The Garden

May 25, 2017

My tiny vegetable garden is very happy with being watered twice a day.  There are three tomato plants (closeups of the large tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes, which will no doubt ripen when I’m in Berlin next week; the housesitter can enjoy them) and an eggplant in the back.  The cucumber and squash vines completely cover the carrots (which take a long time to grow) and spinach (from which I’m harvesting the largest leaves, leaving the plants to continue producing.  Yesterday I got half a bag for a salad.)  One spinach leaf had a caterpillar encased in what looked like plexiglass on a leaf; I moved that leaf to another part of the yard in case it becomes a beautiful butterfly.

My neighbor was out the other morning (in short shorts – and she’s older than I am!) taking photos of her blooms.  The red birds of paradise (the left is hers, the right is “mine”) look gorgeous, even in front of lavender Texas ranger flowers, about the shade of  “my” purple prickly pear cactus on the right.  But the star of the show was her night-blooming cereus, which hadn’t faded out yet, and blooms only once a year!

Amazing that some plants love the heat.  My bulbine frutescens (a plant from South Africa), sends out long stalks with tiny yellow flowers.

Must mention that I have another pair of mourning doves raising two chicks, farther down the wall from the last dove family.  One of the parents sits patiently on the nest as I water my potted plants under it, but the other flaps noisily out of the nest when I just open the back door!

Summer is here!

Yes, we had one day over 100° a few weeks ago, but yesterday it was 102°, and in another week the serious heat will start; the temps will no doubt be in the 100’s for months. The rest of you in the northern hemisphere may start summer on June 20, but we start with those 100° temperatures!

Looks like Berlin’s not going to be as cool as I had hoped.  (Going with the Contemporary Art Society – CAS – from the Tucson Museum of Art -TMA.)  However, my daughter got me a tiny umbrella (something we rarely use here in the desert) for Mother’s Day, which fits in my purse, so I’m set for Tuesday and Friday.

End of the School Year

May 20, 2017

First there was the kindergarten graduation. (My youngest grandchild’s photo here with his proud parents.)  I think this is beyond silly, but that grandson also had a pre-school graduation!  Interesting that they sang about learning the alphabet, while my grandson has read the entire Adventures of Tintin series.  And they counted to ten in Spanish.  He can add three-digit numbers in his head.  My daughter said that’s because he is a competitive third child.

Then the second grade performance, followed the next week by the middle child’s piano recital. (Pictured here with his instructor.)

Next the fifth grade performance  (granddaughter pictured here at the microphone).  They sang about memories from first grade to fifth, nostalgically.

 

 

The next day was the elementary school orchestra, band, and chorus performance.  (My granddaughter still plays the violin, although she only practices about 3½ minutes a day.)  Two boys, middle school to high school age, sat to my right, both hunched at a 45° angle over their phones, playing video games the  entire time.  While the orchestra and band (which consisted of one clarinet, no flutes, about a dozen trumpets – with no mutes, a sax, and four drums – imagine the cacophony bouncing around that hard-surfaced room) performed from the floor of the multipurpose room, the chorus sat on bleachers on the stage fidgeting, one with her new Fidget Spinner,  another picking at her toenail, some chatting with each other, and no one sitting up straight.  Luckily all of the girls in dresses were also wearing tights, as they they were all sitting with legs akimbo.  Just more than half of the performers were dressed up (my granddaughter in a pink sparkle dress, a few boys in suits and ties), and the others in ragged T-shirts and jeans.  The jeans that the violin soloist wore had holes in the knees.

Finally the oldest boy’s taekwondo finale.  He is now in training to get this black belt, so he can start sparing.  Free classes in the summer for parents or grandparents.  Actually thinking of doing it again, with a few caveats.  I did mess up my left knee four-and-a-half years ago, demonstrating a taekwondo kick for the boys.1

And I’m finished with my last semester teaching at Pima.  This one burned me out.  A class of students just out of high school, who couldn’t be bothered to attend class or do all of their assignments.   Started with 18, then four dropped, and another four pretty much just stopped coming.  Those who did finish seemed positive about the class, and two of the girls actually hugged me, but that’s it.

Seen Today

Those were not dried grasses my mouse had gathered in the storage shed, they were pieces from my broom that it had chewed off!

On my fence this evening – a rosy finch, a male quail (watching over his family from above) and a pair of lovey doveys.  (Okay – I’ve made an adjective into a noun, but those doves do go at it.)

Drug Cartels

On the radio one morning they were discussing a drug cartel in Hermosa, Mexico and I thought they called it the Golf Cartel, so immediately I pictured the drug lords and their minions in golf attire.  Then I realized that they had said the Gulf Cartel.

