July 11, 2015

I shall be teaching two computer classes in the fall – CIS (Computer Information Systems – this class is mostly Excel) and  CAD (Computer Aided Drafting).  I’m getting the books to peruse, and am setting up my computer.  Had an old version of Windows (Vista – yeah, yeah, from just after the mastodons died) and upgraded affordably to Windows 8.  Had to buy a portable hard drive to save my personal information in case the hard drive was reformatted.  Downloading Windows took a couple of hours.  But when I started to download 4.02 GB of AutoCAD (free for instructors), the screen displayed 691 days 14 hours remaining.  Boy, does someone have a sense of humor!  It only took 14 hours…

When Windows upgraded, however, it threw away my Microsoft Office, which contained Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which I need for CIS, so I had to download a new Microsoft Office (also free for instructors).  Another problem was that my McAfee didn’t work.  I had paid for that so I let the technician (who I was delighted to find was female) take over my computer remotely to rectify the problem.  What a way to spend a weekend.


Got up this morning, opened the drapes, and went back to bed to listen to the news.  A huge smash! as what appeared to be a dove crashed into the glass door, turned around and glided over the rosemary to the small wash.  A large hawk in pursuit flapped by.  A while later I went to wash off the patio – there was blood and guts and feces splattered about.  That dove was doomed.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in bed reading the newspaper when a juvenile bobcat looked in the door,  but it didn’t stop for photographs.

Three times during the past week I have gone out back in the morning, startling a deer munching on mesquite pods under the large mesquite tree. They are so skittish!

When this year’s pack of coyotes go at it a few times a day (now at 4:30 pm) they all sound young – a lot of yipping, but no soulful howls, no gravitas.

Omar Sharif

Doctor Z…died at 83.   We all fell in love with him as Doctor Zhivago, but did you know that he was also one of the world’s top 50 contact bridge players?  I used to read his newspaper bridge column.  You can buy an Omar Sharif Bridge App (video game), or buy one of his books on bridge or bridge instructions.

Was disappointed to discover that he did not lead tours down the Nile, as
Egypt with Omar Sharif would have you believe.  I pictured him on the boat, talking about the mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids, as he did with Jane Pauley in April 1988, and teaching bridge in the evening.

He was born Michel Chalhoub, an Egyptian Catholic, but converted to Islam to marry an Egyptian actress.   They were married for 12 years.  He made Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand during the Six Day War, and when he had an affair with her (a Jew!) Egypt almost took away his citizenship.  (Barbra Streisand tried to make light of it. “Egypt angry!” she said. “You should hear what my Aunt Sarah said!”)


Felt punk the other day, fluish but with what felt like cracked ribs on my left side.  Got a sub for the next day and saw my doctor who sent me for X-rays. Two hours later he called and told me that I have pneumonia!  I got online and discovered that you can contact it without even being in a hospital!   You can get pneumonia when you are in a hospital or nursing home. This is called healthcare-associated pneumonia.  You can also get it in your daily life, such as at school or work. This is called community-associated pneumonia.1

Plus, there are many strains, so the pneumonia shot, which provides immunity against the most common 23 strains of streptococcus pneumonia,2 which I had gotten, did not hit the bullseye.  (Like the flu shot that I had paid a few bucks for last year, only to pick up the flu from my grandkids at Christmas.) More than a hundred “bugs” (bacteria, viruses and fungi) can cause community-acquired pneumonia.2 Walking pneumonia (mycoplasma pneumoniae), which I guess I have, is most common in late summer and fall [and is] spread in families, schools and institutions…3

Was prescribed levofloxacin, which is also good for anthrax and plague, so I’m covered.  But, according to the pharmacist’s Medication Guide, the meds can cause photosensitivity (which is not being afraid of selfies, but being sun sensitive, a double whammy for blondes), tendon rupture or swelling (which worries me as my shoulder has finally healed) as well as cause serious side effects that can result in death.  Super.  Teaching is a dangerous profession.


World Population Day

July 2, 2015

On July 11, please think of our overcrowded earth.  And how Investing in Young People can help us.


World Population Day has been celebrated every July 11 since 1989. On July 11, 1987, humanity surpassed the threshold of 5 billion people, and two years later the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Program decided to set up an appointment for an annual reflection on demographic trends and development in an ever more crowded world with increasingly limited resources.

The theme of this year’s World Population Day is “Investing in Young People”.1

world pop
This map, from Wikipedia, shows population density in 2012 by country, per square kilometer.  You can click on it to see it better.  Notice that India is magenta  (397 people per km2, compared to the density of the US, which is 34.) That’s why when you Google overpopulation and hit images you’ll get photos of India.  (Singapore is much worse, with 7,301 people per square kilometer, but it is a small island with a population in 2013 of 5.4M as opposed to India’s 1.252B.)


The graph above is scary.  Over 8 billion in 10 years!  The world’s population on June 29, 2015 at 9:30 am was: 7,325,150,960.  Was hard to catch the number on this website,, ’cause the clock was running too fast.

Those Young People

grameenWe ought to be putting more resources into the education of girls around the world.  If girls are educated, the world’s population growth, which is now on a dead run, shall slow to a comfortable walk.  There won’t be a food crisis, as there will be fewer mouths to feed, and those women shall be farming smarter.  Educated women shall earn more money, so health care shall improve.

