Saturday, March 31, 2007

Climate Change: A very convenient truth

"Unseasonably high temperatures in Alaska have resulted in rapid melting of snow and the risk of flooding."

A great global-warming scenario. Unfortunately (for global warming alarmists), it didn't happen.

Instead, Julia O'Malley of the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that, according to the National Weather Service, March will likely tie for the fourth coldest on record.

Say those words slowly. Fourth - coldest - on - record.

Because this doesn't fit the "story-line" of global warming, it's unlikely it will appear anytime soon in an upcoming Al Gore slide.

It's also why a lot of people today prefer the more mallable phrase "climate change". It is a very convenient truth for climate alarmists, worth billions, that any noticeable variation in weather, no matter in which direction, supports the urgent cause of "climate change".

As Danny and the Juniors might have put it:

Climate change is here to stay - it will never die
It was meant to be that way - though I don't know why
I don't care what people say - climate change is here to stay
(We don't care what people say - climate change is here to stay)

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Return Journey Day Nine: Toronto

Breakfast: Cracker Barrel, Flint MI. Eggs. Biscuits. Gravy. Coffee. Grits. It's all good.

We drove to Port Huron, got over the border in about 5 minutes, and were back in Canada.

The snow is gone, and there are signs of spring!

Lunch: bananas.

We decided to stop at an RV show in Kitchener. Checked out the Roadtrek models. Pretty ingenious.

Dinner: Red Lobster, Kitchener. Am I the only one who finds their biscuits irresistible?!

We battled the Toronto traffic and arrived home around 6pm, having gone 4,025 km. on the return journey. All this road travel has made us tired -- we need a vacation!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Return Journey Day Eight: Flint, Michigan

Breakfast: Bob Evans, Joliet IL -- biscuits and gravy and an egg.

* I gave some serious thought to going into Chicago and trying to attend the Conrad Black trial, but decided to keep heading home on I-80.

* We stopped at an Indiana tourist information center on I-94 and learned something new. Turns out that not all Indiana is on eastern time. We were still on central time. Even more bizarre, the pleasant lady on duty said that her husband has a job in one time zone, and her job is in another! They each have their own clocks around the house. Can you imagine that? She said that some kids wake up in one time zone, and go to school in another. Now that's weird. Scratch Indiana off the list of potential places to move to!

* We made an unproductive side-trip to PorterCase Inc. in South Bend Indiana to visit the factory and see about buying a new Porter Case. (Porter Cases are an ingenious form of luggage that converts into a trolley for carrying other pieces of luggage ( Turns out they now make the PorterCase offshore, and the head office is in an economically challenged part of South Bend.

Lunch: bananas in the car (making up for lost time!).

Dinner: Cracker Barrel Flint MI -- roast beef, turkey. Both good.

We settled in tonight at the Baymont Inn in Flint, MI. The interesting thing about this neck of the woods is the preponderance of Big Three cars on the road, including a lot of older models still chugging along. Obviously, this is GM, Ford, and Chrysler country.

I just hope our little Toyota survives the night unscathed!

The Return Journey Day Seven: Joliet, Illinois

I always thought that Illinois was a northern state because north of Chicago is one of the great lakes (Michigan), and above the great lake is Canada. But, looking at a map today, I see that it is not. There's lots north of Chicago. Even South Dakota is north of Chicago!

Breakfast: Country Kitchen -- pecan pancakes.

Lunch: Bob Evan's -- biscuits and gravy.

Dinner: White Castle -- 2 slyders and some clam strips.

White Castle shows all the signs of being a very early fast food chain. Its tiny burgers (called slyders) are simultaneously awful and irresistible! I saw them being made once, in St. Louis. They make a tray at once. They start with a bottom bun, add a sliver of meat patty (pre-cooked?), some onion bits, a top bun, and put it all in the oven. It comes out moist bordering on soggy, so I think there must be some water involved there somewhere.

We got to Joliet Illinois (south of Chicago), and stayed at a Comfort Inn.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Global warming -- a made-in-China solution

Everybody wants to do something about global warming as long as it's not them that's doing it.

Ontario wants to meet its anti-global warming goals but not, it seems, at the expense of its auto industry.

After all, the Big Three can't be expected to turn on a dime and start putting out green autos. And Big Labour is all for global warming when its jobs are at stake.

If Canada was serious about the global, civilization-destroying, imminent global warming catastrophe, here's what it should do:

Require that all cars purchased and/or driven in Canada be made in China.

China is Kyoto-exempt. So it can pollute as much as it wants without having any adverse affect on the Kyoto guidelines. And, with the elimination of auto manufacturing in Ontario, Canada will be well on its way to meeting our Kyoto commitments.

Throwing thousands of Canadian auto workers out of work will also mean fewer cars on the road, fewer purchases made, fewer trucks on the road bringing those products to market; truckers out of work, a ripple-effect kickijng in -- we might be able to bring the entire economy to a grinding halt!

I can feel it getting colder already!

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Canadian Lotteries: A (dishonest) roll of the (loaded) dice

Lotteries are big news in Canada these days. Seems that lottery ticket sellers report winnings far more frequently than is statistically reasonable. Seems they are stealing from legitimate ticket-holders, by telling them their ticket has only won $5, or has won a "free ticket". Meanwhile, they are pocketing the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars of winnings themselves.

