A building that shades itself


By Paul Fiarkoski

My office is in Downtown Tempe AZ. I often walk by this building designed as an inverted pyramid. Seems like such a smart design for the Valley of the Sun.

Unlike most office buildings that get super hot from intense sunlight beating on them, I never see any sunlight directly hitting the glass on this building. I’d like to know more about the energy efficiency of the design, such as how does it compare with more modern buildings with good LEED ratings.

About the building

  • Tempe Municipal Building
  • Construction completed 1971
  • Designed by the architectural firm of Michael & Kemper Goodwin

How to survive a midlife crisis on a budget


I’m closing in on 47 years of age and to date I have not had the midlife crisis I’m entitled to. I think that may have just changed.

My midlife crisis was brought about by a transportation dilemma.  My oldest daughter turned 16 this year and we had not adequately saved to buy her a car. That means she is driving my vehicle a lot these days. When she has my vehicle and my wife is out with her’s, I am left stranded at home.  We live in a community that is pretty much self-contained in the foothills of South Mountain in Phoenix.  Since I work from home most of the time, I don’t need a car on a daily basis.  However, when I need to run an errand or meet up with the guys at church or just get out of the house for a while, sometimes I need a set of wheels.

1979 Honda CT 90 trail bike
The cure for my midlife crisis: A 1979 Honda CT90 trail bike.

For the last year or so, I have been watching Craigslist for an opportunity to buy a scooter at a good price.  It wasn’t until recently, that I stumbled upon an ad for a Honda CT 90.  The 90 in the bike’s model means it is a 90 cc engine.  Not much power by modern street bike standards, but it is plenty to get me from my home to the points I tend to travel.  I’ve done some research on the bike and discovered that they stopped making them in 1979 –  the model year I bought. Nevertheless, there is no lack of popularity with the bikes.

It turns out there are cliques of people who buy and collect and ride these bikes just like there are for Harley Davidson motorcycles. People buy these post the bikes for all sorts of reasons, such as nostalgia, convenience, economics and so forth. For me, the appeal is budget. The truth is I’ve never desired to ride or own a Harley Davidson.  But once I discovered the CT90 and did a little research, I was hooked.

Thanks to Craigslist, I was able to find one of these trail bikes of the 1979 vintage for only $1,600. Here’s the beauty: it has only 1,400 miles on it and is in near mint condition.  It’s almost as if somebody locked it away in a time capsule and preserved it for me to have today. With no clutch and only four speeds, it’s very easy to ride and gets about 80 miles per gallon of gas. The perfect cure for my midlife crisis.

Best reality TV out there: Boat ramp follies on YouTube


I’m a man with simple entertainment needs. Give me a bag of chips and a few thousand 90-second clips of people making fools of themselves at the boat ramp and I’m set.

Boat Ramp Follies was first recommended to me by YouTube after I searched for videos of Lake Havasu, to which we were planning a family vacation. Good call!

As it turns out, “Boat Ramp Follies” is not just a video, but more of a genre; not unlike the categories of Action, Thriller or Drama that we generally find movies organized by. A YouTube search for “boat ramp follies” resulted in over 28,000 videos.

Far better than any other types of sports follies videos that became popular with the advent of VHS tape players, boat ramp follies is reality tv at its finest. These people aren’t there to perform. They just want to have a nice day on the water.

Getting there is half the fun, right? Or half the battle – depending on how you look at it. Mix in steep, wet surfaces, poor driving skills and a little alcohol and you have the perfect recipe for drama.

So intriguing are boat ramp follies that crowds of people are known to line edges of the Site 6 boat ramp at Lake Havasu to watch the spectacle. Thankfully for me, they also post much of the comedy to YouTube.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the redneck in Missouri who didn’t even make it to the lake. He jack-knifed his rig on a dirt road when trying to avoid a puddle of water. The truck ended up in one ditch and the boat in the other.

I can’t stop watching these boat ramp folly videos and just wanted to open your eyes to a whole new entertainment experience. Here is one video for starters (PG-13 warning for profanity):

But please, don’t stop there. If you experience the same internal chemical reaction I did, try searching YouTube for phrases using any mixture of these words: boat, ramp, launch, idiot, comedy, drunk, folly blooper, etc. You won’t be let down, I promise.

A warning to my neighbors about pigeon droppings


Dear neighbors,

Consider yourselves warned. Two days ago, at the advice of a gardening blog, I sprinkled a generous helping of crushed red pepper in a section of my front yard to keep the rabbits from chomping the grass down to the crown. It appears to be working as I haven’t seen a rabbit on my yard since the application.