(If you wonder how they can get a job in a country with a high unemployment rate, help by getting into microfinance by donating to the Grameen Foundation2.)

Educating girls is a key factor in hastening the demographic transition to lower birth rates. In sub-Saharan Africa, women with no education have 6.7 births, on average. The figure falls to 5.8 for those with primary education and more than halves, to 3.9, for those with secondary education.3

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting more money into Africa than is the United States (not counting our military spending there).  Last year they spent $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, in addition to their other fundings.  I tried to pin down other numbers, but only got world totals of how much spent on what.4

Our Work in Africa
We work with partners in Africa to make smart investments so that together we can achieve real and lasting impact for those with the greatest challenges… Our efforts cover nearly all of the foundation’s key program areas such as agriculture, family planning, financial services for the poor, HIV, malaria, polio, and vaccines delivery…

In June this year [2014], the total amount given as grants to food and agriculture projects by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surpassed the $3 billion mark. It marked quite a milestone. From nowhere on the agricultural scene less than a decade ago, the Gates Foundation has emerged as one of the world’s major donors to agricultural research and development.”5

Quite different than the US priorities.  We seem to be working on what we can get out of the continent.  (These numbers do not include CIA drone strikes against al Shabaab’s leadership in Somalia, the US Army providing equipment and intelligence to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria, US  airstrikes targeting and likely killing an al-Qaida-linked militant leader in eastern Libya, and  120 American advisers in Uganda providing training, weapons and supplies — $100 million worth since 2011, just in Uganda. )

Connect and Empower Africa: $133.9 million to support key commitments and investments in Africa, including Power Africa ($76.7 million) to increase access to reliable, cleaner power for economic growth, as part of the Administration’s expanded $300 million annual commitment; Trade Investment Capacity Building, including Trade Africa and Investment Hubs ($47.2 million), of which $30 million supports the Administration’s $75 million commitment to align, focus, and expand current USG bilateral and regional trade programs in sub-Saharan Africa; and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) ($10 million), which aims to bring young African leaders to the United States for six weeks of training and provide professional development activities for fellows once they return to the continent.6

Our country (including Bill and Melinda Gates) does not find educating girls a priority.  (At least the Gates Foundation is funding family planning.)  But here’s our real problem, as seen by the New Yorker magazine:
Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans


MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”…7


Pause from Politics

June 30, 2015

OK, a few notes on Tucson’s weather and wildlife.

The monsoons started a few days ago.  No deluge at my house, but, being able to see the whole basin that is Tucson, surrounded by mountains, I could see rain in the northeast corner of town at one point, the northwest corner at another.  This morning a few sprinkles as I drove to work – not enough for the windshield wipers, but enough to bring the humidity up to 57%, such a nice contrast to the desert sun baking all of the moisture out of one’s body.   Even though I am now visibly sweating when outside, veggie garden 006the cloud cover keeps the temperature down, and the sun at bay.  (It still is supposed to reach 102° today.)  The humidity has encouraged the native whitethorn acacia to produce its little yellow balls, which pass for flowers.

This morning a large roadrunner dashed across the yard.  It must have been after a lizard; they often pose for me.  Yesterday a sole javelina peeked around the wall, peering longingly at my vegetable garden when I was in the shower.  The evening before, washing dishes, I enjoyed the site of a deer posing under the mesquite tree.

The cicadas were trilling like crazy when I left work yesterday, but only crickets chirped in my yard.  I noticed that cicadas get louder when you approach – since there are so many of them you can’t find an individual one by noise.  Crickets, by contrast, stop chirping as you move towards them.  I read the description of cicadas in Wikipedia1, and found out that they create their “song” differently than crickets.  (Read up on it if you’re interested.)

Speaking of my vegetable garden, I had a couple of Japanese eggplants and miniature red bells from the garden for dinner last night (barbequed with Italian peppers and red LaSoda potatoes from the CSA).  The green bell pepper and full-sized tomato that are not covered by leaves have sunburn.  The cherry tomatoes are halfway to ripe.  Finished the spinach the other night.  It had bolted.

Because I had planted sage (the culinary herb, not the desert variety, bursage, which is not edible and has nasty burrs) in my vegetable garden this year instead of in my herbal pot on the deck by the kitchen, it is deliriously happy with all of the root room, so I guess I need to deep-fry a bunch of leaves, as I learned in my cooking class it Italy many years ago.

Salvia Fritta ~ Choose large, very fresh leaves for this recipe. Either offer them along with a nice glass of red wine, or use as a garnish for grilled meats or seafood.meats or seafood.meats or seafood.2

This just in (June 30, 5:45 pm): Just as I was pulling into my garage I heard crashes.  Then I saw the hailstones, 1″ in diameter, bouncing into my garage, pelting the front of my house at a 45° angle, and the assault started – I thought they’d break a window!  It was over in 10 minutes, and the hailstones melted fast on the hot driveway.  Luckily my potted plants are in the back of the house, so they didn’t get ripped to shreds.  But the fig vine climbing up veggie garden 010the front of the house, and the agapanthus took it badly.

In the vegetable garden the peppers, eggplant, and sage were close enough to the wall to be sheltered, but my volunteer sunflowers and tomatoes, which I had photographed just hours earlier, were partially shredded, and two sunflower heads and three cherry tomatoes on the ground.


