Monday, February 27, 2012

What Were They Thinking

Why try to improve on a perfect product and brand name. Crown Royal tried and failed. The new product is Crown Royal Black. When I first heard about the new product, I wondered how much better could "Black" be versus the non-Black.

When I did an internet search, I found at the Crown Royal site that Crown Royal Black is "A bolder, darker and more robust whiskey blended at 90 proof, yet with the signature smoothness of Crown Royal. It has a deeper oak background with dark, sweet, maple notes and a light vanilla flavor towards the finish."

In chats with others who knew that Crown Royal was a favored liquor for me, I was told that it was a sipping bourbon. Don't care for bourbon and that was the end of any thoughts about Crown Royal Black. Until...

A road acquaintance passed through town on his way back east. Knowing my tastes, Jim brought me a bottle of Crown Royal Black. I apologized that since I wasn't a bourbon drinker, I was probably not going to enjoy it. Perhaps he could give it to another who liked bourbon. Nothing doing. It was a gift. I thanked him for his generosity as we continued our conversation about his new Sportsmobile.

Jim left me with the gift on my table: the bottle of Crown Royal Black sitting in a black box and the bottle was in a black bag. Since it was there, I decided I would do a taste test that afternoon at my personal social hour before dinner.

Four o'clock arrived. The routine was the same as if I was drinking the original Crown Royal. Got out a glass. Put a half dozen ice cubes in the glass. Poured a single shot (the usual is two shots) of the Crown Royal Black into the glass and sat down at the table. Took a sip. Sure tasted like bourbon to me. I don't like bourbon. Could never make that smooth enough for me. Took a second sip. Wasn't getting any better.

Took the glass to the sink and poured it down the drain. Rinsed out the glass and poured the real stuff. Much much better.

Good news is that I found one of my RVing neighbors in the park likes bourbon. So I re-gifted the Crown Royal Black. After tasting it, he said it reminded him of a bottled Manhatten. That reminded me of the words from the Crown Royal site: "...deeper oak background with dark, sweet, maple notes and a light vanilla flavor". Seems the marketing hype got that right.

If the Crown Royal market experts had checked with their existing customers, they would have found out that their customers drink Crown Royal because they don't like bourbon.

Was any market research done for this new product. Perhaps none. Could it have been the new company president who liked bourbon. It was a directive from the power seat. So there was the new product taking advantage of the cachet of the Crown Royal name.

Really. What were they thinking.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Watching Birds In Flight

A draw for my visits to the Sonora Desert Museum are the daily demonstrations of hawks in flight. It is never tiring as I bring home more photos of hawks. The most recent visit was for the afternoon demonstration of the Harris Hawks. They are pack hunters and share in the kill.

A museum docent tells all about the Harris Hawk, its family units, its hunting style, and far more information than I am usually inclined to get from a bird book. This process is much easier to imprint on my brain. It is a single bird that is described as the family of Harris Hawks fly from perch to perch -- mostly the tops of saguaros.

These Harris Hawks stick around the Museum and are trained with the usual -- food. In this case it is quail breast meat. Like many of the hawks in at the Museum, the Harris Hawks are native to the area and can be found across southern Arizona including Tucson.

While I roamed the Museum grounds, Cactus Wren were seen several times. It is that time of year to make a nest and start the brood. Rather than perching atop a nearby saguaro, I managed a photo op with this one on a nearby rock.

Today while hiking in the desert behind the park, a red tailed hawk was riding the thermals. Never tire of watching a large bird in flight.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doing Your Small Part

To prove you are a human and not a robot, internet sites and blogs use the CAPTCHA. Enter the two words into the box to prove you have eyes and not a robot who is more interested in leaving spam.

The story about the CAPTCHA is at TED. CAPTCHA creator Luis von Ahn describes in massive-scale online collaboration how you help in creating digitized books from scanned books. As you enter the characters of the word, you assist in making sense of words that may not have scanned as a recognizable word.

Now doesn't that make you feel good knowing that you are contributing some small effort to digitizing old books.

TED is a destination for educational, entertaining and thinking pieces which are rarely found on the internet. The site is checked about once a month to see the latest posted talks. It is one of those few sites where I don't mind eating into my monthly internet limit of 5GB per month.

Even though CAPTCHAs are used on my blog for comments, there has been the very infrequent spam comment. Those spam comments will include a URL to sell some product. When found, the comment is deleted. Don't know how they got there. A robot computer program. Slave labor in India or China. Don't know. If the spam became a problem, comments would be turned off.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tea At Starbucks

For tea tomorrow, a road acquaintance friend (RAF) will join me at Starbucks to use his gift card. The closest Starbucks location is inside a Safeway store. And that is the conundrum. My RAF may be allowed to help decide between the Safeway store and the standalone store which is another four miles. However, since I am driving, we will end up at the standalone Starbucks.

