Light Speed to Reality






This morning we left a chilly rainy 65 degree day in the Valley of the Sun. Two hours later we reached the top of a 7500 feet high peak and moved through a snowy white out. The car thermometer dropped to 28 degrees. The weather followed us to our first destination city with two additions, wind, and hail. The wind-chill drove the last spike through my Phoenix warmed heart, ugh. We will follow a major weather pattern across the United States and we might even meet some severe rain storms with possible tornadoes. I don’t need an adventure like this anymore, packing the car was adventure enough.

I often tell friends “in May when I return the weather is colder than the weather I experienced in Phoenix in January.” Another big difference is that in May, Illinois doesn’t have many flowers in bloom, while in January, the valley is abundant in flowers.

Our last week in the Valley had us basking on the patio enjoying 90 degree days. I don’t think I will see another ninety degree day for another three months.

How deprived am I?

Plink, Plank, Plunk

Yesterday, Peg and I ventured out into the big world to visit the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Back in January, while driving into town I spotted a bill board advertising the place. It only took twelve weeks for us to make it there, now I am sorry we did. This museum like most museums is so large that it takes more than one visit to see it all. The museum is new, very modern in design, two stories tall, and huge. Within its walls are instruments from every country in the world. Do you know how many countries exist? I don’t even remember how many continents there are, and that is important because the country displays are within rooms classified as continents. Only the United States and Canada are separate rooms because they are so big, and well, because the museum is in the United States.

We used the escalator to move us up to the second level where a tour guide asked us where we wanted to start. We chose to begin in Africa. That was a bad move because we spent over an hour and a half looking at the primitive flutes, and lutes of the various countries within Africa. MIM has a unique display for each country. The instruments are flat against a wall or supported in mid-air on display around a video screen. We received a headset and a black box at the ticket counter. The unique feature of this black box is that when one walks to within range of a video screen it begins to play a video of natives playing the instruments on display. This allowed us to hear the instrument and to see it played. Many of the videos showed scenes of native craftsman chopping, carving, and sanding wood to shape it into something they could make sound with. Strings are usually animal hair or other body part. One instrument called the thumb-harp has a series of metal fork-like handles attached to a sound box. As the musician plunks the various length metal prongs they plink, plank, or plunk into the sound box to make a note.

By the time we hit Asia, Peg and I were beginning to fade. She carries a purse loaded with at least ten pounds of stuff and I carry a bowling ball belly that plays hell with my back. We literally raced through the Mid-east, South America, and Europe, and intended to skip the USA and Canada. As it turned out I got lost in Europe and we wound up running through North America. That is when I began to get glimpses of some fabulous displays and regretted our move to start in Africa and not North America.

While in the African room, I looked at a map of the continent which displayed all the different languages spoken in Africa. I quickly realized why Africa is still so primitive. Imagine if we lived in a place where every state is a country and every county within a state has its own language. I have enough trouble understanding regional dialects much less different languages. There exists, however, a universality among these many people s. It is in their musical instruments. Somehow, the good Lord gave us all a talent and want to create music, and deep within our brains is the blueprint for how to make sounds using tubes, skins, and strings. Just about every country has a form of stringed lute, drum, and flute.

Peg and I hope to return and to begin the tour counter-clockwise the next time.  Here are a few photos of the displays.

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Amazing Glass

In 2001 my Garden Club introduced me to a show at the Garfield Park Observatory in Chicago.  Artist Dale Chihuly made special pieces to place strategically throughout the tropical room of the hundred year old observatory. As president of the club I suggested we visit as a group and see what this was all about. It would be a two-fer. One, we would visit the worlds largest indoor garden, and two, we would see some amazing glass works.

Four carloads of anxious gardeners drove into Chicago’s war zone to make the visit, none of us were sorry. In January, as Peggy and I approached Phoenix from the south on the I-10, I spotted a billboard titled Chihuly in the Garden. This image settled in a working bit of brain matter within my cranium and stuck. In the last six weeks I learned that the garden referred to is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Our field trip this week took us there to see what the amazing Dale Chihuly produced. We were not sorry, but thirteen years has passed since my last viewing of his work and the amount of energy required to see all of this exhibit took its toll on us. We came home and crashed.