Because my TV is broken (the cable connection), I watch a lot of DVD’s.

CumberbatchI was watching an old PBS, To the Ends of the Earth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  I remembered him as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, but forgot the others, so googled.  He is so versatile!  He’s played a good guy, a bad guy, a dragon.  He played Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness3:

Khan in 2259
Gender:           Male
Species:          Human Augment
Affiliation:        Section 31
Rank:              Commander
Occupation:     Agent
Status:            In Stasis (2259)
Born:               mid-20th century
Marital Status:  Single

smaugand of course, Sherlock.  But Smaug!  How could he play Smaug, a dragon from Lord of the Rings.  Googled and found these two great video.  You must see!  (This first is one of many.)  Then this one is just funny – watch it through to the end (and ignore the annoying commercial at the beginning).

The captain of the ship in To the Ends of the Earth looked familiar, so I googled Jared Harris.  Ah yes, has been Lane Pryce in Mad Men.

And To the Ends of the Earth was based on William Golding’s trilogy.  He was…

…best known for his novel Lord of the Flies, he won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also awarded the Booker Prize for literature in 1980 for his novel Rites of Passage, the first book in what became his sea trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth.


The Rainbow Connection

June 27, 2015


Can you hear Kermit singing this?

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we’ve been told, and some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me…

Then there’s this news satire from The Onion:–32972

Sorry, but I must refer to the Bible, which “Christians” use as an excuse to be against gays.  There was to be a gang rape of a couple of angels, but Lot asks that they take his virgin daughters instead.  How does that sit with you?  What does gang rape have to do with marriage equality?  Why does Lot think so little of his daughters that he’d throw them to the wolves?  (Genesis 19)

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

Oops – one more  (Leviticus 18-19):

Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.  Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her…  Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman…

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner…

Check out the context: anyone using the rhythm method of birth control, which may be a lot of Catholics, have disobeyed God, 50% of men (according to Kinsey) have ignored God, including some well-respected presidents – Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, and all agribusinesses, as well.  But hey, that’s a moot point as of yesterday. However, I did try to find what the Bible said about marriage between one man and one woman.1 This was the only line that was specific (1 Corinthians 7):

But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

On the other hand (2 Kings 11):

King Solomon… had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines…

I may be an agnostic now, but I was in church every Sunday of my childhood. I got to know my Bible pretty well. I noticed, as Shakespeare said, The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. (It must be the heat that’s making me contankerous…)


South Carolina

June 26, 2015

confederate-flagDiscussion continues to rage around Nikki Haley and the removal of the confederate flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds. Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion about it day before yesterday in the New York Times: Tearing Down the Confederate Flag Is Just a Start.1  Yes, it is definitely only a start.

This controversy has come up because of  Dylann Roof’s slaughter of nine people in SC.  But… Sixteen hours after killing nine people inside a Charleston, South Carolina, church, 21-year-old Dylann Roof was treated to a free meal from Burger King by the Shelby, North Carolina, police officers who arrested him.   Now imagine this: a black guy goes into a white church and guns down nine white people.  When the police catch him they take him to Burger King for a free meal.  As if.  (Although it would make a great SNL Burger King ad.)

In Maryland, Freddie Gray (who did not kill nine people) was arrested for what the police alleged was an illegal switchblade, fell into a coma in the police van, and died of spinal injuries.  In New York, Eric Garner (who did not kill nine people) was being arrested on suspicion of selling single cigarettes (single cigarettes!!!), was put in a choke hold and died.  In South Carolina, Walter Scott (who did not kill nine people) was shot eight times (!!!) in the back when he ran away after a traffic stop.  In Ohio, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy (who did not kill nine people) was fatally shot by a police officer over a toy gun.  Guess the race of Dylann Roof, of Freddie Gray, of Eric Garner, of Walter Scott, of Tamir Rice.  Something is wrong with this picture (and it’s not just in SC).


Sure, the US of A has made a few advances.  Everyone loves Oprah.  Obama was elected twice as the most important leader on our planet.  MLK has his own holiday.  Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (and our Prez) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Then there are all of the sports stars, authors (how many of Toni Morrison’s have you read?), movie stars – Morgan Freeman even played God!

stromOn the other hand, Shrom Thurmond, who had been a (white) South Carolina senator, had fathered a child with a 16-year-old black maid  – how Old South.  So a statue of him stands on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol as well as one in the town square of Edgefield, South Carolina (where a high school was also named after him).  President Bush Gave him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Buildings are named after him at the University of South Carolina, Charleston Southern University, and Winthrop University; these universities are in South Carolina, of course, and nobody there cares if a white guy who said,

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.

had sex with a black teenager, who then had a child. (Hit that clip to hear him.) It wasn’t until six months after Thurmond’s death (at the age of 100), that Essie Mae Washington-Williams publicly revealed that she was his daughter.  BTW – he started that affair with Carrie Butler in 1924, when miscegenation was a felony.  (No big deal for a white guy, but Emmett Till, a 14-tear-old black kid, was mutilated and murdered for just whistling at a white woman in 1941 in Mississippi.)

In 1967, 17 Southern states (all the former slave states plus Oklahoma) still enforced laws prohibiting marriage between whites and non-whites. After the ruling of the Supreme Court, the remaining laws were no longer in effect. Nonetheless, it took South Carolina until 1998… to officially amend state constitutions to remove language prohibiting miscegenation.