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/who-would-you-rather-have-babysit-your-children/

Mom’s Day

May 14, 2017

A less stressful (less expensive) brunch this year at Einstein Bagels, followed by a cold swim (kids and polar bears only), then a turkey-burger BBQ dinner.  Note: my 11-year-old granddaughter is taller than I am.

This card is especially funny ’cause my son-in-law bought it for my daughter to give me!

 

 

Seen This Week

A woman checking out books at the library with a triple baby stroller, and three moon-faced, innocent, almost identical babies staring at me.

A male pyrrhuloxia perched on the shelf next to my outdoor table, but I couldn’t take a photo (but you can see one in this blog post: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/the-vegetarian-coyote/) because…  Tuesday afternoon it drizzled.  Not enough rain to wash off the windows, just enough to convert the covering of desert dust into spots that my camera wants to focus on.

I moved my finch feeder to just outside my bedroom window, and it’s been populated by a rotation of maybe a dozen goldfinches and one rosy finch, which is about twice their size, since I refilled it with Nyjer thistle seed.  I tried a few shots and just got a blur behind the spots on the window. I was sure there’s a setting to remedy that.  Yup – with Manual I got this shot of a goldfinch.

I have (at least) two cute geckos living here, one in my garage (I had to scoot it out of my way to back the car out), another in the storage shed.  Add that to all of the outdoor lizards, and I have quite a few reptiles eating my bugs.  But I am keeping the paper wasp nest in the ceiling corner of my patio.  Am fascinated with those insects.

Someone (mouse?) keeps trying to make a nest in my aforementioned storage shed.  One was composed of dried grasses, another of fallen blossoms from the desert willow.  I keep sweeping them out, but the shed smells of animal.  I even googled do geckos make nests to make sure I wasn’t jeopardizing its reproduction.  (They don’t.)

Took a photo of the clutch of baby quail, all just a bit bigger than acorns, but the camera focused on the welded wire, and they scampered down the slope too fast for me to count.  Somewhere around eight.  Have considered removing the wire from the fence to let in more critters, and just encircling my vegetable garden (harvested some spinach leaves today – leaving the plants to produce more), but it would be a bit of trouble.

Streaming

I have not had a working television since the cable line in the back of my TV was ripped out during my move to South Carolina, which was somewhere around a dozen years ago.  When my daughter moved back to town two years ago she loaned me one of her spare flat-screen TVs as their house came with two televisions bolted to the walls.  (Gave the old behemoth to my handyman, just to get someone to carry it out.)  It’s not smart, however, so I had to get a fire stick just to have it tune into my wifi.

So I do not get actual TV, but my son put me on his Netflix Streaming plan, and now I’m watching way too many series and a few movies, thus melting my mind every evening.

  • Sherlock (with Smaug and Bilbo, which is kind of mind-bending)
  • Untold History of the United States (co-written, directed, and produced by Oliver Stone, starting with WWI)
  • The West Wing (the presidency – way too cheery)
  • House of Cards (the presidency – way too dark)
  • Veep (politics – which is supposed to be funny, but I’m put off with every third word starting with an “f”; had a friend visiting from Australia who kept needling me about Trump, so I thought that this would give me a laugh)
  • The Crown ( a costume drama – the life of Queen Elizabeth II from 1940 to today)
  • Longmire (reminiscent of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels, which I got tired of after book two; my son was put off by the cowboy sheriff being played by an Australian actor)
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (magic in 19th century England – mostly silly)
  • Black Mirror (a BBC contemporary reworking of “The Twilight Zone” – each episode is stand-alone, and some are dreadful.  Season 3, Episode 6: “Hated in the Nation” reminded me of Michael Crichton’s book Prey;  but my favorite episode is Season Three Episode 3, “Playtest” – I love the punchline at the end)
  • Cleverman (an American drama that takes place in Australia, with Iain Glen from Game of Thrones, and hints of District 9, where the internment camps were in South Africa – somewhat silly but with roots in Aboriginal mythology)
  • Stranger Things (see my ref in
    https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/humor/ – silly)
  • Zootopia (I loved this Disney animated feature)
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.(silly – a Marvel’s series)
  • Daredevil (also silly – a Marvel character)
  • Captain America: Civil War (“)
  • Luke Cage (“)
  • Jessica Jones (“)
  • Game of Thrones (love this !!!  See this ref:
    https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/humor/)
  • Outlander (“)
  • Father Brown (a BBC series of a crime-solving Catholic Priest – silly)
  • Arrow (as in the Green Arrow – a DC character – silly)
  • Helen Mirrin’s old Prime Suspect (the British series – woman as hard-ass)

