Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Stream Near Ouray

One from the vault -- a stream flowing near Ouray, Colorado. I took this photo in September 2008 (when I was just getting back into walking after breaking my ankle):

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Types of Car Washes

I usually go for the touch-less kind where the big arm moves over your car and the bright helpful lights tell you what is being done, although I feel a bit cheated if I paid for the cheaper wash and now all the lights don't come on.

The ones that put your car on a conveyor belt and drag it through the wash are also good, but I'm always fearful that I'll be in the wrong gear, or heaven-forbid, touch the brake. Are these things really okay on your tires? I once watched my antenna get folded into a tiny mass of scrunchy metal as it was shredded and mangled in one of these, and I always think about that as I go through.

Every once in a while, the old fashioned "hand-wash," where actual humans put wire brushes to the tires and use cloths and soap on the car are great, but I never know how much to tip.

And now one more to try. I wonder if they dry the car with their tails?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nutrilite Tour

Nutrilite vitamins are both the 1934 brainchild of Carl Rehnborg and the beginning of the huge MLM company you know as Amway. We took the tour of one of their facilities today. The plants that are used to provide the vitamins are all organically grown in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil, and we saw the way they are rotated, how pests are controlled, and the care they use to ensure quality.

John got his photo taken with our guide, Deena, and Carl's son, Dr. Sam (okay, Dr. Sam was a cutout!):

Then, John got his photo taken with Carl himself (again, one of them is a cutout!)

John found a four-leaf clover -- and then everyone wanted a photo of it!

We saw some original machinery used to automate product control and packaging:

John got to play with worms:

And finally we meet a really smart goat (the one who found the shade under the table):

It made us feel healthier just to be around all those leafy plants and juicy fruits! But alas, there were no free samples at the end of the tour.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We saw a Jeopardy taping today!

Jeopardy has been a favorite program of both of us for about as long as we can remember. Since we are parked outside of LA, I decided to see about tickets -- and found they were easy to get with about a week's notice -- so off we go!

We needed to be in Culver City at 10:45 (for an 11:30 taping), so we left at 8:45 for the 70 mile trip and just barely made it in time -- even this late in the morning, traffic was a bear (one of the things I don't miss from my time in Baltimore!). We would be there until 2:00 P.M., seeing three consecutive shows. A week's shows are filmed on a single day in two sessions: three shows before lunch, and two after. Each session has a different audience.

The taping took place at Sony Studios, the current home of both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Interestingly, this studio used to be MGM's, and one of the now-paved roads we walked down was originally THE yellow brick road. If only I'd worn my ruby slippers!

After the ID check, intro talk, and body scan, we entered the studio. No cameras, no phones, no videos allowed (cameras could be taken in, but only if the guard saw that the batteries were removed). The audience section is divided into two completely separate -- and separated -- sections: one for us, and one for the friends and relatives of the contestants. The latter were admonished to make absolutely NO contact with their friends -- even a "hello" or a wave could get the contestant disqualified (the ghosts of the quiz show scandal are still taken very, very seriously).

Our audience section held 70 people, and the seats were plush and comfy. We were warned that a difficult requirement for us would be to stop doing what we normally do in our living rooms -- shouting the responses! If we did, the show would stop, and a new question would be used. That did turn out to be very difficult but John and I managed -- we had microphones placed above us to capture our applause, and they would also have captured our words so we couldn't even whisper to each other. We did nudge a bit here and there!

The taping began right on schedule. The shows have very little post-production work needed -- just about everything is captured on the tape from the beginning. The opening graphic starts things off, with Johnny Gilbert's announcing "This is Jeopardy!" along with the contestants' names, home towns, and occupations. Alex Trebek walks out, and the game begins. It stops when the normal commercial breaks occur, although the commercials are not shown. In most cases the breaks are the same amount of time as the commercials will be so they can be inserted later.

During the breaks, the judges discuss any responses that may have been incorrectly ruled as wrong. If there are none, Alex Trebek poses for customary still photos with the contestants or takes audience questions.

After the first show, one of the pages asked if anyone had to go to the restroom -- "YES," my bladder screamed, sorry that I had earlier gulped so much coffee. To reach the restrooms, we had to leave the building, walk outside along the side of the building, and around a corner. Really, how hard would it be to have a couple restrooms there in the studio? The page then told us we had "two minutes." We actually had a lot longer, but we all hurried!

