mind lived here 100 years ago, so nearly all of our current residents are transplants (or their parents were).

How does this affect our culture? Just like in gardening, transplants have shallow roots. When a middle-manager transfers here from Chicago, he buys a decent house in the exurbs, plants a Midwestern-style lawn, and responds to his absent social connections and hot weather by locking himself indoors. Since the exurbs are filled with similar people, the roots often don’t grow too deep. And if Honeywell wants to send him to LA or Minneapolis, there’s little reason to resist.

Why make any contributions to the local art or civic groups if you’re not committed to the area? Why search for great local businesses and restaurants when there’s a Barnes & Noble and Chili’s on the corner just like back home. Frankly, there’s no need to go native. As a result, we have low turnout in local elections and poor support for non-profit organizations such as museums and theaters. Our sense of culture suffers. 

But is there any unique activities that the Valley of the Sun can provide? What would showcase the culture we do have to offer? As a teenager I often said, “if you want culture in Phoenix, visit the yogurt section,” but surely that was just adolescent snark. Hm.


I first thought of restaurants since we have the finest Mexican food north of the border (maybe south of the border as well). My recommendations to hungry turistas:

  • Los Dos Molinos (S. Phoenix, Mesa)
  • Barrio Cafe (Downtown Phoenix)
  • Rancho de Tia Rosa (East Mesa)
  • Los Sombreros, El Guapo and El Molino (Downtown Scottsdale)
  • Frank & Lupe’s (Downtown Scottsdale, Mesa)
  • Lily’s Cafe (Glendale)
  • Guedo’s Tacos (Chandler)
  • El Bravo (North-Central Phoenix) — I just ate here today!
Another unique, food-centric activity would be Vincent Guerithault’s Farmers Market held each Saturday (except during the hot months). You can shop for fresh veggies and breads while feasting on chocolate croissants, duck tamales and Grand Marnier crêpes. Magnifique!

Beyond Faux-Adobe Walls and Red-Tile Roofs.

Our catalog of inspiring architecture is limited to say the least (Wow, Marge! That’s probably the third biggest Applebee’s I’ve seen in the East Valley!), but any building geek would enjoy Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, Paolo Soleri’s Paradise Valley studio, the amazing Mesa Arts Center or Will Bruder’s Phoenix Central Library. For outdoorsy types, take a hike around Squaw, I mean, Piestewa Peak or drive up South Mountain. And Kevin’s suggestion of the Desert Botanical Garden is excellent.

Of course in the past, one could recommend shoppers visit Mill Ave. or Biltmore Fascist, I mean, Fashion Park. However, like most other shopping areas around the nation, they have become genericized. If one is desperate to shed lucre, hit the massive Scottsdale Fashion Center, but understand that 98 percent of the merchandise will be available at any mall in the nation. You may find better local flavor at the turquoise-laden Fifth Avenue shops in Snottsdale.

There are some faux cowboy-type places, such as Rawhide, Mining Camp, and Goldfield, but you need to drive 30 miles out of town to visit them. And we probably have an above-average number of Country dance bars, but my doctor insists I avoid them lest the seizures return.

Lastly, there is golf. Fine courses are ubiquitous — even our public courses can be awe-inspiring.
Marketing 101.

So our hometown does offer several unique sights. But for the nation’s sixth-largest city, there should be many more. Especially since we are the only city located in the uniquely beautiful Sonoran Desert (Tucson doesn’t count because… well, because it’s Tucson). Sadly our inept city planners think progress equals looking like a pale imitation of every other American city. Let me provide them a grain of free advice.

The fundamental principle of marketing is differentiation. Great brands succeed by how well they separate themselves from their competition. The goal is to stand out, not to fit in.

So please Mesa, take my advice. It’s not too late.

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March 27th, 2007 by admindude

I smell another recall…

Todd, if you need assistance in recalling all Tempe government officials, just let me know. ;->

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March 26th, 2007 by admindude

Tempe Resident Alert – Neighborhood Circulator Expansion

If you haven’t heard, the City of Tempe is proposing a new “Neighborhood Circulator” bus service in several Tempe neighborhoods.  The proposal is to provide bus service on neighborhood streets every 15 minutes, from morning to night, 7 days a week.  That’s 8 buses an hour travelling down what might be your street, or one near you (routes run in both directions).

While there do appear to be some designated “bus stops”, the concept is that anyone will be able to stop the bus anywhere along the route to have the bus stop and pick them up.

Concerned citizens in Tempe (myself included) have voiced opposition to this new proposal.  The main points of opposition can be summarized as:

  • Safety breach for children playing outside, and for pedestrians, school children, and cyclist due to busses pulling over at random; plus traffic safety and visibility issues.
  • Increase in traffic, noise, and pollution.
  • Potential of non-residents and students parking on streets to catch the free service to/from ASU and/or Light Rail.
  • Potential for a substantial increase in student housing/rentals in neighborhoods due to convenience of catching free service to ASU.
  • Overall decline in neighborhood quality of life.

I agree with these concerns, and in particular the concern that our streets (and those neighboring these routes) will become extended parking lots for students at ASU.  I’m not against public transportation (nor are most of those that probably oppose this plan), I just feel these routes should be along arterial streets within our City, not within neighborhoods.

If you are a concerned Tempe resident, here is what you can and should do.

  1. Attend a public meeting scheduled for Monday, March 26th from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Broadmor Elementary School Cafeteria (311 Aepli, Tempe).  THIS IS THE 3rd AND POSSIBLY FINAL OPEN HOUSE ON THIS MATTER.
  2. Post your comments at the City of Tempe’s online feedback form, or write Greg Jordan, Transit Administrator, City of Tempe, 20 E. 6th Street, 3rd Floor, Tempe, AZ 85281 and ask that it be included in the public record.
  3. Between April 9th and April 30th, take the online survey, or call (602) 707-0050 and ask that a survey be mailed to you.
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March 26th, 2007 by admindude