Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

At coffee this morning, someone asked why we were spending so much money on a mission to Jupiter that will take five years to get there and another five to return. She wondered why we couldn’t spend all that money here on earth for our needs and requirements here. As you might imagine, that question launched a very spirited conversation with excellent points made on all sides of the topic. Most of my answers revolved around the joy of discovery rather than economic possibilities. Although I agree that the economic possibilities are extremely important, I deeply feel that we humans are capable and desirous of knowing and experiencing so much more than that. So, this excellent article in  the July 01, 2007 Air & Space Magazine by Michael Griffin satisfied my need for more reasons for space exploration.
I loved the author’s comparison of space exploration today with building cathedrals hundreds of years ago, of the wonder, awe, and curiosity about things unknown. Because building massive cathedrals took such a long time, most of those builders did not live to see their projects completed. In the same way, most of us now living will not be around to see the results of our space exploration. However, it gives me a wonderful feeling just knowing we might be accomplishing important work for the long haul of life here on earth for future generations.
“It is my contention that the products of our space program are today’s cathedrals. The space program satisfies the desire to compete, but in a safe and productive manner, rather than in a harmful one. It speaks abundantly to our sense of human curiosity, of wonder and awe at the unknown. Who can watch people assembling the greatest engineering project in the history of mankind—the International Space Station—and not wonder at the ability of people to conceive and to execute the project? And it also addresses our need for leaving something for future generations.” (Michael Griffin)

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I drove the twenty miles down Hwy 52 to La Jolla Shores this morning to take a long walk on the beach and snap some pictures for friends in Oklahoma and Ohio. Thought they might like to warm up a little. It was a beautiful, sunny day though not extremely warm. However, there were lots of walkers, surfers, joggers, and cyclists taking advantage of the sunny weather.

While walking down to the Scripps pier, my mind leaped from one topic to the next. So, this will most likely be somewhat disjointed, with no apparent organization. Not exactly stream of consciousness, but close.

On the way to the beach, I stopped for an oil change in the pickup since it had been over 5,000 miles since the last one. They tried to fix the “check engine” light, which has been on now for about two years. No place I’ve taken the vehicle has been able to figure out what is wrong. They reset it but the light comes back on as soon as I start the engine. So, I’ll take it into a mechanic next week to see if they can figure it out. I need to have the light stay off in order to pass the smog test here, needed to register the vehicle in California.

While listening to KPBS while driving, I heard an interview with the author of The Gangster We Are All Looking For. When asked her thoughts about living in San Diego, she said she thinks it’s necessary to leave for a while, then return, to really appreciate living here. Although I was born and lived here for 28 years, I loved my 35 years in Oregon and would go back in a minute. I also enjoyed my short time in Kansas and Oklahoma, except for the weather extremes. In the middle of a hot, muggy summer in Oklahoma, I attempted growing my hair longer and  found out it still had some natural curl. Not a pleasant sight.

No, I don’t like the high prices of everything here, the number of people, standing in long lines for just about everything, or freeway traffic. But, the weather trumps all of it. That, and the beach. My body must be composed of 99% saltwater or something.

After walking in the tide line down to the pier and back, I sat on top of a picnic table in the grassy area and just people-watched for a while. I pulled out a new package of Fig Newtons, marveling at the easy-open pull tab on the top. That made it just too easy to pig out a bit. At least those cookies are fairly healthy. There’s no way I’d dare to buy peanut butter filled Oreos with the same top: they’d be gone in less than ten minutes. And, my teeth would be black.

BTW, how do you eat Oreos? I’ve always carefully separated them, eating the filling first, then the cookies. My friend Lou eats the whole thing at once.

Back to the picnic table. I loved seeing the wonderfully-colored and decorated surfboards. One of them was blue and green plaid. Another was bright yellow with flowers. One guy had bought a bright, shiny red board, and someone else carried one that was light blue with a dark blue, diagonal stripe. All of them now come with an ankle strap to keep the board from getting away too far.

I watched a group of college guys play touch football in the sand. And, I read for a while, A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson. This quote made me think for a little bit: “Sometimes I think women are like the fog. We have a knowledge of what is underneath, but our real selves are obscured by what others think of us.”

Food for thought.

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Mystery Shopping

Because a number of people have asked me questions about Mystery Shopping such how to do it, how to get assignments, and so forth, I decided to put together a short post of some of the information I’ve found most helpful.

I’ve done mystery shopping for several years, and during that time it’s been fun to observe and report about both excellent as well as terrible customer service. I’ve acted as a prospective member of fitness centers, inquired about cell phone plans, computer monitors, and party supplies, performed gas station audits, checked for serial numbers on the back of ice cream freezers, watched hundreds of movie previews (trailers), tried on clothing, shopped for new furniture, and eaten lots of fast food. The possibilities are as endless as the commercial establishments that use mystery shoppers to hopefully improve their customer service and sales.

If you’re interested in making a little extra money as an independent contractor, I’d suggest doing some reading and research first to learn exactly what is required and to discover if you have what it takes to be successful. I’ve found the following two websites invaluable and immensely helpful.

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) is a good place to begin. Please check out their website and bookmark it as a favorite as I’m sure you’ll return to it again and again. It offers a wealth of information as well as constantly updated shopping assignments from a wide variety of mystery shopping companies.

Volition provides extensive A-Z lists of the many, many shopping companies you can sign up to represent.