It also turns out that government agencies that run these things have been aware of this for years -- and done nothing about it.

Let's do some accounting:

The lottery ticket sellers desired the money that belonged to the purchasers ("thou shalt not covet").

They misrepresented the tickets to the purchasers and claimed to have purchased them themselves to the lottery agencies ("thou shalt not bear false witness").

They defrauded the legitimate purchasers of their winnings ("thou shalt not steal").

All perfectly legitimate behavior in a society that says we must keep religious values separate from public life.

There was a time when Ontario was built on the judeo-christian value of honesty; that time has gone.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Return Journey Day Six: Cuba, Missouri

We headed north on I-44 from Tulsa towards Joplin and points beyond. Somehow I got off of I-44 and onto the Cherokee Parkway. I didn't notice until the divided highway stopped!

In cases like this, I usually just keep going. So, we ended up having a leisurely and pleasant drive through the Oklahoma countryside. We saw baby goats, goats, cattle, calves, donkeys, horses, and some birds we think were partridges. (No, they were not in a pear tree). We went through some towns that looked like sets for old westerns -- the kind where the storefronts all blend together along a single main street.

We eventually made it back to I-44.

Lunch: Lamperts: Home of the throwed rolls! It's hard not to be happy when you're having a hot roll thrown at you! We had roast beef and pork steak. There's more food offered to you than you could ever eat. All for around ten dollars a person.

We pushed on past Lebanon and Rolla MO and finally landed in Cuba (or, if you are a Kennedy, "Cuber"). We touched down at a Best Western, coupon in hand. The motel is currently in the midst of a renovation; it'll be better when it's done.

Dinner: Country Kitchen. We've never been to a CK before; it was great. We shared a turkey club sandwich. Nice, clean spot with good food.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Return Journey Day Five: Tulsa and the Monroes

We had breakfast in Oklahoma City at an IHOP -- how can you do a roadtrip and not visit and IHOP? I had their senior's omlette. Very cheesy. Could only eat half of it.

We headed east on I-44 to Tulsa, and I got to use the Trakfone I bought in Phoenix to call our friend Jeff Monroe, whom we went to Oral Roberts University with in 1984. We hadn't seen the Monroe family in over 20 years.

We met at a Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchen ( It had a bright atrium in the centre -- a great place to meet! We feasted on delicious mexican food and an endless supply of diet cokes; I couldn't finish one before the waiter would bring another to my table. Needless to say, I remembered this fact when it came time to calculate the tip.

First Jeff showed up; then his youngest daughter Caroline whom we hadn't seen since she was in grade one; now she's about 29 and engaged. Later, we went to his house, and first his eldest daughter Wendy, and then his wife, Gail, showed up. It was quite a reunion. The Monroes took us for a drive and we revisited the old haunts -- ORU, Rhema in Broken Arrow, etc.

All the family is living for God; Gail is teaching at a Christian school, and Wendy has done missions work in Haiti and wants to return. So we thank God for the Monroes, and pray that He will continue to lead and guide them.

They attend a Foursquare church in Tulsa. The Foursquare church grew out of revival meetings led by Aimee Semple McPherson (a Canadian) in Los Angelse in the 1920's. According to their website, their name represents the four-fold ministries of Jesus:

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him..." -Isaiah 53:5 (Titus 2:14, Is. 55:7, Heb. 7:25, Is. 1:18)

Baptizer with the Holy Spirit
"For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." -Acts 1:5,8 (Jn. 14:16-17, Acts 2:4, Acts 8:17, Acts 10:44-46, 1 Cor. 3:16)

"He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses..." -Matthew 8:17 (Mk. 16:17-18, Mt. 9:5-6, Acts 4:29-30)

Soon-Coming King
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout... the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." -1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (Titus 2:12-13, Mt. 24:36-44, Heb. 9:28, Lk. 19:13, Lk. 12:35-37.)


We went out for dinner together to a place called Charleston's ( I had -- get ready for this -- catfish! The menu said it was "lightly fried"; what this really meant was it was lightly battered and deep-fried! Regardess, it was delicious -- sweet, not a bone in sight, tasty. We also had a key lime pie that was a great success!

Key lime pie is one of those dishes that is different every place you try it; it's a bit like a Caesar salad in this regard. This one had an interesting nutty crust, the signature tartness that you associate with a good key lime, and, to top things off, whipped cream. Thank God for key limes!

We're spending the night at a Baymont Inn and Suites. At last I got to use one of the coupons from one of those discount coupon booklets you get along the interstates! We got a very nice room for $40 USD.

The Return Journey Day Four: Oklahoma City

We left the Hampton Inn in Amarillo and hit the road. We came across a Cherokee Trading Post at exit 71 in Oklahoma and stopped there for lunch. We shared a buffalo steak and I had some Indian fry bread. The buffalo steak was good, but I always go away from a buffalo meal feeling a bit let down. Yes, it's exotic, but beef just tastes better! (Speaking of beef, there was quite an odour in Amarillo the morning we left; I'll say no more!). In the Cherokee gift shop, I found a felt, crushable cowboy hat that fit me, so I bought it!