For a few years I lived in Greenville, South Carolina, one of the Ten Least Segregated Metropolitan Areas in 20102 (as well as Tucson). Greenville’s index of 43.6 means that it is moderately segregated, that about four out of 10 black residents would need to move to another Greenville neighborhood to be distributed throughout the metro area in the same way as whites.

But the center of most everyone’s life there was The Church (and this was not just Sunday, but almost every day of the week, with activities for the kids, prayer sessions, bible study classes, and so on), and I’ll bet all 33 of them were segregated.  In spite of the fact that the Southern Baptists, who …didn’t formally apologize for its stand on slavery until 1995, think that it’s a good idea to integrate.  “Right now, 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”3

corridorWhen I was there, got to know about the 2007 documentary, Corridor of Shame: the neglect of South Carolina’s rural schools, an hour documentary that tells the story of the challenges faced in funding an adequate education in South Carolina’s rural school districts.4  If you don’t watch the entire film, at least watch this 9-minute segment:  Then read this article from February’s (2015) Charleston Chronicle, SC Legislators Continue To Deny Court-Ordered Education In “Corridor Of Shame”:

The South Carolina State Legislature’s efforts to appeal a state Supreme Court ruling mandating it provides the resources to rural schools in the state’s worst school districts indicate the general assembly will continue to do nothing to insure students in the predominantly Black schools of the “Corridor of Shame” receive a quality education…
The lawsuit to force the legislature to provide basic education to the schools was brought in 19935

…Parents and other community leaders responded to school desegregation by creating private schools that could discriminate in accepting applications to attend.  Prior to 1956, South Carolina had only 16 private schools.  Between 1963 and 1975, almost 200 new private schools were created in the state.  In some of the more rural, majority-African American counties in South Carolina, these schools enrolled over 90% of the white children in the public school system.  Named “segregation academies,” these private schools continued segregation in education throughout South Carolina.  In Clarendon County today, Summerton High School has an enrollment of 95% African American students, while the whites attend Clarendon Hall.  Clarendon Hall only began accepting African American students in 2000.6

…The federal government forced South Carolina to dismantle its dual school system, where certain schools were predominately black or white, by the beginning of the 1970-1971 school year. Greenville and Darlington counties, under specific court cases, had to  integrate their schools by the end of the 1969-1970 school system. This order led to protests and violence in Lamar, where a group of almost 200 white adults attacked and overturned a school bus full of black children. Over three thousand of Darlington County’s white students had boycotted school for weeks before the mob attack.7

Back then there were 200 private schools, today there are 449 private schools in South Carolina.  Minority enrollment is 14% [9,298 minority kids, 57,113 white kids].  78% of South Carolina private schools are religiously affiliated.8  I did a spot check on some of the religious schools – one was 100% black, but two others were actually integrated by color (33% minority for a Catholic school, 13% for a Christian), if segregated by religion.  Plus poor people cannot afford private schools, so the well-to-do can send their kids to private school and vote down money for the Corridor of Shame schools.  It’s also of interest that back when the schools were forcibly integrated, hardly any white kids got bussed, and many (substandard) black schools were closed.

Now I want to apologize to my friend L, who befriended me when I joined the Greenville chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women) for dissing her state.  She is a marvelous person, as well as all of the women who I got to know in the AAUW book club (of which there was one black member).  We read many books that did not shed a good light upon the history of the south, such as Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo, one of the nine black students to integrate Little Rock Central High in 1957.  I would highly recommend it, even if you end up in tears.  She…

…had acid thrown into her eyes and also recalled in her book… an incident in which a group of white girls trapped her in a stall in the girls’ washroom and attempted to burn her by dropping pieces of flaming paper on her from above.

See photo from the Little Rock integration below.  Think we read The Help too.  I just wish that all of South Carolina were as tolerant as those AAUW women.  But I was only there for a few years, and unfortunately I met too many people who give Southerners a bad name.


6 In 2004, …95.5 percent of Summerton’s 1,230 public school students are black, mirroring the levels of minority concentrations seen in a growing number of schools nationwide. At Clarendon Hall, all but about 20 of its 275 students are white, reflecting the racial isolation experienced by most of America’s white students.

Train of Thought

June 23, 2015

…keeps a-rollin’

jane-fonda-cover-1542x2056american-apparel-advanced-basics-features-old-woman-in-ad__oPtgapRevisiting older women in ads (Old is the New Black1), with Jane Fonda (77!!!) on the cover of W, Jacky O’Shaughnessy (scouted in a New York restaurant) modeling for American Apparel, and Angelica Houston (and Michael K. Williams) in a Gap ad.