Frankly, by this time I’m sick of half a dozen killings a night…

  • Boardwalk Empire (but after five seasons I got tired of Nucky Thompson – how could women fall for Steve Buscemi?)
  • Juana Ines (liked this period drama in Spanish with subtitles but real story of a self-taught scholar, philosopher and poet of the Baroque school, and Hieronymite nun in Mexico City)
  • Grace & Frankie (with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, whose husbands, Martin Sheen – really?  he’s the West Wing President! – and Sam Waterston, divorce them to marry each other – pretty vacuous, with old-people jokes)
  • The Big Short (movie okay, but liked the book better)
  • The Last Kingdom (how England arose as a nation, with Anglo-Saxons and Danes – with great hairdos and tats – based on the historical fiction novels The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, which I haven’t read)

Predators

May 2, 2017

Good that the doves breed all year ’round to keep the predators fed.  Not only the bobcat and snake I showed in my last blog, but the roadrunner that today jumped over my fence to drink from the birdbath.  And yesterday there was a hawk on my neighbor’s fence, Cooper’s I think, although I didn’t get a good look, as when I saw it, it saw me and promptly flew away.

The Goldfinch

On Saturday, when my daughter’s family stopped by, my daughter espied a baby chick on the ground.  We knew it was a goldfinch because a parent was cheeping at us from a tree.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t see a nest to return it to, and the large mesquite out front has been over-trimmed (why do people do that?) so that the branches are 30 feet up, with no way to get to a nest if we’d even seen it.

So… my daughter took it home, filled a container with rags and hamster bedding, made a mash of kitten milk, catfood, and ground seeds, and fed it with a eyedropper. Pretty horrible looking, isn’t it? It doesn’t have flight feathers, and it hasn’t opened its eyes yet.  A bit of smashed mash on the wings, as it would turn quickly.  (The grey feathers I added – they were left from the bobcat’s meal.)

Anyway, she then took off on a three-day field trip to California with her daughter, and left the nestling to me!  She said she’d been feeding it every hour or so.   Supposed to feed it until its crop (a bubble on its neck) is full.  And if its skin is red, it’s dehydrated.  I checked the advice online to verify.1

Decided it needed birdseed, so chopped up sunflower kernels and Niger thistle seeds (which didn’t grind well with the mortar and pestle), mixed with water, and it seemed to like that, cheeping and jumping about.

Something is seriously wrong with its eyes.  I googled, of course, I have a finch with encrusted eyes. What should I do?

You are observing a disease that was first observed in House Finches in the Mid-Atlantic States in 1994, that has since spread to most of North America. It is caused by a parasitic bacterium called Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. So far, the disease is most prominent in the eastern population of House Finches. However, a few reports of the disease have been confirmed in American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, and Pine Grosbeaks, all members of the family Fringillidae. There is a lot of information on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website — the FAQ page is particularly informative.2

So I looked up what to do for that.3

Then kept searching:

Avian pox is another disease that affects House Finches. This disease is characterized by wart-like growths on the featherless areas of the body such as around the eye, the base of the beak, and on the legs and feet. Avian pox can be mistaken for conjunctivitis when the eyes are affected. “Growths” on the eye are typically from avian pox.4

Then the meds for that.5  But of course my daughter pointed out that it was just a chick that fell out of a tree, and it would die, just not by predator.

Five days later and the bird is dying.  My daughter has brought it by on her way to work.  No cheeping today, no fluttering of wings, and  only two bites of food each feeding.  I cheeped at it in an attempt to get it to open its beak, and even played chirping goldfinch babies from the internet, earphone next to its head, but it wasn’t hungry, or we got the food wrong and maybe it’s stuck in its throat.   It is withering away.  So I thought it should spend some time outside, with the bird calls, the cooing of the mourning doves, underlain with the hum of my AC unit, the swish of cars along La Cholla, with the occasional low rumble of a truck.

A dried bougainvillea slowly rattles across the brick patio, the trees rustle in the wind, and there’s the whir of a hummingbird wings and their high-pitched ratchet call, along with the chitter of some small bird.  The white winged doves call “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you?”  There’s the loud cheep cheep cheep of the woodpecker or flicker (or is its call the scrak scrak scrak?), another twittering.

A goldfinch drinks from the birdbath, then swoops back to the area outside the fence.  Two mourning doves share it now.  Then the AC unit turns on again.  It had been windy and the sky was overcast all day, but it has blown over and the evening is cool.

My daughter picked the bird up after work and it died before she reached home.

