Category Archives: My Life

Why I live in Colorado

Image: Color-coded map of the US, with the following legend:

Western half of WA & OR:  “Rain”

Eastern WA & OR, MT, ND, SD, NE, IA,WI, AK: “Cold; lots of conservatives”

MN: “Just really fucking cold, trust me”

MI, IL, IN, OH, WV, PA, MD, DE, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, VT, ME, HI: “Muggy; insects”

West coast of CA:  “Expensive”

Eastern part of CA, NV and AZ: “Conservatives; chance of tarantulas”

UT: “Pretty; still too many conservatives”

KS, OK, TX, MO, AR, LA, KY, TN, MS, AL, GA, VA, NC, SC, FL: “Hot; muggy; insects; conservatives”

NM: “One other place I’d consider living”

CO: “Colorado!”  (Indicated by the CO state flag: red letter C, enclosing a yellow circle, with three blue and white stripes.)

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

My father, Peter Robertson, passed somewhere between April 15 and 16, 1997.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, wish for his advice, remember a goofy moment, and feel deeply sad that he left us so soon.  More than anything, though, I feel very grateful for the 36 years I got with him.

He always liked to tell the story of being born in a cabin in Wyoming, though the reality is that my adventure-prone/family-avoidant grandfather had come to Wyoming to try to start a dude ranch, which he abandoned after (1) his father-in-law joined them to keep an eye on him; and (2) his second child (my uncle) was born.  Dad ultimately spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, as a white kid surrounded by privilege who rooted for civil rights and Jackie Robinson.

Image: white woman (Amy) in short sleeve shirt and khaki shorts and older white man (Amy's dad) in a short sleeve shirt and blue pants stand in front of log cabin.

My father and me at the “log cabin” the year before he passed.

He was a lawyer who devoted his professional life to advocating — in state government, at the EEOC, and as a consultant — for civil rights and specifically equal employment opportunity.  Outside his professional life, he enjoyed languages, travel, the coast of Maine, card games, the St. Louis Cardinals, fried eggs over easy, trains, grilling in the snow, pretending to understand my brother’s Chem E thesis, Christmas morning, and his almost endless extended family. Nothing made him happier than gathering everyone around the table — at home or a restaurant — for a long, conversational meal. He’d show up at our colleges or law/grad schools and gather up a big group of classmates and friends to go out to dinner. Nothing fancy – ever.  Most commonly a diner, or some egregiously Americanized Chinese restaurant (lemon chicken, anyone?).  After he passed, many of his professional colleagues told us similar stories:  he was always gathering everyone together for a friendly dinner after any event.  With that in mind, in creating his headstone, Bruce and I paraphrased a line from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech —

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

and added this plaque:

Peter Clendenin Robertson
November 5, 1935 – April 16, 1997.
“Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Triangular granite stone about 18" high, bearing a plaque: "Peter Clendenin Robertson, November 5, 1935 - April 16, 1997. "Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

Love and miss him, and am deeply grateful for everyone who has shared his stories over the years.  If you knew him, grab some friends and remember him over a plate of lemon chicken.

Update:  here’s a post with additional fun photos:  

Verizon customer support — verbatim

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet that I don’t really take anywhere; when I travel, I just take a Kindle for reading, and otherwise use my Surface Pro, which can be a laptop or a tablet.  It finally dawned on me that I did not need to pay Verizon $10 per month to never connect this device to the internet, so I decided to delete it from my account.  I thought I could do this little transaction online, but could not find a “disconnect this device” option.  There followed this customer service chat/epic upselling effort with “Charlie”:

Thank you for contacting the Verizon Wireless Chat Team regarding your account. How can we help you today?

Me:  I would like to remove a device from my bill

Me:  I figured out how to “suspend” it but I would like to remove it permanently.

Charlie: Just to make sure I understand you correctly, do you mean switching the device on the line or removing it permanently?

Me:  removing permanently.

Me:  a tablet I no longer use

Me:  and have not replaced

Charlie: Oh my! It’s saddening to hear that you want to remove a device from your account. I will go over the account details to check all available options and fees before processing your request.

Charlie: Let me first pull up the account, may I have your name and mobile number?

Me:  ###-###-#### Amy Robertson

Me:  that’s the number on the account; not the tablet

Charlie: Thank you Amy.