Uranium mining

Continuing looking into the state land trust funds (from Arizona Education at the bottom of the last blog2) that our governor hopes to dip into a bit more enthusiastically, for the sake of K-12 education, I checked out how the state lands are used to generate the money:

Sales and Commercial Leases. Leasing categories include grazing, agriculture, mineral, mineral material, exploration, and apiary. Other administrative areas include water sales, mineral material sales, water rights administration, dam safety, trespass, recreational permits, environmental contamination, and cultural resources.3

But there’s a lot of controversy regarding uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Uranium mining has a long history in northern Arizona. For over a hundred years it’s created jobs, but has also caused cancer in miners who breathed it or the many Native Americans who drank it after their water became contaminated by it.
In 2011 then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed a Uranium mining ban in a million acres around the Grand Canyon. It became law in 2012, but it only banned new claims, not existing ones.
That is how it is completely legal for a company called Energy Fuels to re-open and start mining uranium out of Canyon Mine, which was permitted to be mined in 1986.4

It was taken to court, but (surprise, surprise) the white guys won again.  April 8, 2015  Federal Judge OKs Uranium Mining Next to Grand Canyon National Park:

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell denied a request to halt new uranium mining at the Canyon uranium mine, located only six miles from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim. The Havasupai tribe and a coalition of conservation groups had challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Inc. to reopen the mine without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an obsolete federal environmental review dating to 1986. At stake are tribal cultural values, wildlife and endangered species, and the risk of toxic uranium mining waste contaminating the aquifers and streams that sustain the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.5

I hiked down to Supai village, located within Havasu Canyon, think about 1998.  It’s at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  We chose that hike for the four series of waterfalls (this photo, of Havasu Falls, from an article6).  havasu fallsIt was July but the water temperature was 52 degrees!  Too cold for me, so I just enjoyed the spray from the falls, but my son’s girlfriend, from Canada, dove in without a qualm.  Would hate all of this pristine water to be polluted with uranium!

colorado-river-trailYears before that I had taken a raft down the Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry down to Lake Mead.  (This photo of Colorado River & Trail Expeditions – Day Trips from TripAdvisor)  We “bathed” in the water, we swam in the water (only if we were very hot), we drank the water (out of plastic mugs they gave us which were dark brown inside so that you couldn’t see the color of the river – colorado means red), we brushed our teeth in the river (using those mugs), we made coffee from the water.  One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World could be contaminated by uranium.

Tucson Community Center

EckbowaterfeatureA while back, when I was doing independent study on landscape architecture, I read Garrett Eckbo’s Landscape for Living.  He was one of the most highly respected and influential American modernist landscape architects, and he designed the landscape at Tucson’s community center.  (Photo credit: fotovitamina, 2012)

This landscape – composed of stepped terraces, undulating water courses, tree groves, and cool shallow pools… faces destruction nearly 40 years after its completion by the very city that once commissioned it.7

Two years ago there was an article in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson’s public art crumbling from lack of maintenance funds:

Many of the public artworks were installed as part of the city’s 1-percent-for-art program — 1 percent of every capital-improvement project is earmarked for public art. None of the money can be set aside for maintenance because capital money is designated for creating a project and all the funds must be used specifically for that, said Mary Ellen Wooten, public art program manager with the Tucson Pima Arts Council.8

tucson cc
The lack of maintenance has extended to Eckbo’s landscape.  I had just moved to Tucson when the community center was being built.  Do you remember when water crashed about these beautiful boulders in the Fountain Plaza?

A year ago KGUN9 news reported that Group plans renovation for overlooked downtown landscape:

The landscape is already on the list of Arizona historical properties. Now Helen [Erickson of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation] is working toward the national register. Rio Nuevo gave the group a matching grant of $25,000 and Erickson says the area is being considered for a future Pima County Bond Election.

For more information about the group planning the renovations, click here. For a look at the conservation master plan for this space, click here.9

With that backstory, we now get to my train of thought, my mention of visiting a CAD class in the last blog2, about the Pima independent study students and the Revit club turning a pointcloud laser scan into a set of Revit (3D CAD) drawings.  That laser scan was done of the community center landscape, and it is being turned into a Revit drawing for presentations of the project that is on this fall’s bond election.

Prop. 427
Music Hall, Leo Rich Theatre, and TCC landscape renovations* – $23.5M
Historic county courthouse restoration/repurposing – $25M
Temple of Music & Art rehab – $.9M
Tucson Children’s Museum remodel/expansion – $5M

*Rio Nuevo is currently in discussions with the city of Tucson on how to fund an additional $48M of suggested renovations to the Tucson Convention Center. (Phase I renovations of $9M to the Tucson Arena and other areas were completed in December, 2014.

Last week I went to another one of those independent study classes, and the group was giving a presentation to Helen Erickson, Steve Grede (landscape architect and CAD department chair at Pima’s downtown campus), another landscape architect  (I should have been taking notes), and two professors from U of A.  All were suitably impressed.  And now that I know what this is all about, so am I.



June 17, 2015

tiny spider 001Tucson isn’t all tarantulas and black widows1.  This week I’ve seen some tiny (1/8“) spiders in my garden – one white, one light green, one light yellow, all beautiful.  My camera isn’t so good at that size closeups, but you get the idea.


I don’t recall ever seeing a spittlebug before, but I knew exactly what it was when I saw it.  According to Wikipedia, they’re froghoppers, capable of jumping many times their height and length, but are:

170px-Spittlebug4383…best known for the nymph stage, which produces a cover of frothed-up plant sap resembling spit; the nymphs are therefore commonly known as spittlebugs…
The froth serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from the view of predators and parasites, it insulates against heat and cold, thus providing thermal control and also moisture control; without the froth the insect would quickly dry up. The nymphs pierce plants and suck sap, causing very little damage, much of the filtered fluids go into the production of the froth, which has an acrid taste, deterring predators.