We decided to stop at Oklahoma City, and had planned to stay at a La Quinta Inn we had spotted en route to Phoenix. When we got to the exit, it was closed. Can you believe it?! So, we went past it, and then back-tracked.

The La Quinta was OK, but not as nice as we had hoped. Our dog Robbie found a used cheeseburger under the bed; he was very pleased about this unexpected amenity.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Return Journey Day Three: Amarillo

Breakfast: Holiday Inn Express continental.

There were lots of thunderstorms and tornados etc. yesterday, but our driving was mainly clear sailing today.

Lunch: Back at the Silver Moon in Santa Rosa. Just as great as we remembered it. I had their delicious huevos rancheros. We also tried their pancakes -- they were sunny-golden-brown Delicious!

Dinner: Bourbon Cafe. A New-Orleans style restaurant in Amarillo. The blackened bourbon steak was the best part of the meal; the pecan pie was also very tasty.

We're staying at a Hampton Inn tonight. Great room, but I can't believe how dirty the hallway carpets are! I just can't understand how the manager, or the head of housekeeping, or even one of the housekeepers could leave the luxurious hallway carpets in such condition!

The Return Journey Day Two: A Left Turn At Albuquerque

Breakfast: Turquoise Room, La Posada, Winslow AZ

We went and did our "standin' on the corner" thing; I bought some souvenirs -- T-shirt, mug, key-chain.

Lunch: El Rancho Hotel, Gallup, NM.

The El Rancho, like the Posada, is a US National Landmark; it is an historic hotel where a host of movie stars stayed while filming westerns.

Dinner: Target, Albuquerque NM. A hot dog and some chili. They were out of the all-beef, so I had the regular "all-meat" hot dog. Tasted like it had a lot of chicken and/or turkey in it, but who knows? It was mystery-meat. The chili reminded me of Wendy's, but not as good.

We bought a terrific portable cooler at Target. Thule brand. It has a side-area where you can put two bottles of water or pop, and an insulated area that keeps things cool or warm. Great quality, rugged zippers and all that. The best part? It sells for $20, but was on clearance for $5!

So we bought two!

We're staying at a Holiday Inn Express in east Albuquerque. It's "OK". Might be an older property that was re-vamped into an HI Ex.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Return Journey Day One: Standin' on a Corner in Winslow Arizona

Buffet breakfast at the Scottsdale Camelback Inn. 3.5 hour drive north on 87 to Winslow AZ. Early dinner at La Posada's Turquoise Room restaurant. Carnitas.

27 degrees (Celsius) when we left Phoenix, it dropped to 7 as we navigated through the mountains. It rained both in Phoenix and a bit on the drive north.

After dinner we walked two blocks from our hotel and until we were "standin' on a corner in Winslow Arizona". There's a small park that's been built to commemorate the Eagles' 1970's song which (for many) put Winslow on the map:

Well, I'm a standing on a corner
In Winslow, arizona
And such a fine sight to see
Its a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin down to take a look at me

Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love
Is gonna save me

We may lose and we may win though
We will never be here again
So open up, I'm climbin in,
So take it easy

They've got a bronze statue of a young man with a guitar standing on the corner, they've even got a flatbed Ford parked along the side of the street; it's perfect! I downloaded the song onto my iPod, and plan to drive by with the song blaring tomorrow. Yeah, I bet that's the first time anyone's done that, just like nobody else has ever had the idea to walk the Zebra crossing at Abbey Road!

Tomorrow we plan to head east on route 40 into New Mexico.

So, take it easy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day Six Phoenix: Artificial Syrup

When I was a boy growing up in Ontario, we used to have real maple syrup on our pancakes. We didn't have much money, but maple syrup must have still been relatively cheap. I'm not even sure there was such a thing as "pancake syrup" then.

Pancake syrup came along to act as a maple syrup substitute when maple syrup became a luxury item. You can think of it as "artificial maple syrup".

Well, now we have artificial pancake syrup!

The breakfast buffet at the Camelback Inn offers something called "artificial pancake syrup". It's pancake syrup made with artificial sweetener.

I guess that makes it artificial squared!

Phoenix Day Seven: Bill Marriott and El Torito

We had a Bill Marriott [owner of Marriott] sighting today. I saw him in the concierge lounge, coincidentally beneath his portrait. He looks about ten years older than the portrait. Not a big man by any stretch.

I thought it likely he was in town to check out the renovation plans for the Camelback, but was told by a staff member that in fact he was vacationing here.

Good for him!

* * *

El Torito: We visited Old Scottsdale today. I expected to find a Mexican cantina, but didn't, so we drove back up Scottsdale Road and ate at an El Torito.

I'm glad we did.

The steak fajitas we shared were simply delicious.

Camelback: We had a couple of delicious appetizers tonight. A cheese quesadilla(*) and a beef skewer cheese fondue concoction.

* que·sa·dil·la - a tortilla folded over a filling of shredded cheese, onions, and chilies and broiled or fried.

Both were delicious! We topped off the meal with some kind of pina colada cake with pineapple chucks.

Tomorrow we head out for Winslow, Arizona, and La Posada.