Charlie: May I also have the mobile number assigned to the Tablet that you want to cancel to check its details?

Me:  ###-###-####

Me:  it’s month to month

Charlie: Thank you Amy.

Me:  i thought i had canceled it long ago; so i just want to stop paying the monthly cost

Charlie: Got it.

Charlie: May I know who was originally using this Tablet? What change occurred that made you not use it anymore?

Me:  Long story.

Charlie: If you won’t mind, I am here to listen to make sure we get to the bottom of this and provide you with out best recommendation.

Me:  Seriously, I’m good. All set. Just want to remove this device from my bill. Thanks.

Charlie: I understand. Just before I make any changes, you might be interested in upgrading this tablet to an Ipad. We got a variety of Ipads available and for a limited time, I can give you a $200 discount on any new iPad.

Me:  You are doing a GREAT job upselling me, and I promise I will give you 5 stars on any follow up survey, but I’ve made up my mind: I would like to remove this tablet from my account. Can I ask you to do that now? Thanks!

Charlie: I completely understand. Let me start the process for you now.

Charlie: Please stay online with me.

Me:  No problem. Thanks.

Charlie: Thank you.

Charlie: I am starting the process now.

Charlie: While processing this disconnect, would you happen to know anyone who might be willing to take over this line? It can help someone get crucial and reliable cell service while avoiding startup activation fee of $40.00. It can also help someone get into a brand new device since it’s an out of contract line, like a new iPhone 6s Plus or S7 Edge.

Charlie: Also, if you don’t know someone off the top of your head who might be interested in taking over this line, I can help you get it suspended without billing for up to 3 months so you don’t have to pay for it in the meantime.

Me:  I don’t know of anyone to take over this line. Would like to just remove it from my bill.

Charlie: I completely understand and thank you for giving us a chance of laying out all available offers for you. I already have the validation result. Checking here, we have to wait for your billing cycle date which is on the 22nd so we can avoid the prorated charges on your final/ next bill. Since we already gone through the process, when you call us back on your billing cycle date, all we have to do is hit the disconnect button and the line will be totally removed from your account.

Me:  No, seriously, disconnect it now.

Me:  I’ll pay this month’s charge. I don’t want to have to call back.

Me:  That way I just pay through 3/22 and not after.

Charlie: Got it. I can finalize it now so you won’t need to call back by the 22nd. The line will automatically be canceled once it reaches the end of its cycle.

Charlie: Yes. That will be the case.

Me:  Perfect.

Charlie: 🙂

Charlie: Almost done submitting the request now.

Charlie: All done! I’ve submitted your request to cancel and the line #### will automatically be canceled once it reaches the end of the cycle. No need for you to do anything from your end.

Me:  Thanks very much!

Charlie: You’re welcome! I’m glad I took ownership of your concern today by submitting your request to cancel the tablet line since it is no longer being used.

Charlie: Do you have any further questions or concerns I may assist you with?

Me: Nope.  All set.  Thanks!

My brain with a cold.

Image description:  White on black silhouette of a woman's head, divided into two sections.  The front section including the nose and forehead is labeled "bricks;" the back section is labeled, "Recurring tape loop of all the things I have to do but feel too crappy to do."

Image description:  White on black silhouette of a woman’s head, divided into two sections.  The front section including the nose and forehead is labeled “bricks;” the back section is labeled, “Recurring tape loop of all the things I have to do but feel too crappy to do.”


Favorite mood-altering substance

1975:  Pot.  Effect:  that giddy feeling of being stoned.

1985:  Coffee.  Effect:  that giddy feeling of getting shit done.

2015:  Cortisone:  Effect:  that giddy feeling of no lower back pain.

Giving Thanks

I incorporate by reference all of the other, more eloquent, thanks given by and for family, friends, dogs, food, shelter, and the important peace and safety officers who are working on this holiday.  I want to give more specific thanks to the people who made today possible.

For example, I am grateful for whoever invented the Traeger pellet smoker:

Image: Outdoor grill smoker with a glass baking dish containing potatoes and two whole chickens, spiced with smoked pimento.

to our contractor, Mike, who recommended we buy one, and to the large online community of pelletheads (yes, that’s what they call themselves) who supply and comment on Traeger recipes like this one.  Also thankful for the geniuses at the Pillsbury, StoveTop, and McCormick companies who ensured that my guests were not exposed to my actual [lack of] cooking skills.  For the people working today at Village Inn (where my in-laws picked up the pies) and Safeway (where I got my last minute ingredients at 7 a.m.).  And for the specific family member (hi, Mom!) who taught me how to substitute wine for water in the powdered gravy mix.