[It] should have died hereafter…
Out, out, brief candle…
It is a tale…
Signifying nothing.

1http://www.finchinfo.com/breeding/handfeeding.php
2www.birds.cornell.edu/hofi/abtdisease.html
3https://www.google.com/search?q=medicine+for+avian+conjunctivitis&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
4http://feederwatch.org/learn/house-finch-eye-disease/
5https://www.google.com/search?q=medicine+for+Avian+pox&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

In the Pink

April 21, 2017

Palo verdes are still flowering, but the desert ironwood (top) that I pass every day on my way to work or the Y is in gorgeous bloom.  And the almost-dead desert willow in my side yard, which I severely trimmed, with the help of my son-in-law and his chainsaw, is in bloom, although not as dramatic.

Critters

I love the view from my computer.

A common kingsnake just glided along my fence, on the inside.  Don’t know how it got in, but it kept testing the welded wire along the fence, so I figured it wanted to get out.  Opened the gate and edged it along with a rake handle.  It then slithered away into the desert in those S-shaped curves.  By the 4½ inches  between the posts, it appeared to be three feet long.

Yesterday it was a bobcat, a wriggling quail in its mouth, which stopped at my fence to peer in.  I did not go outside to take these photos, as it would have disappeared.  (The snake just became stationary.)  I had thought a couple of quail had nested under a huge Texas ranger in the side yard a week ago, as whenever I went out the gate, in a rapid flurry, one flew out.  But the next day it didn’t happen, and there were a few feathers about.  I couldn’t figure what had gotten the bird until I saw the bobcat.  It could have easily jumped the fence.

Taxes

I got some money back on my taxes – enough to pay the accountant!

But let’s consider tax reform.  How about if we had no deductions? (This list mostly from Five Tax Deductions that Favor the Rich1.)  No charitable-giving deduction.  If you want to give your Picasso to the art museum, do it, just don’t deduct it.  Same goes for your church, or UNICEF, or your kid’s school.  If you believe in it, donate to it.  (Bill and Melinda Gates do, although they have gotten a small tax break, they could probably do find without it.  From 1994 to 2006, Bill and Melinda gave the foundation more than $26 billion. Those donations resulted in a tax savings of less than 8.3 percent of the contributions they made over that time.2) Long-term capital gains, which derive from the sale of investments such as stocks and bonds held for more than a year, are taxed at 15 percent.  They should be taxed as part of your income.  Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, which encourages people to scrape more of our biome (a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat) to build large houses, thus making our earth less habitable.  No deductions for children.  If people want to have children, they should pay for them.  The government already provides schools.  No deduction for yourself or whomever you care for, as head of household.

No

  • State sales taxes. …
  • Reinvested dividends. …
  • Out-of-pocket charitable contributions. …
  • Student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. …
  • Moving expense to take first job. …
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. …
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) …
  • State tax you paid last spring. …
  • Refinancing mortgage points. …
  • Jury pay paid to employer. …3

(I don’t consider tax-deferred retirement plans a deduction, as you end up having to pay tax on the money when you take it out.)

Then everyone who makes at least $31,200 (52 weeks of 40 hours at a logical minimum age of $15/ hr, married or not, old or young, dependents or not) pays 20%.

So for Trump’s 2005 return where

According to the Form 1040, Mr. Trump paid $36.6 million in federal income taxes on $152.7 million in reported income in 2005, or 24 percent…  Significantly helping matters back in 2005 was the fact he reported a $103.2 million loss that year…4

Without his deduction of losses, he’d pay on $152.7M + $103.2M = $255.9M, of which 20% is $51.18M.

Sure, that would hurt me.  I’d be paying almost 4 times what I paid, as an old person with deductions.  (But I wouldn’t have to pay an accountant.)  However, if that happened to everyone, we could take a bite out of the national debt, which is presently $20.1 trillion5.  Kay Bell in 8 tax breaks that cost Uncle Sam big money says that there’s a $4 trillion giveaway in tax breaks.6

I have a feeling that most of my friends will disagree with this proposal…

1http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2011/12/07/five-tax-deductions-that-favor-rich.html
2http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Foundation-FAQ
3https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Deductions-and-Credits/The-10-Most-Overlooked-Tax-Deductions/INF12062.html
4http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trumps-tax-return-leaked-rachel-maddow-what-accountants-think-alternative-minimum-tax/
5https://www.google.com/search?q=national+debt+today.&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
6http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/8-tax-breaks-cost-uncle-sam-big-money-1.aspx#ixzz4eqKyTARS

Easter 2017

April 17, 2017

Dyed eggs with my three grandchildren.  It’s trite, but they do grow up so fast!