There are Starbucks in grocery stores and other retail outlets. When there is nothing else available, I do go to one of those locations to have my tea and use the (kinda free) Wi-Fi. The problem in grocery stores is watching the buggies loaded with items that really aren't groceries -- like three twelve packs of sodas. And nothing else. (Okay Lloyd. Stop there before going off on a rant tangent.)

With choices, my destination is a stand alone Starbucks. Sitting inside without grocery buggies passing by is a positive. An additional positive with the standalone Starbucks is the outdoor seating. Not great seating overlooking a river or something like this sunset desert scene.

The Starbucks seating is in front of the store with the cars parked less than 20 feet from the table. Not what I would consider a "quiet retreat". That location also tops the outdoor seating at the grocery store where that seating area is usually occupied by the grocery clerks on their smoke break. 

There may have been others, but I recall only one Starbucks location where the outdoor seating wasn't on the sidewalk between the store and the parking lot or street. That one is the REI store in Denver where the outdoor seating overlooks Confluence Park on the Platte River. Away from the parking lot, their outdoor seating is a great place for watching people recreating on the water and bike trails or just relaxing on a sunny day.

People watching is also an indoor activity. Doesn't get much better than inside a Starbucks. Eaves dropping on conversations is entertainment and gives me a chance to make up stories. Certainly not scientific, but it would be easy to draw conclusions regarding the local demographics from watching the store's clientele: their age(s), their attire, their laptop, etc.

Whenever at a Starbucks, the baristas are fascinating as they make "the drink your way". Variations seem to be endless. Doesn't take much to spend $20. A mother or father arrives with two children. A fancy drink and a doughnut for each, the total will be close to $20 before the tip. And there was no table service. Perhaps Starbucks stock might be a prudent investment.

Not a big spender at Starbucks, my brewed mid sized tea is priced at about $2.20 -- depending on local sales tax. With that, I have justified my usage of their Wi-Fi.

Conundrum resolved. I'm driving. Tomorrow, RAF and I will have tea and coffee at the stand alone Starbucks.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Artistry In Stone

The beautifully stone constructed home was built in the early 1930s by Sherry Bowen and his wife Ruby. The stone walls are a tribute to a craftsman who built those walls. With carefully selected and hewed rocks, the inside and the outside are a jigsaw puzzle of stone patterns. No plaster and lath inside to cover the beauty of the rock patterns. Not a large home, this view is from the "great room".

For the 1930s, this was a remote location in the mountains west of downtown Tucson. That had to mean a commute for Bowen for his job as newspaperman. Certainly a great place to come at the end of the day.

A few wild flowers were found along the trail. The most frequent sighting were the Blue Dicks. (Gotta wonder how some flowers were named.) There were small patches of Poppies to brighten up the desert scene and remind the hiker that warmer days are ahead.

Enjoyed a great day of early wild flowers and the long ago artistry of a rock mason.

Friday, February 17, 2012

No Pennies -- Not Cheaper

One of my gripes is the number of pennies in my pocket at any one time. A personal crusade (blog posts**) to get the penny out of circulation has gone no where. Thanks to Boonie for pointing me to a recent post of Mish Shedlocks to rid the US cash economy of the penny where finding I am not alone in this crusade.

Instead of getting rid of the danged pennies, Obama just wants to make them cheaper. How do you make a coin cheaper when it costs 2.4 cents to make pseudo copper pocket filler. Be honest. The raw material is not the big cost of making the penny. How about the labor costs with pensions and health insurance. There are lots of other costs. However, since this is a government entity, the costs do not have property taxes and all that other overhead that any private business would deal with.

Once again. How about getting the penny out of circulation. Charge card transactions will be charged to the penny. Any cash transaction is rounded up or down.

For those who cannot figure this out or math may be a problem. Here is how it works.
  • .x1 and .x2 are rounded down to .x0 
  • .x3 and .x4 are rounded up to .x5
  • .x6 and .x7 are rounded down to .x5
  • .x8 and .x9 are rounded up to the next dime (x+1)
How hard is that.

Long time ago in Denver (the 70s) there was a restaurant bar that rounded to the nearest nickel. I always applauded their efforts. However, it never did catch on. Over the years, I have found the rare business that rounds to the nearest nickel. But it is rare. I always thank them for that.

If you are in line at the cash register behind me, you will be the recipient of the pennies if the change for my purchase includes pennies. No matter how many.

** Previous blog posts encouraging no more pennies:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cold Bird Sighting

The hike started with wind and temps in the high 50s. 30% chance of rain was the prediction. Pretty good odds that it wasn't going to rain. The hike destination was the saguaro with the owl nest. An intrepid group, we forged on even though the temperatures were dropping and the clouds were banking up on the Tucson mountains. Didn't even know if the owl was going to be there.

As we neared the saguaro, the tufted ears of the owl were visible. Another hiker and I went ahead to make sure. Appears the owl decided to keep her eggs warm rather than taking flight. Going in small groups, eventually all saw the owl from the distance of about 30 yards.

It was really cold. Short pants are okay. But my hands were frozen. Spattering of rain fell as we continued the two and half mile hike back to the park. Soon it was icy pellets falling from that very cold gray sky. Wind, rain and icy pellets does not make for a pleasant hike.