Now thankful for my sofa and enriching televised entertainment like how to make a deep-fried Nutella pizza.  So not kidding.

Happy Thanksgiving!

No, THIS is ironic.

For all you Alanis Morissette fans who were left sort of confused about what is or is not ironic, THIS is ironic.

Image: Sign showing photo of red fox with this text: "Wildlife: For many years, a troop of foxes made their den on this prairie. Coyotes have been seen here occasionally, along with rabbits, field mice, and a myriad of insects. Look closely among the grasses! Look up, too, as many birds visit and nest here."

This is a new sign posted on the greenway that runs along the street across from our house, intended, I guess, to make us feel like we’re in the middle of the prairie rather than in a glorified median strip.  Yes, foxes “made” their home there, but the past tense is appropriate because THE CITY PLOWED THEIR DENS UNDER TO CREATE THE NEW, IMPROVED “PARK.”   Here is a photo of the foxes who MADE their home across the street from us before the city undertook to formalize the area as an official piece of prairie.  If you look closely in the first photo, you can see that the mother fox is nursing her kits.

Image: red fox standing on a small rise, wooden fence in the background.

Image: mother fox and kit playing on the grass with a house in the background.

I miss seeing the foxes trotting along our street, or sneaking through our fence when I open the back door.  In addition, since the Ironic Plowing Under, the rabbit population of the neighborhood has exploded, causing our retrievers to think they really are retrievers as they light off across the lawn in pursuit of a retreating bunny.

Kitchen technology

In yesterday’s installment of “adventures in remodeling,” we packed up our kitchen.  For the next few weeks, we’ll be camping out in the living room, cooking with a single burner and a microwave.  In other words, the same way we’ve been cooking for the past 20 years, but in the living room.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

This process required us to pack up everything except a small collection of kitchen equipment that we’ll use in our living-room camp-out.  I thought it was telling that our first two must-have choices were a martini glass (Tim) and a colander for pasta (me).  What we’d want on a desert island.

As I packed up the various drawers of random kitchen equipment, I came across a couple of interesting items that I think I tossed in the boxes coming from my Dad’s house in 1997.  I find them funny for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is: my father essentially didn’t cook.  He knew how to make his own standard breakfast (two fried eggs over easy; burned* & buttered toast); a couple of standard dinners (hamburgers;** steak; roast chicken****); and vacation food (lobster*****).  I don’t think he was unable to cook; he just liked those things and didn’t see any reason to expand his food horizons.  When he and I traveled to China in 1981, he survived largely on packaged peanuts.

Anyway, here are some of the tools I inherited from Dad.  First, a snicker for your inner 11-year-old:

Image: scissors-like tool with two scoops at the end, in package that reads "Swedish & Cocktail Meat Baller."

If the meat baller weren’t enough, he also had a melon-baller, though from Spain or Mexico, so we miss the English-language snicker.  I love  “¡¡si!!” on the packaging.  Whatever problem this tool is solving, we are clearly intended to be very happy that it has solved it.
Image:  tool with very small scoop at the end; packaging is in Spanish.
I loved the idea of a culture so into eating sardines that it would develop a single tool for opening the sardine can and eating the contents.
Image:  Tool still in packaging that permits opening a sardine can and eating the sardines using the single tool.
What is this and why did Dad have one?
Image:  unexplained tool with hook at the end.
What is this and why did Dad have two of them?
Imate:  Two identical tools consisting of a handle and an approximately two-inch by four-inch set of parallel blades.
Prehistoric food processor:
Image:  small cylindrical grating blade in a plastic housing with a turn handle.
And finally, just a couple of cool, old, weathered kitchen tools:
Image: old cheese parer with handle and single blade.
Image: weathered bottle opener.
Image:  Old style jar opener.
Image:  close up of old style jar opener showing the words  "jar wrench wizard."
In conclusion, show of hands, how many people think I should (1) learn how to use the white balance****** features of my camera and software; and (2) get some real lighting equipment:
Image:  Camera set up to photograph objects on a table.  Lighting comes from a desk lamp on top of a cardboard box on top of a stool.