Spring Flowers

Some of the palo verdes in the wash behind my house have turned yellow.  One of mine is now in flower.  The tiny backyard is looking beautiful.  A friend gave me a yucca and two prickly pear cuttings to fill in around the huge barrel cactus and rocks (see photo).


I think the quail have nested under a large Texas ranger in the side yard.  “Dad” was patrolling along the wall.

There is 18″ of 1/4” welded wire wrapped around the backyard wrought iron fence, and I assumed, when I planted a vegetable garden in a corner of the yard, that no rodents would get in.  Then I spied a rabbit, frantically trying to get out, until he realized that I was watching him through the window, and he froze. When I went out to open the gate to shoo him out, he was gone, and a dent in the top of one section of the welded wire.  He was so scared that he didn’t eat anything!

 

I enjoy seeing neighbors’ yards in bloom when I walk to the mailbox.  My next-door neighbor has this cactus in a pot, where it’s happily blossoming in fuchsia.  Orange flowers on a cactus down the street.  And this purple prickly pear is squeezed between an ocotillo and a saguaro.  My own prickly pear flowers.

 

Art

Can’t remember what I was looking for when I found Erwin Wurm’s One-Minute Sculptures on the Net. Check out all three websites – there are lots more.

 

http://publicdelivery.org/erwin-wurm-one-minute-sculptures/
http://www.stuk.be/en/one-minute-sculptures
http://sculpture.artapsu.com/?p=1581

Smoke Bomb Photos

Then I somehow got into these smoke bomb photos.  Above, by Julie SmithAviphile, “Lover of Birds.”

And this one: Se me escapan las ideas by Marina Gondra
http://marinagondra.com/

But that’s enough for tonight. http://myportraithub.com/smoke-bomb-photography/  And you can google for hundreds more…

Dearly Departed

April 5, 2017

No, they’re not dead, just gone.  “My” baby doves got so big Mom couldn’t fit in the “nest” (a small pile of twigs) any more, but stopped by occasionally to give them some pigeon milk.  That was something I didn’t know about previously.  According to Wikipedia:

Crop milk is a secretion from the lining of the crop of parent birds that is regurgitated to young birds. It is found among all pigeons and doves where it is referred to as pigeon milk…

Then I didn’t see them in their nest, so I went out to trim some bushes outside the window of my breakfast room (which I am using for an office), and they were sitting on the windowsill, across the narrow side yard from their nest.  But I had upset them, so they flew away.  They returned in the evening twice to the wall outside the kitchen, but I think Mom had decided that they could be on their own, so they’re gone.


A week ago it was so windy that people with respiratory problems, old people, and young children were asked to stay indoors and refrain from exercise.  I heard that on the news as I was driving to the Y to exercise.  The mountains were almost obscured, but I still loved looking at them.

The soil is pretty sandy here, which is maybe why the cactus grow so large.  Here are three on my street, on the walk to the mailboxes.  The biggest yucca and century plant I have ever seen, up to the house eves!  And a plump and happy saguaro.

Spring has hit Tucson with a splash of yellow.  It started with the brittlebush and desert marigolds at the side of the roads (with  an occasional slash of red or pink penstemon), then on to the palo verdes, heavy with flowers (with intermittent stripes of gaudy magenta bougainvillea – this in my back yard, the same color as all of the bougainvilleas in my subdivision).

I stopped in a parking lot yesterday to take these photos with my phone, but the wind was blowing pretty hard, so they look “painterly”.  The blooms started in the washes, and have been climbing up to the higher elevations.  Beautiful along La Cañada and La Cholla, and River Road especially!  Oro Valley is a bit higher than Tucson, so my three palo verdes are still covered with buds.

Seen Today

A quail couple, apparently looking for a suitable place to nest, he on the fence, alert for predators, but giving his mate helpful suggestions, she checking out the purple Mexican petunia in the backyard.  (These beautiful flowers only last one day.)

A bulky guy with blond hair past his shoulders, in shorts, shirt tied about his waist, walking along the road.  (It was cool this morning, and I was wearing a sweater!)

The area behind the fenced-in part of the back yard is riddled with holes.  Saw the first round-tailed ground squirrel today, but he didn’t stick around for a photo op.

Sculptor Ira Weisenfeld’s Boat in a Tree, on Wetmore.  Must take my own photo of it.  This from the sculptor’s website, https://www.circleofironforge.com/about-me.

Ubiquitous clutches of cyclists in colorful lycra.