And that's the way the Ball bounces

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day Five: Qdoba Mexican Grill

We ate today at Qdoba Mexican Grill while we had Robbie in getting a bath and haircut. It's dusty around here! First, Robbie's paws went gray, then it started moving up his legs; today he was beginning to look gray all over! There was a special on, and so he got a bath, a haircut, skin conditioner for dry skin, and, he got his teeth brushed! It sounded like such a great deal I was thinking of asking for it myself!

I thought Qdoba was going to be a full-menu Mexican restaurant, but it was more like a fresh burrito place. It actually reminded me of Baja Fresh; you come in, line up to your left, place your order, watch the burrito being made, and then pay.

The food was fresh-delicious, and the burrito was more than I could finish. I'm not a big fan of rice, so I got a mixture of pinto beans and black beans in my burrito.

I checked Qdoba out when we got "home" and was astonished to see how many states it is in (including 25 in Wisconsin!); I've never heard of it before today.

You can check it out at

Welcome to the Village

We feel like we are in "The Village".

In the 1960's there was a British TV series called The Prisoner. It starred Patrick McGoohan, and has become what is known as a "cult favorite". It was filmed in the village of Portmeirion in North Wales. One could not escape the Village, but one could get around it in golf-cart taxis.

Well, we feel like we are in the Village, Arizona-style.

The Camelback Inn is situated on hundreds of acres; the guest rooms are spread out in adobe-like structures; the rooms are called "casitas". And, people get around on golf carts.

In The Prisoner series, people would greet each other by making the "OK" sign with their hand up to one eye, and then removing it in a saluting motion while saying "be seeing you". I feel like doing this but suspect if I did people would probably just think I was bonkers!

According to its motto, the Camelback Inn is the place "Where Time Stands Still"; in addition, check-in is 4pm; breakfast is from 6 - 11, and check-out is noon. And, in spite of time allegedly standing still, I'm sure that there is a room charged applied nightly!

It's a great spot. The vegetation is gorgeous and pungently fragrant; yesterday there was a little hummingbird flying around a tree in our small patio area. I love the desert vegetation, but am glad I get to view it from an air-conditioned car!

We're having a great vacation.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

"When I call you up, your line's engaged"

So sang the Beatles in their hit song, No Reply.

Another great telephone song is Jim Croce's, with the line, "Operator, well could you help me place this call?"

Another one, Memphis Tennessee, by Chuck Berry goes: "My uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall".

* * *

When I was a boy growing up in Peterborough Ontario, our phone number was 5-6314, or to be more exact, RIverside 5-6314. This gave way to 745-6314. Then, they added an area code at some point, and the number became (705) 745-6314.

We had exactly one telephone. It was black, hard-wired and hung on the wall in our kitchen. We rented it from Bell Canada, and paid two or three dollars for it year after year after year. Buying your own phone was not an option.

When we first got it, we were on a party line. You might pick up the phone and find that a neighbour was talking on the line. For a few extra dollars a month you could have a dedicated line. No-one in our socio-economic bracket did this. Eventually the party line gave way to dedicated lines.

Then, the next deal was pulse versus touch-tone dialing. Remember the old clickety-clickety-click of a pulse dial? There's a great Dangerman (Secret Agent) episode from the 60's in which John Drake (Patrick McGoohan) records a telephone being dialed and then laboriously works to replice the clicking sounds to determine the number that was dialed. You had to pay an extra few dollars a month for touch-tone dial; now, it's pretty much universal, although a lot of phones still come with a switch you can use to toggle between touch-tone and pulse dial

Next, Canada loosened up telephone restrictions. Extra telephones were installed in houses. You could own your own phone, but, for a time, had to rent at least one from Bell Canada, as I recall.

Then came cordless phones. If you watch re-runs of Seinfeld, you can watch the size of cordless phones shrink from year to year.

Then came cellular phones. Remember the big bulky ones that cost a fortune that you would put in your car? Like cordless phones, each year both the size and cost of a cellular phone would get smaller. Still, we got our first cell phone about five years ago. In Britain, cell phones are called mobile phones.

Then came VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephones.

Then came Skype.

Here's where we are at today:

* We have a regular "land" phone at our property in PEI, with phones in scattered throughout the house. Our phone service is with Eastlink, our cable TV provider, but our long-distance plan is with Yak, so I carry a Yak card for on-the-road long-distance.

* We have a Vonage VoIP phone with a Toronto area code. We use this when we are in PEI to make local calls to our relatives and friends in Toronto, and we take it with us when we travel (we have it with us now), and we use it as our phone when we are in Toronto. The quality of the calls vary from excellent to spotty. I love the fact that messages are sent to my email address as attachments, so I can listen to messages wherever I am.

* We have an Aliant cell phone in Charlottetown. We used to have it with a package plan, but we downgraded it to a pay-for-usage plan with a $10 per month minimum charge; the "credit" accumulates and so we currently have about a $120 credit on it. Because of the downgrade, however, it no longer works in the US.

* Which is why we now also have a pre-paid US-based cellphone with TracFone. We haven't actually used it yet, and will only use it when it will help us make a motel accommodation while travelling. But that's worth the $14 I paid to get it.

To summarize, our telephone providers are Eastlink, Aliant, Yak, Vonage, and TracFone. So many choices and options!