Good News/ Bad News

In a joke, the guy always asks for the bad news first.  No joke, but the bad news was that I got laid off yet again (the last time was from Fluor2, see below), at the end of the spring semester.  STEM (Science, technology, Engineering, and Math) is a big push nationally at this time, as we’re giving foreign STEM graduates green cards3 because not enough of our young people are going into the STEM fields.  The STEM grant that funded my job, and three others, is going for a different letter (S, rather than M) in the fall.

There was only one position under the grant at the campus closest to my home for summer and they chose (surprise, surprise) the only white guy.  It had been suggested that he apply at the campus closest to him, but like Bartleby, the Scrivener (a Dickens character in the book by the same name), he said I’d prefer not to, so I emailed the person in charge of the developmental math program at that campus, and when he didn’t answer, drove up to see him, and got the summer job.  So we two staff instructors are crossing paths as we drive to work each morning, bad for carbon emissions.  Part of the good news is I like the setup at the summer position better.

Then, because of my many certifications with the college (based on previous careers), I emailed heads of relevant departments regarding openings for adjunct instructors for fall semester.  Two disciplines with no openings (writing, math) and two interviews.  I shall be teaching CIS (Computer Information Systems) at the campus south of me one evening a week, and CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) at the downtown campus two mornings a week.  Part of the good news is that I shall be earning, with 8 hours in the classroom a week, a bit more than I earned with 18 hours in the classroom previously.  The caveat is that I have some reviewing to do this summer.  Shall be getting my CIS book next Monday and shall “drop in” (suggested) to a CAD independent study class,  which is turning a pointcloud laser scan into a set of Revit (3D CAD) drawings, held this summer two evenings a week.  (An exciting project.  More about that later.)  And, of course, the 8 hours don’t include preparing lessons, filling out the weekly attendance form, grading, nd so on.  I shall report back.

More Good News

The offer my daughter and her husband made for the second house was accepted.  They shall be moving here in July.  Depending on the closing date, they may be staying with me for a week.  It shall be difficult enough to have (in addition to three kids) two cats (mine and hers) in the same house, so I suggested that they leave the two dogs with his grandparents for the week.

Arizona Education

My SD friend was surprised last year when I told him that Arizona’s contribution to K-12 schools (at $7,208 per student in 2012-13) is third lowest in the nation (with only Utah and Idaho behind us, more than $2K below Arkansas).  He had to google it to verify.  According to NEA rankings for estimated expenses for 2014–154, we have sunk to the bottom, at $7,461, below Utah at $7,711.  (If Utah is at all like Safford, AZ, a Mormon town, education budgets are lower because all of the after-school activities take place at the church, leaving out, of course, non-Mormons.)  That’s too low, even for Arizona, so our Republican governor (who can’t raise taxes, of course), Doug Ducey, proposed Thursday taking $1.8 billion from the State Land Trust Fund for K-12 education in the next five years.5

The trust now has 9.2 million acres, and the current voter-approved formula allows a payout of 2.5 percent of the fund balance annually. Last year, that payout was about $80 million, divided equally among school districts based on enrollment. That comes to about $72 for each of Arizona’s 1.1 million public school students.

Ducey said Thursday that the trust has money to spare.

“We have $5 billion in the bank and up to $70 billion in potential future value,” he said. “We are getting less than $100 million a year for it. We can do better.”

The $1.8 billion over five years would increase the annual per-student payout from the trust to roughly $323 over and above other state educational funding.

Those of you with a calculator would have checked 2.5% x $5B and have come up with $125 M, not $80 M.  Huh?  $1.8 billion over five years would be $360 M a year, which is 7.2% a year (all of this uncompounded).  That’s way too much to take out of a trust fund unless Ducey is taking into account $70 billion in potential future value.  Would you do that to your trust fund (if you are one of the 1%)?  But even if, extra money from the fund would not be available until 2017, leaving my grandchildren not only out of the windfall, as they shall be here for only two years while their father is in training, but with an extra $135 per student cut for fiscal Year 2015-2016. Putting us below the bottom, which I guess is the basement, in education spending.


trumpI heard on the news yesterday that the myriads of Republican candidates for president have been trumped (trump: a suit in card games that outranks all other suits for the duration of a hand).  The Donald has thrown in his hat.  (He never wears one anyway, being proud of his hair.)

2 3/20/09 Fluor Corporation today announced that it has received notification from Kuwait National Petroleum Company to stop work on the utilities and offsites for the al-Zour refinery. Fluor has approximately 300 employees performing engineering work on the project. The remaining contract value of approximately $2.1 billion will be removed from the company’s backlog in the first quarter.
Several lawmakers in parliament have alleged violations, such as handing out a package to US firm Fluor Corp without a tender.
And on another note from the layoff, an old blog that also has a lovely photo of Tucson fog:

Tucson Art

June 10, 2015

Last Saturday went to two art events.  First, to the Davis Dominguez Gallery1 for a reception for Small Things Considered.  Great show – you must see it (May 7-June 27)!  These are just a few of the over 80 artists represented.