At a light, a taxi-yellow sports car in front of one of the palo verdes overladen with yellow.  I was turning, and couldn’t stop for a photo.

A roadrunner skittering along the outside of the fence.  There are now many lizards in the yard, a few zebra-tailed lizards recently (this photo from Wikipedia), so I was surprised he didn’t want to venture in.  Maybe the 18″ of chicken wire wrapped around the base of the wrought iron fence deterred him, although he could have jumped over.

A hawk sitting on a power line, watching the traffic on La Cholla go by.  Looked like the hawk on the cover of the book I recently finished, H Is For Hawk, by Helen Macdonald.

Equal Pay Day

March 24, 2017

The next Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 4, 2017. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.1

I just got this email from the American Association of University Women:

April 4 is Equal Pay Day, and to mark this powerful day of action AAUW is offering a discounted introductory membership rate of just $21, of which $19 is tax deductible.
Right now the pay gap is so wide and closing so slowly that women will have to wait 135 years to receive equal pay. If we don’t step up now, the gender pay gap won’t close until the year 2152! I know you think that’s unacceptable, so please join.

This link has my code for your discount:
https://ww2.aauw.org/national-join/?appealcode=D17CEL1003A

Seen This Month

A woman driving a small silver BMW convertible with the top down, a tiny gold glitter Mickey Mouse cap at the top of its aerial.  It is cool and threatening rain yesterday, but a few days ago, when the weather was in the 90’s, I also saw two other convertibles with their tops down.

Then there was the young man leaving the Y with his two-year-old daughter on his arm, explaining why the car in the parking lot had no roof.  Why doesn’t it have a roof? He replied, So the wind can blow through your hair.

A dove made a typically flimsy nest near my kitchen window.  It laid two eggs and now has two young’uns.

I’ve been here a month and the lizards are just coming back into the yard.  The previous renters had a dog and the lizards have just figured out that the dog’s no longer a threat.

Lambert Lane, my east/west artery, is closed for three months, to widen it from two lanes to four.  But before they closed it, we were driving 25 mph as construction workers played in the dirt on each side, scraping away any plant life, moving dirt, concreting a hillside, and so on.  Was checking out a house right next to the construction – three coyotes were on the steep driveway, checking out something in the lot further on.  Usually when you see three together, it’s a mother and two pups.  These pups were well-grown.

There were a few items in this “new” house that had not been cleaned in a while.  One was the small storage shed.  Found, in addition to all of the screens that had fallen off the windows (’cause they had been velcroed on, and the velco had dried up), three desiccated pack rats, what looked like a mother and her pups.  Plus all of the stuff they had chewed up, along with the droppings.  Yuck!  (No – I did not take a photo, but here is one of my potted flowers, grass, and herbs, very happy to have morning sun.)

STILLNESS

The Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, at the Pima College West Campus, had a showing which ended at the beginning of this month, STILLNESS. Our Contemporary Art Society went to the reception.  I love these descriptions from the Tucson Weekly.  (My photos were just taken with my phone.)

Kate Breakey, an internationally known photographer, lives in the desert outside Tucson. She makes gorgeous photos of desert moons and of the ocean waters of her native Australia, but most often, as she does here, she zeroes in on lifeless animals.

Constantly trying out new media, this time she has used waxy encaustic paint and pencil atop the black-and-white archival digital prints of her new series, Taxonomy of Memory, a wall-full of 34 works. The encaustics add a creamy texture to her views of the desert’s dead… a vermillion flycatcher…  She lays out small corpses that she finds on trails, and makes haunting pictures of them, blowing them up to grand proportions. As she writes, “A thing fills with exactly the radiance you accord it.”

Colin Blakely, newish head of the UA School of Art—he started in 2015—makes his community debut with an elegant suite of landscape photos…  Blakely’s “Yosemite Valley” is after an 1875 oil by Bierstadt, who painted Yosemite over and over. Both painters helped mythologize the monumental landscapes of the new American nation; in their art of the sublime, the grandeur of a thundering waterfall or a soaring western peak suggested the greatness of America.

Blakely contends that these mythical place exist in some ways only in “our collective cultural imagination.” To “disrupt” those familiar landscapes, he switches the medium from classic oils to archival pigment prints spit out by a computer printers. He ratchets up or tones down the color, and even shifts some elements in the compositions.

…a fairytale forest of golden trees.  In this dazzling installation by Sean-Paul Pluguez, no fewer than 100 “trees” are lined up neatly, row on row, planted into low birch platforms. Bending slightly, as real trees do, they curve upward toward an imagined sky, reaching about six feet into the air.