* I also have a Skype account, but haven't actually figured out how to use it yet. So, I guess I'm behind the technology curve on this one. My name is, I think, Richard Ball, or something. I'm going to have to get with a friend and have us Skype each other until I get the hang of it.

I also have three email accounts. One in Charlottetown, one in Toronto, and, yesterday I set up a hotmail account because it was needed in order to set up an MS Messenger account, another thing that I don't really understand. Anyway, if you want to try emailing me at the hotmail account, the address is I haven't figured out how to get messages from hotmail automatically when I log on to Mail, but I'll hopefully figure it out eventually.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Day Four: Fairest Lord Jesus

Today we went to a Southwestern Baptist Convention church. They had a small orchestra, and a large white overhead screen both at the front of the church (so the congregation could see it), but also at the back (so the minister, worship leader, singers, and choir) would know exactly what was being displayed behind them and above their heads.

What a great idea!

I was touched by the worship, especially the "old hymns". Even though I write what I consider to be contemporary Christian music, I find a lot of what is put out today very forgettable. It seems that the shelf life of a contemporary Christian song is about one month. (Except for songs like Matt Redman's Blessed Be the Name. They opened and closed with it -- what a great song from a great contemporary Christian song-writer.)

The song that touched me was Fairest Lord Jesus. Now there's a song that can really inspire worship; it's about Jesus, not about "me", or "us", or my or our feelings -- it points to Him, the One who sits far above every principality, every power (yet who stooped so low to lift us so high); the One who tasted death so we could taste eternal life; the One who is incomparably better, brighter, purer, than you or I could ever hope to be apart from Him.

According to, the words to Fairest Lord Jesus were written by German Jesuits as Schönster Herr Jesu in the 17th Century. Published in the Münster Gesangbuch, 1677, and translated from German to Engish by Joseph A. Seiss, 1873. The music is a Crusader’s Hymn Sile folk song from Schlesische Volkslieder, 1842; arranged by Richard S. Willis, 1850.

Here it is:

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heaven can boast.

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine.

When I was in university, and in the process of becoming a Christian, I found myself attracted to the Person of Jesus Christ. I am still attracted to Him, and as my understanding of who he is and what he did for us grows, my adoration of Him continues to grow.

When I was a young Christian, I dreamed of all that I might do for Jesus. As I grow older, I think more about what He has done for me. And, when I meet Him face to face, I look forward to saying just about the only thing I can say, which is:


And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

There's not much boom in the Boomtube!

The Marriott Camelback has internet access, but not wireless, so you have to connect via an Ethernet cord. Not much fun sitting inside, when you could be outside enjoying the morning air.

I thought of buying a 25' ethernet cord so I could take my laptop outside to the patio, but instead went to CompUSA and ended up buying a compact wireless router (the Linksys Wireless-G Travel Router - WTR54GS). It is incredibly compact; the unit is about the size of a thick pack of cigarettes and plugs directly into the wall outlet; you run an ethernet cable from your internet source into the router, and that's it.

CompUSA had it stickered at $60.00, but their computer had it closer to $100. The clerk said it was a liquidators' error, and that he could not give it to me for the stickered price; when I complained (mildly), he said I could speak to the manager. I did. The manager let me have it for the stickered price -- which is the right thing to do. The clerk mumbled something to the effect that the manager who had just gone off duty would not have let me have it at that price.

I was glad I got it at the price I did; I didn't want to spend any more than that.

Hook-up was instantaneous. The installation DVD does not work on a Mac, and there were no other instructions, so I was flying solo. Fortunately, I plugged it in, connected it, and, lights, camera, action -- I was connected! Macs are wonderful machines.

Now we can sit outside with our laptops and read the online morning paper (and your responses to my blog)!

* * *

The other thing I did today was buy a portable speaker unit for my iPod and laptop. I chose a cylindrical unit called a Boomtube H201. It was on sale at CompUSA for $80. I did some research online and found it selling elsewhere for roughly twice as much, so I got a bit of a liquidation deal on this one.

It's made of sturdy aluminum and the left and right speakers detach for use, but screw on to each end of the cylinder for travel; it should be very rugged, suitable for Africa even. The cylinder part is supposed to function as a subwoofer, but it is a very mild bass; there's not much "boom" in the boomtube!

Now when we want to watch a DVD on our laptop, we'll be able to get a fuller sound than the tinny built-in speakers the iBook offers. And, because the left and right speakers detach, we'll be able to put them five or six feet apart for great stereo separation.

All in all, a very good day in every way!

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Day Three Phoenix: Pasta Pomodoro

Today's notable dining was dinner at Pasta Pomodoro. We first discovered this fresh-Italian restaurant in San Ramon, California. I'll never forget the first time we ordered their Bruschetta(*). Bruschetta in PEI or Toronto was generally four or six small grilled bread slices each with a dab of the diced tomato mix on top. Very small and dainty. Pomodoro's was four or six large grilled slices with a generous mound of extremely fresh tomato mix in the centre of the bowl -- a meal in itself!

Which is what I made it tonight!

*an Italian appetizer of toasted bread slices rubbed with olive oil and garlic and topped with diced tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper and served warm [Webster's]

She's so fine, my C-139

On the trip down, I realized that a cell phone would come in handy for phoning ahead to motels to confirm availability and pet-friendly status. We're on a pay-for-usage plan in Canada that does not include the US, so our Canadian cell phone is no good in the US.