Neighbors beware: This pigeon was spotted eating crushed red pepper in my yard.
Neighbors beware: This pigeon was spotted eating crushed red pepper in my yard.

Here’s the problem: The pigeon shown here, which I have not seen in my yard before, spent several minutes this morning pecking around in the same area.

I haven’t researched the effect of crushed red pepper on the digestive systems of birds. But if a high concentration of spicy food has near the impact on this pigeon that it has on my belly, I’m just saying you may want to park your cars in the garage for a few days.

Bodyboarding is a spectator sport


I’m back on the grid after four days of rehearsing for retirement on the beaches of Cali. At 45, I’m starting to realize body boarding is a spectator sport. Those waves look so peaceful, but they threw me around like a rag doll. More Advil, please.
True story: on day one, a lifeguard came down and warned me against trying to ride the breaker waves. Something about risk of a broken neck or back. Wonder how he knew I had no clue what I was doing. Maybe it was the wrist leash I had strapped to my ankle. Lol!
body boarders

Full disclosure: I am not in this picture. If I were, you would see a board in the air and my arms and legs protruding from the whitewater. 🙂

A lesson on how to stand behind your work


Does a guarantee really mean anything in this day and age? Think about it: When something goes wrong with an item you buy at a retail store, who bears the burden of proof? The consumer.

What do you hear when something goes wrong with something you purchase? Prove to me you bought it here when you say you did. Prove to me you didn’t break it through misuse.

With services, it can be even more tricky, unless you have it all in writing. And then you have the burden of keeping the paperwork filed someplace where you can retrieve it.

Recently I found someone who has put an end to all that nonsense. We’re in the market to have our exterior block wall covered with a stucco. I’m a bit of a bargain shopper so I called Dwight after seeing his handwritten sign on a neighborhood street corner.

As I worked my way through a litany questions in the backyard, I got around to asking if his work comes with a warranty.

“Yes!” was his response. “As long as I’m alive my work is warrantied. So for about another 25 to 30 years or so. After that, you’re on your own.”

I can’t ask for much more than that now can I?

The case for drones


Now wait, before you get all worked up about the title of this article, take note I’m not advocating drone strikes. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of drones that could carry out strikes.

pic of drone with no sign
No civilian killing drones

The purpose of this post is to leverage a hot topic in the news today to raise awareness of the cool, relatively inexpensive micro-drones that you and I can own and operate.

I was first made aware of such drones when a Facebook friend of mine posted a video taken by his drone that was purchased for a few hundred dollars. I was amazed with the simplicity and high-quality resolution. In essence, we’re talking about a remote controlled helicopter with a built in video camera.

I didn’t run out and buy a drone right away, but believe me it’s something I think about often. My interest turned to near obsession when I searched YouTube for videos taken by individuals with drones. Here are a few examples:

Should you take the time to see what these micro-drones can do, I’m sure you’ll agree there are limitless applications. Envision a roofing contractor giving you a video bid on a roof repair without the use of a ladder. Think of the golf course superintendent who could survey the course with a quick fly-by. How about search crews looking for a lost hiker?

Parrot Drone
Drones like this one have plenty of positive potential in today’s world.

Ya, there are also the issued of people with bad intentions such as peeping Toms that could misuse them, but that’s where paintball guns take on a new purpose.

Hey, let’s not take life so seriously. Of course no government should be able to use drones to wipe out it’s own citizens. But wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all had our own personal drone?

.

Not so stealth cell phone towers


We’ve all seen them: The cell phone towers disguised to blend into the surroundings after complaints of the unsightly, high-frequency transmitters dotting the landscape. Below are a few of the more original cell phone towers in disguise that I have come across.

Cell tower disguised as tall pine tree
This one doesn’t look too bad. Only trouble is trees like this don’t grow in the desert.
Cell phone tower disguised as a cactus
To the untrained I this cactus cell tower wouldn’t stand out at all when it has it’s lid on. See it laying on the ground?
Palm tree cell tower
This one’s a little better. I doubt many of the motorists on the adjacent 202 freeway ever noticed the cell tower here considering how fast they typically drive.
Stadium light cell tower
Who’s going to notice the extra hardware on this ball field light pole when they’re watching the game?
Undisguised cell tower
They didn’t even try to hide this one. Perhaps code didn’t require it since it’s buried deep in an industrial park.

Friday funny: Don’t get all bent out of shape


True story: On a cold, dark winter night in the early 90s, I left Omaha with three of my bachelor buddies on a ski trip to Colorado. Our plan was to leave town when Tom finished his night shift at UPS. We would take turns driving all night and end up at the ski resort just in time for the lifts to open.