Probably the most time-consuming part of becoming a mystery shopper is signing up for various companies. I’ve usually found those companies on volition.com. All companies require information such as name, address, phone number, email address, height, weight, gender, and so forth. You might be asked to provide a sample or two of your writing. Each company is different because each company represents a variety of companies. Some of them notify you of possible assignments by email; for some you will need to check their site for available jobs. So, be sure to bookmark all of the companies you sign on with. Also be sure to note the user name and password you use.

Here are just a few of the companies for which I have completed many assignments.

Business Evaluation Service

Second to None

Market Force

Blogs represent another excellent way to gain information from shoppers’ experiences and hints. Here are only a few I found from a Google search.

8 Truths from a Mystery Shopper You Must Read Before you Get Started

Mystery Shopping Coach’s Update

Blogs About Mystery Shoppers

I realize this is just a very tiny bit of information about the field of mystery shopping. While doing your own research, you’ll find your own favorites. However, I hope these ideas will at least get you started.

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 P.S. Before being turned into a theater, the Old Barn at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah used to be a working barn. There’s a very good chance that Trigger, Buttercup, Silver, Scout, and one of the many horses John Wayne used got to sleep there during movie filming. 
 There also used  to be a speakeasy-type club in back called The Black Cat where the stars used to go for their entertainment. Kanab has always been quite a quiet, Mormon town, and even though it’s fairly close to Las Vegas, sometimes a little liquid refreshment or a game of cards on site hit the spot. The place burned down long ago, and not many people know about it. Now you do.

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Working in a Barn

Like me, I’m sure you’ve occasionally done something stupid enough that someone asked, “Were you raised in a barn?” Well, although I was definitely not RAISED in that barn, I’ve now spent lots of time in one.  Since beginning work at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah on April 1, I’ve hung around in a barn three hours a night, five nights a week, showing old Western movies that were filmed in this area.

Being raised during the 1950s and ’60s, I grew up watching the Lone Ranger and Tonto save the West from the bad guys, the ones who almost always wore black hats. I very seldom missed an episode of “Gunsmoke” or “Daniel Boone,” or “Have Gun, Will Travel,” but gave absolutely no thought to where those TV shows were filmed. But now I know.

Have you ever heard of Kanab, Utah? Before coming here four years ago to work at Parry Lodge, I didn’t know this place existed until my brother once told me that he and his wife were considering moving here. My intelligent comment at the time was, “Where?” They didn’t, but I’ve now spent a total of fourteen months here, a lot of that time showing old Western movies in The Old Barn.

All of the films we show, nineteen this season, have been filmed in this area of Kane County and Kanab, Utah. Although the fantastic red rock scenery doesn’t show to good advantage in black and white, in Technicolor it’s beautiful. What a great place to make Westerns!

Actor Joel McCrea starred in many movies here: “Cattle Drive” in 1951 with a very young Dean Stockwell, based on Kipling’s “Captains Courageous; “Ramrod” (1947) with a luminous-looking Veronica Lake; “The Outriders” (1950) with Arlene Dahl; and one of my favorites, “Trooper Hook” (1957) with Barbara Stanwyck. That movie was ahead of its time in serving as a commentary on toleration and acceptance of differences.

Rod Cameron starred in the forgettable, at least to me, “Oh! Susanna” (1951), which has absolutely nothing to do with a Susanna other than the title music.The plot concerns strained relations at an army fort during Indian wars. He also filmed “Ride the Man Down” (1952) with Forrest Tucker, a much better movie.

Two of my favorites this season have been “The Fargo Kid” (1940) and “Wagon Train,” (1940), both starring Tim Holt, the one with a beautiful smile. “The Fargo Kid” is a light Western comedy about mistaken identity.

Of course, the hands-on favorite of just about everyone this season has been “The Lone Ranger” with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, filmed in 1956. Every night it’s played to a full house with applause afterward.

As in any decent old movie house, I sell freshly-made popcorn as well as soft drinks and various kinds of ice cream. The comfortable, mismatched seats once graced various rooms in the Lodge. If you get there early enough, you can choose the most comfortable ones in the place–two plaid, overstuffed rockers.

Many guests have asked me how many people usually show up for the movies and, being honest, I tell them there’s really no way of knowing beforehand. It all depends on how many people are registered at the Lodge on a particular night, how many tour buses, and what country the folks on those tours are from, and how many people from the community show up for a night out. The French rarely come, most likely because of the language difference; the films were made before subtitles. However, the Japanese, as a rule, love their Westerns and their popcorn. Germans like the movies, as do the British. Most of the old Westerns have enough action to satisfy just about anyone.

Enough talking. Here are some pictures I took the other night.

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Here’s a  little Kanab “movie-in-the-barn” trivia for you. Last night I calculated just how many times I’ve shown the 24-minute short feature, “Return to Little Hollywood,” since April 1. My first season here, I complained about having to watch “Buffalo Bill” 38 times. Well, the figure for “Little Hollywood” is now at 160 with four more to go this coming week. Gee, do you think that might be the reason I can repeat it all in my sleep? However, I really love the freedom of this job. And smoozing with guests from all over the world is wonderful fun, especially when some of them dance to the pre-film Western music or applaud at the end of  “The Lone Ranger.” That makes it all worthwhile.

It’s the same here in the workampers RV park. As long as the place looks decent, I can pretty much do what I think needs to be done and set my own time for doing it. Getting rid of huge, still-green tumbleweeds is ideal as they take up a lot of space yet are very easy to pull up.

 The trick is to time their removal right before trash-emptying Thursdays. Otherwise they get dry and stickery before I can shove them into the dumpster. But,  I think it’s going to take a while before I’ll be able to see one in the desert somewhere and not think, “gotta pull that one up.”

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