I got the "big idea" of buying a US pay-as-you-go cell phone. I did a bit of research online on the way down, and zeroed in on Virgin Cellular, but the problem with them was, when you go to pay online, they are expecting a US-based Visa card -- the Zip Code of the billing address has to be an American Zip. This sort of thing has been a problem in the past.

I did a bit more digging and found a good candidate phone at Target. (They use the term "prepaid", rather than pay-as-you-go.) When I got to Target, I found a CompUSA store next door that had a clearance sale on. I figured I might as well start with them.

I ended up getting a TracFone Motorola C-139 for $14. (It sells for $15 at WalMart.) What's amazing about this is, this is exactly the same phone as I bought in Zambia! In Zambia I paid something like $60 or or $70 for it.

The purchase agreement specifically says that I agree not to tamper with or alter the software/hardware that comes with the phone. Which basically means that I can't take it to Zambia and "unlock" the phone to use it there or in another country with a different SIM card. I think as a Christian it is important that we honor agreements, although I run into a lot of Christians who just blow such things off and go ahead and do what suits them. I don't think that honors the Lord, and that it amounts to a blind spot on their part. (I'm sure I have my own blind spots that are just as offensive to the Lord.)

Another area that I marvel at is the buying of fake items, like fake Rolex watches and other designer-label items. I know of Christians that absolutely relish doing this, and also buying bootleg DVDs, CDs, and the like. But where is the love of God in this? The love of God tells me that we should love corporations as well as people. When you buy a bootleg, or download a video or music illegally, you are denying the owner of the artistic work his rightful due. Plus, when it comes to fake label items, it's a form of bearing false witness -- it's not really a Rolex, it's a fake.

Anyway, I've got the phone, it's been activated; I've got an Arizona number, and we've done a test on it, we called the phone, and it rang!

So, we're "good to go".

It will be interesting to see what use we make of it on our way back.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day Two: Phoenix - In-N-Out-Burger (!!!)

I guess yesterday's Day Seven arrival also counts as Day One of our Phoenix visit. So this must be Day Two!

Breakfast: We had the Camelback Inn buffet breakfast; breakfast is included in our points-stay deal. We had the usual kind of things -- eggs, bacon, waffle, berries and some huevos rancheros.

Lunch: In-N-Out-Burger (!!!). Some people consider a visit to an In-N-Out Burger a pilgrimage. I would include myself among them. When I bit into the fries and the burger today, it reminded me of just how great they taste.

In-N-Out-Burger is a California chain that has obviously expanded. They feature pristine white-tiled restaurants, upbeat, cheery staff, and the bestest, freshest hamburgers imaginable. I used to eat them all the time when I worked in northern California (that is, once they arrived in northern California; they used to only be available in southern California). As a point of trivia, if you ever watch Chevy Chase's "Fletch", there's a reference to an In-N-Out Burger in the movie.

The fries are also excellent; what is outstanding about them is how potatoey they taste. They're fries, but you can still taste the potato; what a novel idea!

In-N-Out-Burger serves the kind of food one would be proud to serve at home; there's nothing stale or pre-processed or frozen-tasting about the food served here.

As a point of comparison, another interesting chain in Backyard Burgers. This is a southern US chain; I went to one once in Mississippi. Their burgers taste just like the name suggests -- as if they had been cooked on a backyard BBQ. I saw a Backyard Burger being built in Branson; I should check their website to see how far they've come.

I checked Uno Chicago Grill last night on the web and discovered that they have gotten as far as Phoenix! That's pretty exciting.

Dinner: nothing to report.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Day Seven: The Eagle has landed and the Phoenix is rising

We liked our dinner so much at La Postada we returned for breakfast. We had a baked eggs dish and a mexican shredded beef dish. Both were delicious. We asked to see a room and were given keys to two rooms. We liked the "Alice Faye" room so much we booked it for the first leg of our return journey! The hotel is right at an Amtrak station, and also is on Route 66. It is steeped in history, and is undergoing a luxuriant restoration. You can check it out online.

Lunch was a banana; dinner was some Greek food at The Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Phoenix. We tried to go to Garcia's, but the one I had the address for is no longer there, so we'll try another location, perhaps tomorrow.

We have arrived in Phoenix. We'll be staying a week at the J.W. Marriott Camelback Resort. You can look it up online and gasp at the daily rates, but we are using Marriott Reward points that I accumulated when my business was going full tilt. When I "retired", I had over a million Marriott points!

We plan to do: nothing. In this day and age, doing nothing is a precious gift.

On our way down to Phoenix we passed through Sedona. We came around a bend at one point and the scene before my eyes was so awesome, I found myself breathing in involuntarily; I think this must be what is known as a "breath-taking" view.

I praise the Lord who created this wonderful scene. It is really a shame that Sedona has been "appropriated" by new agers all caught up with crystals and vortexes and stuff.

We managed to take in a lot of the fast-food places on our list; some of the ones we haven't been to yet are:

- Whataburger

- White Castle

- Jack in the Box

- Sonic

All in good time.

We thank the Lord for travelling mercies and for bringing us safely to our journey's end, or, at least, our destination point.