The trees are actually grape stakes, rough wooden posts that normally would be used to hold up grape vines in a vineyard. But they’ve been transformed by glimmering 24-carat gold leaf, painstakingly applied by the artist over the course of a year. The gold catches the light, and it’s thick and textured, dipping into hollows in the stakes or pushing outwards into lines and patterns.

“The Genetically Modified Forest” is a thing of beauty—who can resist the allure of gold?—but it carries a warning. The stakes are sharp and pointed at the top. And as many fairytale heroines have found, all that glitters is not really gold.

As Pluguez notes in an artist statement, the piece “speaks of man’s limited abilities to deal with his own planet.” We may think we can clear-cut our real forests with impunity or that we can dump coal dust into our streams, a practice lately authorized by our new leaders in Washington.

We can’t disobey the laws of nature for long. When we pollute our rivers, we lose our drinking water, and when we ax our trees, we lose their life-giving abilities to filter out carbon dioxide from the air and provide us with oxygen. A pretty fake forest is no substitute for a real one.

Even so, Pluguez’s meditative installation is a paean to the beauty and stillness of the natural world, properly preserved. It’s the anchor for a group show about nature aptly called Stillness; all four of its artists create a sense of calm in works that cover landscape, animals and the human body.2

1https://www.pay-equity.org/day.html
2http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/all-that-glitters/Content?oid=7599592

Weeds

March 18, 2017

My grandson was helping me pull weeds.  But Grandma, these have yellow flowers.  Why do we have to pull them?  The line between weeds and wildflowers is a wavy one, or maybe a dashed one.  Had to kill all of the weeds at my last house, then move into another rental house, 4.7 miles away, only to get a note from the HOA that we have to have all of our weeds pulled by April 1.  No fooling.


But speaking of wildflowers – while the east coast is covered in snow there is a spectacular wildflower display here in the desert wherever the housing developments haven’t scraped the ground and replaced the natural desert with a few trees, cacti, bushes trimmed into tight balls, and lots of gravel.  This photo from the Web of the flowers at Picacho Peak, where my daughter and family are camping for the weekend with the Boy Scouts, there to see the wildflowers and the reenactment of the Civil War battle at Picacho Peak.  (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/picachopeak.html)  Unfortunately, the hot weather (it’s 92° right now, at 5pm) has also brought out the rattlesnakes, so she texted me that they’re leaving after the roasting of the marshmallows tonight.

Backstory

My life has gotten just a tad busier the beginning of February.

Did dislike the last rental.  January’s gas bill was $148!!!  The insulation was terrible, and, in the winter, it was cold downstairs, with drafts, and hot upstairs.  But good news – hah!  So many things had gone wrong with it (such as the heat going out four times in one year!) that they decided to sell.

My lease was up end of January,  then was on month-to-month, but four families had looked at it in the first week, so I figured I better find another rental as my son-in-law won’t finish his training (to be a hospital CFO) for another year, and when the hospital chain assigns him to a hospital somewhere, if it’s a nifty place, I may move there too, to be near the grandkids.  Another move!  Much harder than finding a place to buy, as rental agents “own” their own properties.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Online, looked at 50 (!) houses near here (which means near my daughter and my grandkids), and chose five.  One zapped me for having a cat, so I looked at four.  Found a smaller, less expensive rental (but with a view of the desert and mountains) west of the last house.  The people were moving out the middle of February, so I started packing, yet again.

Here’s a photo from my bedroom window, after I got all of the windows cleaned.  (Not as good as the professional photo above, but it is 5pm, with its long shadows.)


Was chest high in boxes on that first weekend and I was sore to the bone, double-popping ibuprofen.  In order to get my security deposit back, had to have the empty house clean, including the tops of the fans (ten feet up in the living room), the outdoor lights, garage, you name it.  And no weeds.  (This all in the lease that I had signed.)  Of course, we had had our winter rain, and then the temperatures soared into the 80’s.  Never saw so many weeds.  Too many too small to pull, even with my grandson’s small hands, so I had to resort to the dreaded poison.  (Sorry Mitch!  It was that v. $2200.)  My daughter, having never read Silent Spring, had a poison sprayer canister, which I borrowed.

Final inspection.  A woman came to spend an hour taking photos of everything with cabinets open, lights on. Then she gave the set to the rental agent (the fourth one I’ve had, and never met) and he would decide how much of the security deposit to return in two+ weeks (per contract).  The photographer called me the next day and said that they had just put a check in the mail for the entire security deposit.  Guess I overdid it!