When we got back, Johnny Gilbert was taking questions. Soon, the previous winner came out, having changed into a new outfit to make it look like a different day, and two new contestants were brought in.

Each show went by very quickly. We did get to see a discussion among the judges about an answer (two of the contestants wound up getting their money returned as their answers were ruled to be correct), a Daily Double that had to be redone with another question because someone in the audience called out the answer (the contestant got the first one right, but missed the replacement), and a contestant who won the game by only $1. Plus we got to meet the Clue Crew -- they were sitting in the front and stood to be introduced.

Some other interesting things we learned:

  • Categories, of course, are reused, but never clues. When a category is selected, writers go back and review all previous responses in the category to be sure they are unique.
    Second place contestant gets $2000; third place $1000.
  • If two contestants tie for a win, they are both brought back. If all three wind up with nothing, there is no winner and none of them come back.
  • The judges not only have phones available (to call a friend?), but a stack of paper dictionaries and reference books.
  • The judges will give Alex a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for a quick verdict on a contestant's response.
  • Alex has the answers and questions in front of him on paper (he crosses each one off as he reads it). He does not see the video clues before hand, but he does review the pages.

At the end of the show, they had a drawing, and the prizes were the soon-go-be-released Jeopardy game for WII and Nintendo. They showed us a brief video of it -- you can set it up so your MII is sitting there as a contestant. Too cute! We didn't win, but we will probably need to buy one.

We had a fun time seeing a bit of the backstage goings on. "Our" three shows will air the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Talk Like A Pirate Day 2010

What ZoAnn said yesterday, after scoring tickets online:

"Yo ho ho, matey! We be goin' to a taping of Jeopardy next week! Arggggh!!!"

What John mumbled last night in his somnambulistic sleep (and after watching a NatGeo program on large, aquatic rodents):

"Run, beavers, run, save your sorry little selves!"

(Not particularly piratey, but funny nonetheless)

What we stole from the net:

<Squawk> Pieces of eight!
<Squawk> Pieces of eight!
<Squawk> Pieces of nine!
<SYSTEM HALTED: parroty error!>

Baja, Candy, Ivy, and Newfie want to wish you a HAPPY TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY - September 19!!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Goodbye, Kartchner Caverns

We have finally left Kartchner Caverns, a bitter-sweet exit to be sure. The people were wonderful and the cave exquisite, but it had begun to feel a bit like work. So now we have "re-retired" and once again are on the road to unknown adventures!

We enjoyed living in the high desert for a while, and learning what we could about it. Our exciting-to-see Creature Count includes: coyote, deer, white-tailed rabbit, desert jackrabbit, bat, tarantula, diamondback rattlesnake, and sonoran coral snake. We would have loved to see a Gila Monster, but those elusive creatures just kept being elusive. We discovered that bright colored insects in the desert are to be avoided -- the tarantula hawk and red velvet ant (both actually wasps) are very bright and have horribly painful stings -- fortunately we learned that from books, not first hand experience!

Leaving the cave was emotional. It is beautiful, amazing, impressive, and inspiring. It literally formed over thousands of years in total darkness, and, through a series of accidental happenstances became a show cave for all to see. We never tired of being inside the cave, and letting it show us its wonders. There was always something new to be found, lurking in corners or hiding right in front or our eyes.

And I can't forget to mention the territorial hummingbirds, fighting for control of the feeder. Or the ants that carry away dead moths, sometimes helping each other carry particularly large ones. Or the huge grasshoppers, one being mistaken by a new volunteer for a scorpion (her "help me" call for venomous-critter removal was a source of great merriment!). Or the beautiful night sky, with the Milky Way Galaxy glowing steadily next to Scorpius, the scorpion of the sky.

We have also enjoying watching the desert change over the season, seeing the variety of flowers, insects, and birds change as summer approached and left. As mid-summer arrived, the clear, blue skies of spring became daily afternoon monsoons -- and that meant violent localized thunderstorms, often with rain areas so small that several simultaneous showers could be seen in the valley below, each with a little circle of sunlight surrounding them.

During our stay, we have made wonderful friends, and learned a lot -- geology, hydrology, etymology, botany and microbiology are just a few of the areas we now understand a little bit better. We have certainly taken more than we have given during our stay, but it is time for us to move on.

So goodbye Kartchner Caverns. We'll see you down the road.