I drove the first leg of the journey, arriving in the I-80 enclave of Lexington, NE at around 3 a.m. My Ford Escort needed gas and I needed sleep. Tom would be taking the wheel for the next few hours. As I approached the counter of the 24-7 Sinclair station to pay for the petro, he proceeded straight to the adjacent self-serve soda fountain to fill up a 44 oz Mountain Dew.

“There’s enough caffeine in this cup to get me all the way to Denver,” Tom would assure us a short while later.

Tom was a little OCD about the ice to soda ratio in his cup. At first he dispensed a little too much ice, so he dumped some out. Due to the weight of the ice and laws of physics, he inadvertently poured out more ice than he wished. So he dispensed a little more into the container.

At about this time I was handing the cash to the clerk who, bless his heart, was clearly disabled with some sort of spinal disorder to the extent that he was bent over the cash register like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

As the clerk prepared to count out my change, he hurled this threat a Tom: “If you keep wasting that ice, I’m going to make you pay for it.”

I kept my eyes on the man, wondering what may have caused his condition. From my periphery Tom retorted, “Don’t get all bent out of shape, man! It’s just ice.”

I couldn’t take it. The audio and visual, combined with my sleep-deprived state and demented sense of humor was too much to bear. Rather than hang around for the change, I darted out the door to the car where I would remain buckled over in uncontrollable laughter until Tom returned. The commotion had briefly woken the other two who stayed in the car. Given my condition of oxygen constricting laughter, it took a good five minutes for me to explain them all what had just happened.

Tom had not even looked at the clerk on his way to the ice machine, so he was unaware of the man’s disability. He put no thought into his reply. Once I made it clear to him what he had said, his eyes and mouth widen simulteously as if to say, “Oh, no I didn’t!”

Yes he did. And it has been a source of laughter ever since.

 

 

Is lip-syncing the new photoshop?


Welcome to the new age of deception: Lip-syncing has gone mainstream.

Remember the big stir Milli Vanilli created when they were busted for lip syncing in a live concert in 1989? The band was sued for consumer fraud and suffered, rightly so in my opinion, an immediate end to their success when fans realized they had been duped.

So why do we allow today’s stars to get away with it?

Most recently, Beyonce was outed by the Marine band for lip syncing the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration. The national anthem! Is this what show business has come to: Deceiving fans and spectators at in order to deliver a “perfect” show?

If the productions were perfect, it might be tolerable. However, I’m aware of two recent accounts of lip syncing that were far from perfect.

In October 2012 my wife took our teenage daughter to the opening night of Justin Bieber’s tour in Phoenix. Not fifteen minutes into his act, Bieber threw up while “singing” one of his songs. My wife texted me the details live. She reported that the show continued even though he threw up twice more with no interruption in the music (or his singing) at all.

Justin Bieber caught lip syncing as he throws up on stage
Justin ‘the Biebs” Bieber tosses his cookies in his 2012 concert in Glendale, AZ as a recording of his voice continues to play. Photo credit: usmagazine.com

Intrigued to see what this was all about, I searched YouTube later that night and sure enough, smart phone videos taken by a number of people in attendance revealed that a recording of the Biebs rolled on as he tossed his cookies.

Another botched lip-sync performance occurred at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl football game I attended. As we fans were asked to remove our caps for the singing of the national anthem, the jumbotron camera zoomed in on 2012 London Games high jump silver medalist Brigetta Barrett who appeared to be psyching herself up for the performance she was about to lay down.

Before the crowd quieted down, her lovely voice began to deliver those beautiful lyrics we Americans love. The only trouble is that her lips weren’t moving yet. My guess is the AV producer had one espresso shot too many in the preceding hours and pushed the button prematurely. Once he (or she) realized the error, the pause button was pushed – at just the second the Barrett’s lips began to move.

Eventually they got it together and she finished her part of the show, but not before the damage was done. What a fiasco! I’m sure she’s a great athlete. She may even be a good singer, but she lost the faith of anyone that was paying attention that night.

Modern technology has made it possible for us to be fooled in just about every aspect of life. Think about all the models who are Photoshopped for their appearances on the covers of glam magazines. How about the Manti Te’o girlfriend scam?

Sadly, it seems that most Americans are okay with being duped by technology. I for one am fed up with it. In my opinion, if you want the fame and rewards that go along with being an entertainer, you had better be able to entertain.

Screw it up and you might find yourself featured in my blog.