The Desert Botanical Garden is not new to Peg and I. In years past we toured there to see how desert plant materials look when arranged artistically. Looking at cactus and the myriad of water starved plants that thrive au-naturel in heat gives a scuzzy appearance. The same plants in a garden environment are absolutely beautiful. I will not say much more and let my photos tell the story.

We visited on a dreary late winter day with a thick grey cloud cover. It held the heat down but threw off my pictures. After seeing them, I decided I should have used a setting for a snowy day instead of the standard landscape setting. The photos are acceptable, not great.

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A High-Tech, Low-Tech Jewel In The Valley Of The Sun

Peggy and I took the scenic route home from Sky Harbor airport a couple of weeks ago. We had just dropped her daughter off after a fantastic weekend visit. We shunned the Interstate in favor of a route that took us smack dab through the center of Phoenix. We drove west along Washington Street  and dodged a few of their new Trolleys (land transports). The last time we visited this area the trolley was a construction war zone. Back then, we came to tour the Kachina boat factory. Yep, you heard right, a boat factory in the middle of the driest, hottest, desert town in the west. To my surprise we passed  Kachina again, only this time there is only one lonely boat gracing the storage lot. The last time the lot overflowed with thirty-six foot long cigarette boats all dolled up in fancy flames and colorful zig-zag stripes. All of them looked like they were going a hundred miles an hour just standing there.

A little further along, we passed the Arizona Science Center decked out with a huge sign “Da Vinci the Genius.”


One would think that an organization called  “Arizona Science Center” would be steeped in state of the art technology. They are. Well, except for some minor details. I bought tickets online, that is high-tech. I chose to print the tickets at home, over sending them by mail, or a pick-up. The tickets didn’t print. Nor was there a single place in their website for doing such a high-tech deed. I called and asked them how to print the tickets. They never told me, they just said “bring your confirmation number and we will take care of it when you get here.” Low tech.

This morning bright and early, Peggy and I took the scenic route back to Phoenix and miraculously found the parking garage without the GPS. The Arizona Science Center is an impressive and modern building sporting very angular lines and vast expanses of glass. As we approached the glass entrance I did not spot a door handle from twenty feet. Curious, I thought, will the door open by itself? Nope. I found the door handle remarkable well hidden in plain sight blending into the building as an architectural feature.

My first impression of the atrium was twofold: they used enough concrete in this building to classify it as a bomb shelter, and second the sound of screaming happy school kids overwhelmed my hearing aids and hurt my ears. Rather low tech, I thought to have such a place with so much noise. I wonder if they would welcome a suggestion to sound proof.

We found the woman who told me she would take care of the tickets, and she did. They appeared from a slot in the counter, high-tech. “Da Vinci is on the third level,” she said. I thought it strange she called it a level and not a floor, but dismissed it. Peggy and I asked for directions to the loo out loud and in unison, and ran for it. Once relieved, we assessed the lobby and located the elevator.

The elevator had two rows of buttons labeled  B1, B2, 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B. I took a chance and hit three. A short ride later the door opened to show us an arrow pointing at Da Vinci. Thank God we followed it. Because of the layout there are many angular corridors opening into spaces with exhibits. Peering into these places as we passed, I saw levels inside. Okay, that mystery was solved.

At the Da Vinci exhibit, we showed our tickets and stepped through the portal. The first sign I began reading had a numbered signal on it. I nudged Peg and showed her the sign. It meant there were electronic messages at each stop along the route through the show. I back tracked out to the portal desk to get the earphone gadgets. ” Where do we get the earphones?” “You pay for them on level 3A and pick them up here,” said the attendant. “Where is that” was my response. At that moment another attendant stepped in to save me, “I’ll walk you to it.” “Thank God.”