Below, a cunningly framed photographic print by Regina Heitzer-Momaday and the next by Carrie Seid,  silk stretched over copper, which she bends into curves. Her description (emphasis mine) follows:

The pieces are constructed using a hardwood base, cut and formed sheet metals (copper, brass and aluminum), and silk. The metal forms an understructure which supports a stretched layer of silk. Modulated color (in the form of under-painting or dyed silk) is sometimes used to enhance depth, structure and dimension. The additional step of oiling the fabric “skin” creates various degrees of translucence, allowing the outer layer to be visually penetrable – a watercolor rendered in three dimensions.

art & birds 013

art & birds 011A marvelous dish of clay by Gary Benna.  (You must click on it to see the detail of the bodies in the center.)  Oil on paper by Danielle Neibling.

art & birds 017dance 001
My absolute favorite, Golden Doves on Cholla Ribs by Thomas Kerrigan, done in clay!  And this bronze jackrabbit by Mark Rossi. You may have seen his javelina in the entry to the Desert Museum.

art & birds 019art & birds 023

One of my favorite artists, Gail Marcus Orlen, has done this oil (which includes the bird), and one of our CAS members, Barbara Jo, has created More Filipinos Than Fish (photographed in front of handwoven linen by another CAS member, Claire Campbell Park; both women taught at Pima).

art & birds 025art & birds 027

An oil by another CAS member, Moira Geoffrion, from a photo which she took when we were in Venice, and cast glass by Katja Fritzsche, whose studio we (CAS) had recently visited2.

art & birds 037

art & birds 031

Another piece of art that I wish I could afford, this Nest by Phil Lichtenhan in metal with ceramic eggs.

dance 005

After that reception a few of us went to the Raices Taller 222 dance 011gallery for a dance performance by ZUZI! Dance4 to conclude the Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres exhibit. A snippet from their website:

The Guerrilla Girls5, a women’s artist coalition, has discovered that only 3% of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum’s modern art sections are women and that 90% of the solo exhibitions were of work by white male artists.3

dance 056dance 007The gallery was small, so we squished against the walls to allow the dancers room.  This woman’s tats were distinctive.

Crazy Weather

Tucson has had unusual weather this June.  May was beautiful, with high temperatures 78°-83°, then you blinked, and while your eyes were closed, it was 93°, and when the blink was finished, in June, it was 103°.  Reminded me a a young child playing hopscotch, jumping over the squares with stones in them.  Last week we got a bit of rain and the temperatures abated slightly (to the 90’s).  Night before last another splatter of rain (if you scratch the dirt, you can see the dampness is flycatcher 009only 1/8” thick) and it has “cooled” to the high 80’s.

A month and a half ago the palo verdes had bloomed6.  With this unusual rain they’re blooming again.  And my agapanthus look great.

flycatcher 001Mating Season

Birds crash into my windows at this time of the year because their brains aren’t fully functional during mating season.  And I have a flycatcher who has been attacking his reflection in the window for a few days.  Same reason.



Birds, Bees, and Bobcats

June 8, 2015

art & birds 002Another one bit the dust.  Am going to have to put decals on the bedroom doors too.  This small bird has a tiny splotch of yellow on its head, so I guess it qualifies as a verdin.

At my computer Saturday I hear a loud art & birds 006smash, as a large bird hitting a window.  Went out front to check, and saw no dead bird, but a few quail were looking distressed and squawking up a storm.  Later, when I went out to my garden, I saw the evidence.  A hawk had flown a large bird (no doubt a quail, whose relatives I heard grieving) into the window, then had plunked it feathers outside the fence (see the photo) and dined.

art & birds 004On a cheerier note, a cardinal in the wildflower garden.  And (an un-photographed) visit from the neighborhood roadrunner, stopping just briefly on my bedroom patio, as the cat was outside, but they have a tacit agreement not to bother each other as the roadrunner is too big for the cat, and the cat is too big for the roadrunner.

Our killer bees are not a problem around here unless you disturb their hive, or are around a pool.  poolAfter house-hunting with my daughter on Sunday (they found another house and have made an offer) we went swimming at the El Conquistador pool (showing family in pool), where they are staying.  A few bees around the edge drinking the splashed water.  Many years ago, in similar circumstances,  I stepped on one, which of course stung me.  Another time, raising myself out of a pool, I put my hand down on one and got stung.  Unfortunately, I believe that both died.

This morning I thought I ought to plug my camera battery in for a recharge and as I stood up the young bobcat was just stepping onto the bedroom patio.  It looked at my cat (whose back was turned), then at me, and backed away.  With no battery I missed the shot.  The other day, getting ready for work, I noticed the cat staring out the sliding door, very interested.  The young bobcat was chasing a small rabbit in circles around a barrel cactus.  They were going quite fast, so these are the best photos I could get, obliquely through the glass.

bobcat & barrel 004


I know that some of you prefer my animals to my politics, but had to share these. First, a poster about American freedoms, then commentary on the Koch brothers, based on a Coke commercial:

Next, a report on our world’s pollution.

…the Earth is surrounded by nearly 4 million pounds of space debris. The image you see above was actually generated by NASA to show which ones are presently being tracked.1

the loved oneThis brought to mind a farcical movie from the 60’s, The Loved One,2 which skewers the American Way of Death, and concludes with the deceased being shot into space; so you could add all those satellites filled with corpses, circling the earth, to the picture above.