Day Six: The Turquoise Room, La Posada Hotel

It's one of those grand hotels that movie stars and celebrities stayed at. It's on the railway line and Route 66 too. It's La Posada Hotel, in Winslow ("standing on the corner") Arizona. We ate a late dinner in the Turquoise Room. It was definitely top-notch gourmet dining. The signature soup was delicious. On one side of the bowl it's corn, on the other, black beans. On both sides, it was delicious! We also had tastes of elk, buffalo, beef, quail, you name it. A memorable culinary experience!

We began our day at the included-buffet at the lovely Santa Rosa Holiday Inn Express. Lunch, we really didn't have, we just snacked on bananas and cookies.

Our day included a tour of Albuquerque Old Town and also a visit to "Sky City", an Indian village high atop one of the New Mexico buttes. It was $12 each for a guided tour.

I misjudged the distance to Winslow, AZ, so we ended up driving into the evening and arrived tired.

We're spending the night at the Holiday Inn Express in Winslow Arizona.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We interrupt this trip report...

For alarming news on global warming.

According to today's media coverage of climate change, scientists are reporting "the end of civilization as we know it", and an NPR luminary is referring to the "death of a planet".

And here we are, blithely on our way to Phoenix.

We may not make it.

The ground may dry up and burn with fervent heat before we get there.

If we do make it, no doubt the lakes and streams will all be dried up, and the ground will crack and groan as the earth lets out its death wail.

On the other hand, there's good science to indicate that the climate fluctuations we are undergoing are well within what is considered historical norms, e.g., the warm period during the middle ages in Europe. And, there are also solid indicators that we are within ten years of a reversal and a global cooling trend.

So, maybe we should just hang in and enjoy our trip.

Now, get back to whatever it was you were doing.

Enjoy life!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day Five: 66 Greetings from the Mother Road!

We began the day in Oklahoma City, OK. The breakfast at the Biltmore was good. I had biscuits and milk gravy -- the gravy was definitely on the milky side. We had a great hispanic waitress who got us coffee for the road.

We hit the road and stopped for lunch in McLean Texas. We ate at the Red River Steakhouse, an authentic small-town Texas eatery. The portions were Texas-size. I had a green chili cheeseburger. I thought it would come with a green chili sauce, but it was two slices of green chilis (or is it chiles?).

We pushed on into New Mexico, blew by Tucumcari, and made it to Santa Rosa. We are staying right on Route 66!

We ate at the Silver Moon Mexican and American Food Restaurant. I had a green chili pork stew with tortillas that was out of this world, off the charts! It was awesome. The first spoonful, I put down the spoon and said, "wow!".

We're staying at another Holiday Inn Express. We like the decor, the freshness, and we like the bedding that they are featuring. Also the shower head. This one is only 14 months old. I've concluded that age is a very important indicator for a hotel/motel -- I wish guide books indicated when the place was built.

It was going to be pricey. I booked the "Best Available Rate" over the internet. That was $105. Then, they were going to charge $10 for each additional adult "starting with the second". I'm not sure what that meant, since I booked a room for two. Then, they were going to charge a hefty $25 pet fee. That was putting the cost of the room north of $100 and pushing $150 with taxes. But I thought it was worth a try, and my backup plan was to use some Holiday Inn reward points and pay for the room that way.

When I arrived I told the very young woman at the desk (I think she had braces but maybe I'm just imagining that part!) that I wanted to check the rate, since it was more than what was quoted in the AAA Tour Book. I had booked the "Best Available Rate", which I had foolishly assumed was the best available rate. Silly me! First, she told me that the AAA rate was $95. Then I queried her about the pet fee. Sure enough, it was going to be $25. I said that was high. She asked me if I was a "Priority Club" member; I said I was; the fee was now $15. Finally, she looked at me and told me she could offer me the seniors' rate, which was $84. So, I got the whole thing down to $99 plus taxes. Still not cheap, but a lot better than it would have been.

I guess the moral of the story is you have to keep asking if they can do something to lower the rate.

We also visited an interesting Route 66 Museum today; I think it was in Elk City OK. Tomorrow, our target is Winslow AZ.

With our arrival in New Mexico, I feel that our travelling is over, and our touring has begun!

And that's the way the Ball bounces!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day Four: Western Sizzlin', and our hotel room goes up in smoke

Western Sizzlin' is an old favourite of ours from the days we spent at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. That was back in 1984. We used to go there with our friends, Jeff and Gail Monroe.

We ate at a Western Sizzlin' today in Arkansas. We had the seniors' buffet, complete with sirloin tips and fried chicken. It was good (but not "great"). We did pass a couple of catfish places; I really want to try one after Boopchile's post. We'll get there at some point.

Tonite we had trouble getting a room. The Amerisuites we had lined up in Oklahoma City had turned into a Wyndeham Suites, and their pet policy was that they would put you in a smoking room if you had a pet.

Here's my view on sleeping in a smoking room: I'd rather sleep in the car!

So I went across the street and booked us into a Studio 6, a version of Motel 6. Since it had a fridge and stove, we went off to buy some groceries instead of going out for dinner. When we got back, I entered the room, and -- the smell of stale smoke. Worse, it's the kind of motel room where the windows don't open.

I went back to the person on duty and he let me try another room.

