Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Museum Shock

Where to begin, that is the question. I suspect that I will not be able to smash everything I want into this post, nor will I get everything I wanted to write about on the blog before the end of the week. So you people out there in Internet land get to enjoy Phoenix longer than I do. I hope you're happy.

Yesterday my friend was in meetings all day, and mine had pretty much wrapped up for the week. Finding myself with a lot of extra time on my hands, I decided to walk down to the Phoenix History museum. My friend asked me if I was insane for wanting to go walking around in 109 degree temps. The sad truth is, I didn't even break a sweat. I got a slight clammy feeling to my skin and that was it. Some might accuse me of wearing a tank top and shorts.... I was in fact wearing a t-shirt, with a long sleeved sweat shirt over it. And jeans. Should I be concerned about my body's ability to regulate temperature? I'm starting to wonder.

A half an hour of walking, getting slightly turned around, and then arriving at my destination had me somewhat disappointed. It was closed. The times on the door stated that they should be open, so I approached the front door only to find a notice on the door informing the general populace that the Phoenix History Museum had lost its funding, and as of June 30th would be closing its doors. The neighboring Science Museum has acquired the building and all its assets and is currently trying to find a sponsor to fund it. I must be living in some hole, or abyss, because I had no idea that Museums weren't funded, at least in part, by the government. Or local county, city or governing entity. Where I'm from, yes, there is a small entrance fee sometimes, but nothing like what I'm finding here... and I have to say that I'm somewhat horrified. The Museums in Arizona don't get any funding through government. They're all paid for through corporate entities like banks, or Pepsi or something along those lines. O.O Excuse me, but if the only money coming in, is from a large company, what assurance do I have that they aren't pulling history make overs? "Re-Write it this way, or we'll yank your funding!" I'm damned alarmed by this.

Getting into the Phoenix Science Museum was also entertaining. Like Movie entertaining. You know when you go to see a movie, you fork over $8.00 for a matinee? Well just switch that to $12. Then go inside the theatre and you smell popcorn and decide to go get a bucket. You get a bucket because they give you no choice in many cases. Then ,maybe, you want some candy, or a soda. This museum was much the same. $12 entrance fee, and then good luck seeing half the exhibits if the entrance fee was all you were expecting to pay. Its cheaper to go see a movie. Granted the museum was under construction, so a lot of things were blocked off, but what was open was in poor shape. Many of the exhibits didn't work, or were visibly worn and in this case, should not have been. 90% of the staff were volunteers, and they did a good job, but wow... scary. I didn't take pictures, because there just wasn't anything in there worth taking a picture of. Thursday we're supposed to go visit the Heard Museum in the morning before the tour groups hit. I really hope things are in considerably better shape.

After hiking around downtown Phoenix for various reasons, I found myself back near the hotel, and treated myself to a salad for lunch at the Greek restaurant, which is right behind the Starbucks. The night before three of us came here for dinner and got Greek Fries to go with dinner, and my it was good. The dining establishment involved is called My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.

The food you see on the right is a Caesar salad, and it was very very good. In fact I've been eating them with abandon. Their Greek Salad is also extremely good. I haven't tried anything off the rest of the menu yet, but I did have a little bit of gyro from someone else's dish, and it was good as well. The gyro I've had before was really greasy and tasted a bit off, but this was near perfect. I've got a picture of the Greek Fries on here too, which is served with feta and another cheese, melted and mixed with a lemon sauce which gets poured over the fries. I don't generally like potatoes, but those were sooo good. I may have to get those again, but to share, because the plates they give you are enormous.
The fingers you see are those of my friends. Sarah would be at the other end of the hand on the left, and Nancy is the owner of the fingers on the right. I didn't eat many, but its was damned hard to abstain. Potatoes don't agree with me, and I'm not going into details. I did discover sweet potato fries at the hotel. Heh. Now those I can eat without troubles. In fact they give them to you in a cut down paper bag so you can take them with you if you don't finish. I took them with me and ate them slowly over the last few days. Soooo very very good.

Several people pointed out after I posted last that I had neglected to put up a picture of the Teddy Bear I made. This was because I hadn't taken a picture of it before I posted last. I've remedied the situation, and here is my bear.

There were three choices for color when we finished the tour off. Turquoise blue, black, and a Holstein cow black and white pattern. And that would've been all the choices, except that one little boy had somehow glommed onto a bright orange bear and that was the one he wanted to stuff... Attempts to dissuade his choice resulted in a pitched fit that was in many ways extremely ineffective. To me at least. So, our wonderful tour guide went into the back again to see what other color bears he could come up with. He came back with White, Honey and some other color that is escaping me at the moment. Obviously I got the Honey colored bear. Other popular choices were the cow pattern and ... actually I'm not sure anyone got the black or turquoise colored bears. There were two orange bears by the time we were done. Several cow bears, and one bright pink bear that wasn't even on the menu, but Stuffington was very accommodating where this tour was concerned. Each bear got their own ribbon set up. You could have gotten clothes for the bear, but that can get expensive. Thus, all the bears left naked except for a bow tie. That sounds oddly X rated....

There was also a request for a better picture of Fargo the Guide Dog (Guide Dogs for the Blind). He's Sarah's Guide Dog, and he's disgustingly cute. He also sleeps on me sometimes at night. Heh. He also doesn't like the camera, so I have to sneak up on him. Even so, he managed to look miserable. Or perhaps sleepy. So here we go:

And since we're doing this now, this is Yancy from Seeing Eye who guides for Nancy. No jokes please. I don't generally like German Shepherds because they tend to whine, but he doesn't. He talks, but doesn't whine:

And yes. Yancy is a gorgeous German Shepherd. Standing, sitting, sleeping, working or otherwise. He's a gentle soul.