Once back at Wandrin Wagon, cold hands were fumbling with the keys to open the door. Checked the temperature. 37 degrees. Took a while to warm up and flex the arthritic fingers. Note to self: take gloves next time.

The cold rainy day might have been a negative, but the positive was the owl sighting. Although very little, the moisture will help the wild flower bloom.

During the afternoon, the skies cleared up. Later a photo op was a reflection of the sunset on the clouds to the north.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ruby Search

Along with several others from the RV park, it was a long drive to Ruby. Quoting from the Tucson official Destination Guide 2011, "[Ruby]... is one of Arizona's best preserved ghost towns." Wow. Cannot really imagine what the next candidate may look like.

The sign was new including the 21st century entry fee of $12 per person for this privately owned property.

Depending upon original building construction of concrete, adobe or wood, some buildings have survived the elements and vandals in better condition than others. Excellent ventilation with no doors or windows for most of the buildings. The steel roofs have saved most of the structures from the sun and monsoon rains from being recycled by nature years ago.

An interior photo of this "preserved" ghost town.

Rusting machinery and mining materiel is scattered throughout the property including this truck. Could this truck date to the 1930s. Mine operations ended in the mid 1940s.

The mine tailings have filled up the valley below the town damming up a small lake which is replenished from monsoon rains. The barricades keep the tourist from driving on the soft and unstable tailings. That is Montana Mountain in the background. Ruby was called Montana Camp before being renamed Ruby.

As the stucco flakes off the adobe bricks, interesting patterns appear. This one resembles the downward slope of economic indicators since 2008.

During my photo op walk-about of Ruby, it was a search for rocks of interest. No rubies. Red rocks maybe. Couldn't get a good photo, but the best find was a cluster of quartz crystals. Not gem show quality, but it was my find.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Starbucks is a great place to have some tea and use Starbucks free Wi-Fi. Okay. So I did pay for the tea. Good place to watch people or eaves drop on conversations. And from that I can make up stories.

There are three Starbucks in/near the University of Arizona campus. For my morning tea break, I chose the Starbucks at Campbell and Broadway in spite of the parking that isn't designed for Silver Slug. Standing in line to get my tea, I heard "Lloyd". I turned to see Jaimie of RV Home Yet and RV LifeStyle Experts. I knew that Jaimie and George were in Tucson and parked at an RV park about two miles from where I am parked.

We each had to drive about fifteen miles to coincidentally be at the same Starbucks at the same time. How does that happen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creativity Requires Quiet Times

Creativity requires solitude. That was my conclusion after realizing that I had not posted to my blog for a week. Seems more solitude is required than I allowed myself for the past week. After dropping Rich at the airport this morning I returned to Wandrin Wagon to catch up. Wow. That was when I noted the last blog entry of a week ago.

It was a busy week exploring, eating and coffee/tea breaks. We didn't get to everything that I had hoped to share, but we made a very good dent in the list. One of the reasons for Rich coming at this time was for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. After my previous stays in Tucson and being aware of the DeGrazia Gallery, I had never gotten there. Knowing Rich likes art, it was a no brainer destination. The gallery was a high point of the week.

Back at Wandrin Wagon and on the internet this afternoon, there were emails that required answers. Then there were all those blog entries by others. I subscribe to far too many blogs via RSS and read on Google Reader. In the past week, I read few of them. I scanned the titles and then simply clicked the "All Read" icon.

One of the saved blog posts was by Frank Bures pointing to his essay as he pondered the need for solitude to be creative. Although his essay addresses the need to silence the internet to be creative, for me it was just having some quiet time for my brain to process thoughts and previous exploring. Hard to turn down all the volume of inputs to the brain. The brain synapses seemed to continue firing after all the touring, dining, chatting and people met. Some of my dreams this past week were fantastic variations of the week's experiences.

Looking forward, there will be a single exploring event each day rather than two, three or four. That alone will allow me more solitude and give my brain the opportunity to process the data.

It is also time to review all those blogs that I subscribe to. Some of those need to be deleted from the reader list.

With the little solitude I allowed myself this afternoon, this post is the extent of today's creativity.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saguaro -- Artist Version

Tucson brochures frequently contain a stylized version of a saguaro. The usual look is a single bole with two arms. The arms are on opposite sides and one is a little higher than then other.

A real saguaro with that artistic shape is rare. However, I did manage to find one when hiking in the hills behind the RV park.

My original intent was to use Photoshop and place this saguaro in a desert sunset. However, that was unnecessary when I found that photo.

In a separate related project to select best photos from the past ten years of nomadic travel, I came across a photo of that idealized saguaro at sunset. The photo was taken at Organ Pipe NM.

With that, there will be no more blog posts with saguaros as the subject.  There may be saguaros in future photos, but the subject of the post will not be a saguaro. Maybe. There is always the chance that I could violate that promise if a found saguaro was especially unique.