Even worse.

So, we got a refund and hit the road.

We went to the other side of Oklahoma City and eventually ended up at the Biltmore Hotel. Quite a place. Huge. Reasonably priced. Free HS Internet (so I can do this); free hot breakfast buffet tomorrow morning; and a huge room with, ta-da, fresh-smelling air in the room!!! All this for $72 USD a night, which is quite reasonable, I think.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Day Three: Imo's Pizza (St. Louis); Lambert's - Home of the Throwed Rolls (Ozark, MO)

Day three began with a Holiday Inn Express breakfast in Effingham, IL.

Imo's: We drove down into St. Louis, where we got an Imo's St. Louis-style pizza. The St. Louis pizza has an ultra thin crust; the crust is just thick enough to hold the ingredients. Because it is so thin, they slice the pizza into small rectangles rather than the large triangles we are used to. The pizza was delicious! They use a special cheeze; I think it's a blend of pavorone (sp?), swiss, and mozzarella.

Lambert's: We drove I-44 to Springfield, MO and the exited onto 65S towards Branson, MO. We stopped at Lambert's, "The only home of the throwed rolls". There motto is "Come Hungry", and for a reason. You order an entree and then they come around with an endless, perpetual supply of "fixin's", such as black-eyed peas, fried ocre, hot tomatoes and macaroni, etc. They also come around with hot-out-of-the-oven rolls, which they throw (toss) at you. It's a lot of fun. Our server let us know that we could have as much of our main courses as well. I had a pot roast that was delicious. But I could barely finish it and definitely was not interested in seconds.

We drove on about 25 miles or so and are staying the night in Branson, MO. If you've never heard of Branson, it's kind of like a down-market Las Vegas, without the slot machines. It's an entertainment mecca, featuring Andy Williams and other "classic" entertainers.

The Holiday Inn Express we are staying at tonight is an older property and not as fresh as the excellent one we stayed in last night.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Day Two: Cracker Barrel and the Lone Star

Saturday March 8th.

Breakfast at Bob Evans -- good as usual.

Lunch at a Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel always sounds better than it actually turns out. Today was no exception. They had chicken dumplins [sic] on the menu. For some reason, dumplings appealed to me -- a traditional home-cooking kind of thing. They tasted like soggy flour. I ate them anyway. The corn muffins also appealed to me -- they were greasy and metallic-tasting. I ate one and left the other.

We turned in early at Effingham, Illinois. Yesterday, we didn't get into Fort Wayne until around 6:30 pm, and, by the time you get settled in, it's just too late.

Dinner at The Lone Star. The chili I ordered was so greasy I didn't eat it -- and the waitress didn't argue with me about it. We shared a steak sandwich and the biggest sweet potato we had ever seen.

In a stroke of luck (or is it planning genius?), we've arrived in Illinois just in time for the switch over to daylight savings time, so we're just leaving our watches the way they are, and tomorrow, they'll be correct!

We're at a Holiday Inn Select, so we're looking forward to the breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Great American Restaurant Odyssey Day One: Bob Evans and Uno's Pizza

We are on a road trip to Phoenix.

We got away at 8:30am. Friday morning and got to Sarnia and the US border by noon. It was exactly 300 km. to the border. Across into Michigan and the beginning our Great American Restaurant Odyssey.

First stop: Bob Evans. I like the clean, home-cooked taste of a Bob Evans Restaurant. A first: my first "seniors" meal! I had a single fried egg and the Bob Evans sausage/biscuit-and-gravy combo.

Prognosis: delicious!

From Port Huron over to Lansing and some bum directions courtesy of Mapquest -- they left out a highway! We finally figured it out.

From Lansing down to Fort Wayne, Indiana. 700 km. Stopped at a Candlewood Suites. Arrived at 6:30pm.

Prognosis: clean and home-like; fridge, stove, etc. Robbie (our cairn terrier) approved!

I went out for the main event of the day: a Uno's deep-dish pizza. They had a special, so I got a deep-dish and a flatbread pizza.

A deep-dish pizza like Uno's is indescribable; it is one of this planet's great eating experiences. I hadn't had one in at least ten years.

How do I describe the indescribable? Well, it differs from a regular pizza because it is really a pie; pizza used to be called a "pizza pie"; I can recall Ralph Kramden of the Honeymooners using the term. This is a pie. It's more like a meat pie than what we consider a pizza today; the crust reminds me of the buttery crust of a cornish meat pie. It's almost more stew-like than like a traditional pizza.

A great start to a great vacation.

Tomorrow's plan: St. Louis, home of Imo's Pizza and Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

March 8, 2007 -- the day everything changed

Today, March 8, 2007, a man announced the invention of a device which automates the rolling up of the rim of your Tim Hortons cup to see if you've won anything during that quintessentially Canadian annual rite of Spring, "Roll up the Rim to Win!".

This invention marks the high-water mark of western civilization; all things are now in place and perfected; all prophecies fulfilled; the conditions are now both ripe and right for the Lord's return.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm baaaaaacccck!

I'm back from Africa, where I was not able to do much by way of posting because of very slow to non-existent Internet services. I'm going to continue posting some highlights of my Africa trip over the next week or two on my sister-site "Good News for Zambia and Beyond".

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"