I'm going to see another movie this morning, and then... who knows what I'm doing. That is, I'm going to see a movie if its not too crowded in there. I hate crowded theaters. Yesterday I went and saw Despicable Me, which is a kids movie, so it was predictable, and steeped in good morals, but it was fun anyway. :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Friends, Old Friends, and Teddy Bears

Just because I like to torture myself on vacations, I decided to go to the American Council for the Blind convention in Phoenix, AZ. Actually, one of my oldest friends had been talking about going to this convention all year; last year really. It takes a while to save up money for these things. Anywho, in the weeks leading up to the convention the person who she would be sharing a room with backed out on her, leaving her without a roommate and a rather hefty room bill. She was suddenly unsure of whether she would be able to go and was upset. So, I stepped in and said, "You can use me as a roommate. We haven't seen each other in two years." Then in a small panic, because I HAD NOT been saving up for this, I began stuffing money away in order to pay for half the room. All of that aside, I'm here, and have been having a grand ole time with my friend, and all of her friends.

Yesterday was an all day event, in which I got to meet three wonderful little girls who all have partial or no ability to see. Their particular disorder can also cause behavioral issues, which was present, but to a MUCH lesser extent than I've seen in perfectly healthy children. They were great, and we all had a ball. Our small troop of 12 got together in the lobby of our hotel at 9 a.m. where we all climbed into cars and headed out for breakfast at an IHOPS. We got lost for 20 minutes, then pulled into an IHOPs we found at random, and it turned out to be the right one. I could be getting the facts wrong here, but in my defense I was in the back of a large vehicle with a hot Guide Dog, and two little girls who talk a lot. We laughed a lot too. The food was good, and then we left for the Stuffington Bear Factory.

And here's the proof. We all crawled out of the car and hustled inside as fast as possible. Our arrival was slightly after 11 a.m., but it was already 112 outside and some of the girls aren't heat tolerant at all. There was also the guide dogs who were (and still are if we don't put their boots on) burning the heck out of their paws walking from the parking lot to the front door. There was a slight wait for the rest of the party to figure out where the factory was. That ended when we were told that the rest of the party was already there and waiting on US. Um.. ooops.

Right inside the front door the kids quickly discovered the giant bear. This thing made everyone look like they were in miniature. I forgot to ask if it had a name, but I'm guessing he does. He's just too cool not to have a name. Of course the girls were all over the bear in under 2 seconds, laying on his legs, pulling on his arms and they got in trouble for trying to shimmy up onto his head. There are signs to either side that tell you not to crawl on his head. I suspect that kids have been lost to the large crevasse that is the hole between the back of Big Bear's head, and the corner of the room.

This situation was remedied fairly quickly when our tour guide showed up and said,"Okay, if you could follow me this way we'll get this party started." or something to that effect. I didn't take a picture of him. Sorry. But he did give us a wonderful tour of the back room where they stuff all the creatures for orders. There was an order of German Shepherds with collars reading Champ for the Vice Pres. Apparently they are for a program running somewhere, but since my brain is reenacting the last gasps of a beached fish, I can't remember what it was.

They have a rather surprisingly small work staff, but he said that if they get a huge amount of orders, they sometimes double the staff as needed, but apparently the usual number back here is 8 people. They also use old fashioned sewing machines, because they're made of metal components rather than plastic, which can break off easily into a random stuffed toy. Since their goal isn't to maim the general public, they stick to the metal machines. Surprisingly, parts for their machines are still being manufactured in the U.S. and are readily available for order on-line. You can see part of one in the picture to the left.

They had an entire wall devoted to plastic fur. You can see the bolts of fur along the back wall in every shade of color and texture you can think of. I will confess to taking this picture because I swear this Teddy Bear is smiling at me and even if he wasn't, he's just too damned cute. They literally had bears and other stuffed animals of a fake nature piled everywhere on tables, bins and in some cases; floors. Thus we have the teddy bear with half made teddy bears on one side, made teddy bears in his lap, and.... I lost track of everything that was to his right. This company does put a lot of work into these bears though, and they pay some serious attention to the seams and stitching. They showed us the stuffing machine first. It's a large machine that sort of looks like a circus box car, with a tube sticking out one side. You take your stitched, but hollow bear and stick him on the tube, step on a peddle, and the machine starts stuffing the bear for you. All you do is move the bear around to make sure all the limbs and body have filled out. It was damned fast. Stitching up the Bear's back was even faster. Then they use a little vacuum with a comb to suck up stray fuzz, and pull the fur that got suck in the stitches free. Which means you don't see the seams as much. The last step is to give your bear an air bath. They have a pressurized air system that you just run the bear under. It blows away any random fluff left over. The best part of this entire process is that you get to do this all yourself. Yes, I have another Teddy Bear and I MADE this one!!

After we were done, our very kind driver took us all back to the hotel, were we all pretended to be dead for a while, before we met back in the lobby for a dinner run. We went out to a very good Mexican restaurant and had lots of fun telling stories. There was also a walking band that would go from table to table and play different songs in spanish. Really cool experience. It was late when we got back to the hotel and we collapsed in the room.

In fact, this is basically what we did when we got there.
Fargo gave us all a good example to follow. :)

I'll see about posting again, but considering the hotel is charging an arm and a leg for internet service, my posting will all depend on whether or not I can get to the Starbucks!