* Intentionally.  And when he ordered bacon in a restaurant, he would go to great pains to insist that it be burned as well.

** Classic divorced dad moment:  he wanted to make hamburgers for us; little shits that we were, we*** wanted McDonalds.  Dad: “OK, then, if you want a McDonalds hamburger, I’d be happy to step on your burger before I serve it to you.”

*** And by “we” I mean “Bruce.”

**** IIRC, Dad’s recipe called for dowsing the chicken in butter every five minutes while it roasted.  No question, that was an excellent roast chicken.

*****  Steamed; dipped in butter.

****** This has to do with the temperature of light, not some weird-ass reverse affirmative action.

The remodel begins (cue “Jaws” music).

Against all of the sage advice of my brother and sister-in-law, we are undertaking a remodel of our house.  We’ll get a new kitchen, I’ll get a new bathroom, the entire house will get new paint, and we may avoid dying a gory death at the hands of our basement.

We always knew that a previous owner had seriously overestimated his handyperson abilities, resulting in charming features like The Cardboard Wall and The Wood Paneling from Hell. These monstrosities lived in the basement, though, and since it’s inaccessible, we mainly interact with it when I do laundry or putter in the many boxes of documents I salvaged from my Dad’s house in 1997.  Very occasionally we have house guests who stay in the bedroom down there; understandably, not many have stayed twice.

Because we largely ignore our basement, it wasn’t until the remodel demo crew started taking apart the basement “walls” that we learned just how bad it was.

Instead of taking dramatic before

Image: cave entrance

and after

Image:  garish mansion

remodel photos, I thought I would take pictures of a couple of the more startling hacks.

Image:  close up of electrical casing attached by bent nails to hacked up 2x4

Image:  close up of several layers of pieces of wood nailed together - and splitting -- on the side of a wall.

Image:  several layers of pieces of wood nailed together - and splitting -- on the side of a wall.

The guy demo’ing the basement remarked, of one amateurishly framed wall, that we were lucky the ceiling had not fallen in.

As if on cue, the level of entropy here generally is going through the roof.  It’s like the house knows help is on the way, and is shedding its old skin.  The vent in my office is coming apart.

Image:  an old metal heating grate, taped to the wall with green duct tape, held open with a wire coat hanger.

The bricks next to the garage, slated for repointing,* collapsed just a little yesterday.

Image:  Close up of 5 or 6 bricks with mortar attached, on the ground next to a brick wall.

And in a piece of sympathetic entropy, our toaster died today. I think we’ll soon be huddled in the middle of the living room, cooking over a fire made from burning our furniture.


*Whatever that is.  Our contractor says it authoritatively when I ask for the bricks to look better, so I’m guessing it’s a procedure for making bricks look better.

Weaver’s Badass Automotive

We have the immense good fortune to live two blocks from an excellent mechanic.  I never thought of it before we moved in, but this is the sort of thing that should feature on real estate ads.  Close to schools?  Shops?  Restaurants?  Who cares!  You can drive there.  Nothing beats the ability to drop your car at the mechanic and walk home.

But Weaver’s Automotive and U-Haul is cool for many other reasons, including the fact that Tom Weaver has, on many occasions, examined some perceived problem in my car and returned it to me with the reassurance that nothing is wrong.  What’s more, he has somehow managed to do this without making me feel like the automotive incompetent that I truly am.  He has, from time to time, walked over (or sent someone over) to our house to rescue me from my automotive incompetence.  I’m confident that the 1988 Honda got many more years of life from living two blocks from Weaver’s.

But I’m blogging this today because

Image:  Man standing in front of a gas station door, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  The man is white with brown hair and a goatee.

this is how Tom is dressed, every workday I’ve ever seen him, including our Wednesday morning dog-walk when it was several degrees below zero.  (This photo is a dramatic re-enactment, as I didn’t have my camera with me on Tuesday.   It was taken on Friday morning, when it was a balmy 20.)  For the record, I was in triple-layers, including snow pants, and even Saguaro was wearing boots.  But there was Tom, working around the U-Haul trucks on site, in his trademark shorts.

So if you live near DU and need a good mechanic — or need your U hauled — definitely check out Weaver’s Badass* Automotive.


* WordPress’s spell check still doesn’t think this is a word.  After blogging with me for three and a half years, you’d think it would have learned.