The attendant walked us down the corridor we just came through and then to a stairway. He led us up the stairway to level 3A where a young man was hanging from a rope giving a demonstration of rappelling down a concrete cliff. Our attendant cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted over the din of noisy kids to serve us with head phones, kind of low tech, don’t you think? He rappelled down to level 3A, and unharnessed himself to come to the register. “We’d like two headphones,” I said. “That will be ten dollars please.” I handed him a one hundred-dollar bill, and said, “I’m sorry, but you have to deal with this bill or I have to give you a credit card.”  He took the bill, held it up to the light and pumped the amount into the register to make change. “I’m so sorry, he said, it charged you tax it will be $10.74.” To be a smart ass, I asked him which taxing body was asking for the money. He gave me a dumb stare, and made the change. At this point he punched the ticket button and we stood and waited for the tickets to print. We stood and stood for what seemed like minutes, low tech. He began to get nervous and made disparaging remarks about the slowness of the computer. “You know, you guys are not showing me much science here today. For an organization with Science Center in its name your science is not very impressive.” The printer saved him from having to answer. He handed me the stubs and the guide took us back to the exhibit. The ticket taker gave us the headphones with instructions on how to use them.

We spent the next four and a half hours wandering through the show which featured models, some life-size, some miniature of Da Vinci’s inventions in the areas of flight, instruments of war, construction, equipment, hydraulics and sea-diving, and musical instruments. They showed us replicas of log books with his sketches and mirror writing (backwards), and his drawings of the human form, inside and out. He was famous for dissecting cadavers stolen from the graveyard. His drawings of human innards are very detailed. I know, I see charts like Da Vinci’s in my doctor’s office all the time.

Da Vinci: The Genius

Da Vinci: The Genius (Photo credit: visitmanchester)

Finally we toured and admired his painting and sculpture. The finale was a high-tech exhibit on the Mona Lisa, and the search for her eyebrows and eyelashes. Recently, a scientist used a special digital camera with 1500 dpi capability to photograph the painting with sunlight, candlelight,halogen, infra-red light, and a few I wasn’t aware existed, high-tech. He enlarged features of the painting to twenty-five times to look at her eyes, lips, and nose. There they were on the wall, eyes that were easily three feet across. Somehow this guy concluded that she did have eyelashes and eyebrows when Da Vinci painted her, but the paint he used melted into the varnish he used to coat the final work. I would challenge the guy if he were there, because I could not see the evidence he claims irrefutably proved that she had eyelashes and brows. No Way did I buy into that.

At the end we finally sat down in front of a video showing Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper and relaxed.

My conclusion at the end of this exhibit is that Da Vinci did not sleep. He was too busy inventing, painting, sculpting, building, and keeping detailed logs to find time to sleep. Seriously, the man was a genius. I saw in his models inventions being used today. Some of them like the cranes he designed for use in constructing the domes on Rome’s churches we see on the top of new skyscrapers today. Another is the high-capacity gun. Certainly, we do not want to ban a weapon invented by a master like Da Vinci, would we?

I had fun today.


It’s A Small World

Arizona Palm TreeIt really is a small world. I’m not talking about the ride at Disneyland. I’m talking about the planet earth. I tell my friends it is hard to misbehave because you will get caught by someone you know on the spot. Last week while in the air on the way to Phoenix, I got up to relieve myself. On the return  trip to my seat, I noticed a man smiling at me. He wore a Sox baseball cap. I looked him in the eye. Where do I know this guy from went through my mind? Then the light went on. It was my neighbor Tom. When I look out my front window, I look into his living room.

It turns out that Tom was on his way to Glendale, AZ.  The Chicago White Sox are completing their new spring training facility there. He works for them in marketing .  On the return trip, Tracy and I were killing time in the terminal. She spotted a man and told me he reminded her of a client. This week, Tracy reported that it was her client. He came into the office during the week, and said, “didn’t I see you in the Phoenix airport last week?”

Another time I was at a trade show in Duesseldorf, Germany. A friend who had left our company a year earlier, for greener pastures, came  and stood next to me as I was examining a molding machine. I didn’t pay attention to him. He spoke to me. I recognized his voice, but didn’t connect because we had worked together on molding machines at Panduit. When I finally looked up and saw who it was, I jumped with surprise.  I can go on and tell a few more stories of meeting people I know in places all over the world. 

Small world?


 All I can recommend to you is this:  behave wherever you are.