Texas Storms

June 5, 2015


Those Texas Republicans refused federal dollars for health care for the poor, but when over a thousand of the not-poor have their homes damaged or washed away (photo from the Web1), then they want the feds to intervene.  Here are a few snippets from Newsweek, but read the whole article2:

As extreme weather marked by tornadoes and flooding continues to sweep across Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has requested—and President Obama has granted—federal help…

…just over a month ago, hundreds of Texans decided that a pending Navy Seal and Green Beret joint training exercise was really an excuse to take over the state and impose martial law. And they claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency was erecting prison camps, readying Wal-Mart stores as processing centers for political prisoners…

Texas dislikes the federal government so much that eight of its congressional representatives, along with Senator Ted Cruz, opposed disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy—adding to the awkwardness of their lobbying for the federal relief now heading Texas’s way…

Texas officials continue to turn down federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, thereby denying insurance to more than 1 million people and preventing the state from receiving an estimated $100 billion in federal cash over the next decade.


These storms3 look scary.  I have cousins in Texas, outside of Fort Worth, so I emailed them, Have you been going through the storms and tornadoes? 

We are fine. We are high and no flooding at our house, just in areas around lakes and rivers. I always cringe when there are tornadoes nearby or hail, but so far we are lucky.  The lakes here are all over 100 percent. Our sailboat lake is 13 feet over capacity. All boat launches are closed. I would think our drought is over.

Texas continues to rain us out of a drought. It feels like a jungle here. I picked up a bag in the kitchen and there was a baby snake. So not only are the ants moving indoors, but so are the reptiles! I need to tighten up the seal on that back door. The ants moved into our house while in Colorado, but the resident spider population did a pretty good job as evidenced by the piles of ant bodies under each little spider web. No poison for our home! We might get desperate and use Amdro outside if it ever stops raining.

A Move

My daughter and her family are moving again (as with the last move, for a better position for her husband).  Surprise, surprise, this time it’s to Tucson!  (Admittedly, the first choice had been Tacoma, but that didn’t pan out.)  They should only be here for two years, as he’ll be a hospital CFO in training; then the hospital chain shall move them somewhere else where he’ll be a CFO.  But for this short time they’ll be close to family again.  (Not only me here, but his parents, grandparents (!!), and sister’s family all live north of Phoenix.)

topangaSo last week they flew in for two intense days with a real estate agent, trying to decide between buying  (in which case they’d have to worry about resale in two years) or renting.  I joined them for the afternoons, as my summer schedule has me working mornings. They made an offer on the perfect house, only to be overbid.  Really, two offers in the same day!  (To the right is the lovely backyard of that house.)  zorella3

So I was asked to spend Wednesday afternoon with the agent, theoretically to find the perfect rental.  As if.  (The agent said a few times that she had a nice house near xyz, if we weren’t so picky about the schools…) There was one in our old neighborhood, but my daughter didn’t like the kitchen’s tile and dark cabinets and old appliances (see right).

I had taken copious notes, and the agent had taken photos to supplement the listings’,  but I wasn’t about to make a choice, have it be wrong, and hear about it for the next two years.  So… they’re flying in again on Sunday for three days to find another perfect one.  Luckily the hospital pays for two trips, and they have friends to take in the kids, as they’re still in school.

More to come.

blue 003CSA

Sometimes they give us flowers as well as veggies, but of course the flowers come from vegetables, as these artichokes.  (They were prettier yesterday but I forgot to take the photo then.)  I am happy to have the flowers (you can only eat so much kale), but many people are disappointed to get non-edibles.


Filled in the Census online.  Had to look up a bunch of answers like what was your water bill for the year.  Bet lots of people just make up a number, but as a math instructor, I’m precise.

Wanted to know if my Japanese car had to get its airbags replaced.  Called my car repair shop.  They had me call the dealer, who, after getting my VIN number, said no.  But also found this online:

My old dentist has retired and I’ve been putting off my six-month checkup when I got a coupon in the mail, complete X-rays and cleaning for only  $59. Deal.  The dentist (mea culpa, I hadn’t had X-rays in a while) said that I had two cavities, but one was in a wisdom tooth, so I ought just to have those two out before they caused more problems.  Plus I need four sessions of periodontal scaling, where they clean beneath the gum line. (I do not have gingivitis, so this is just prevention.)  Then she gave me a tri-fold brochure for a discount dental program. They claim it’s not insurance, and you pay just $99 a year (plus $19 processing fee), but insurance companies just give you a discount, so the distinction is minute.

Having turned into a suspicious person, as everyone seems to have their hand out, I figured that she needed work in a new practice. Really, I had the other two wisdom teeth out 35 years ago, and when that dentist (or maybe it was the oral surgeon) suggested that I get all four out, since I would already be under anesthesia, I suspected him of needing to pay off a new Mercedes. If that tooth has only had one cavity in 50 years, if filled, why shouldn’t it go another 50?

Still looking over different insurance policies.


You may have seen this before:

These are actual complaints received from dissatisfied customers by Thomas Cook Vacations (based on a Thomas Cook/ABTA survey)4:
1. “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
2. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time — this should be banned.”
3. “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”
4. “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”
5. “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”
6. “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”
7. “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”
8. “No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”
9. “Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”
10. “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”
11. “The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.”
12. “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”
13. “I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”
14. “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort’. We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”
15. “There were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”
16. “We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning.”
17. “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”
18. “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”
19. “My fiance and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”




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