Speaking of rental agents- I mentioned to my present one that the garbage disposal was backing up and she said she’d get back to me. Four days later and no return call to my message left, so I tried it when the dishwasher had filled up the sink, and it magically fixed itself. What a way to get things done…  (There’s an apocryphal story that Napoleon opened his mail about once a month. Why? Because if it was still important after a month, he attended to it; if not, one of his minions had dealt with it, or it was just junk mail.)

Too Much to Protest, Too Little Time

As I was packing, moving, unpacking, etc I was feeling very guilty about not having enough time to protest!  Sure, I had emailed my senators regarding Trump’s appointments, especially of Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos.  (See my blog from January: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/trumps-appointees/)  As if Flake and McCain care about my opinion.  But my rep is Tom O’Halleran, and he’s a Democrat, so no prob.  Next was the protest against Monsanto, which is building a huge greenhouse near here.  https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/monsanto/

Then I sent off an email to my governor because he…

 …defended state laws that let parents use public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.  But he sidestepped questions of whether he would sign legislation to open up that possibility to all 1.1 million public school students statewide.
http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/01/27/ducey-depends-using-public-funds-for-private-schools/

Unfortunately,

Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses.

The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, and Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, have introduced identical bills to expand the program in their chambers, a move intended to expedite passage. ESAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona-education/2017/02/08/republicans-fast-track-school-voucher-bill-arizona-legislature/97572798/

As I had pointed out to my governor, private schools, including Catholic or Christian, are segregated – either by economic inequality (with shades of race discrimination) or by religion.  As Wikipedia points out,

Separation of church and state is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Consequently, I believe that it is in our constitution that our taxes should not be used to fund private and parochial schools, and that includes the school tax credit, which comes out of our taxes.  But Arizona is a red state, so it’ll no doubt pass.

Zero to 1.34 Million

You must read Nicholas Kristof’s column from Sunday’s New York Times from a month ago, regarding Trump’s original travel ban:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/opinion/sunday/husbands-are-deadlier-than-terrorists.html

People’s Climate Movement April 29th

This was in my Sierra Club magazine:

Michael Brune on the People’s Climate Mobilization, Feb 24 2017

Two years ago, the first People’s Climate March took place on a crisp, blue-sky September day in Manhattan. An estimated 400,000 people, representing the full display of American diversity, were united in the same righteous purpose: to demand that our leaders act fast to address the climate crisis.

The day was filled with promise, and in the following years our enthusiasm was reciprocated with progress. The Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan. The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. We could say that, powered by a movement of millions, the United States was truly leading on climate.

Now the political landscape is different. Donald Trump’s election will upend U.S. climate policy. I doubt that many citizens voted for Trump because they were enthusiastic about his views on climate change, but that’s beside the point.

The Trump-Pence administration has no mandate to roll back environmental progress. Polling before the election showed that seven in 10 Americans agreed the government should do something about global warming. Polling after the election showed that 86 percent of voters—including three out of four of those who voted for Trump—support “action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.”

… we can’t afford to underestimate the Trump administration. Unchecked, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are a threat to our climate and the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. This is a dangerous moment in U.S. history.

…If the Trump-Pence administration attempts to roll back the progress we’ve made in the past 50 years, we do not have to stand for it. Instead, we will stand up against it. We will march, organize, and keep marching—and we will not give up.

The Tucson march:


https://www.evensi.us/tucson-peoples-climate-march-el-presidio-plaza-park/202310124

LOL

February 10, 2017

dogWhen I think something’s funny, I don’t say LOL, I actually laugh out loud!  Here are a commercial (especially the horse watching porn and this family scene)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Kj-4F8pWfk
and an article from the New Yorker that had me laughing (especially the bathing suit):  Shouts & Murmurs, New Yorker February 6, 2017 Issue
Melania’s Diary 1/21/2017, by Paul Rudnick

…Then [Kellyanne] brought up the Tiffany gift box that I’d given Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day. “What was in that box?” Kellyanne demanded. I smiled in my alluringly mysterious way, which makes people wonder if I have wads of cash duct-taped to my body at all times, in case I need to flee the country.
“It was just a gracious parting gift,” I said. I will never reveal the box’s true contents, except in the pages of this secret diary: it was a framed photo of me modelling swimwear in a JCPenney catalogue, on which I’d written my cell-phone number and the words “Please come to visit. And never leave.”  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/06/melanias-diary-1-21-2017

Just a Grimace

Yesterday it was 86° here in Tucson.  Today 87°,  20° above normal.  Must be the overheated political climate.

trump-vacationTrump’s Mar-a-Lago getaway could cost taxpayers more than $3 million
The president regularly hassled Obama for his travel. Now Trump is about to get a taste of his own medicine.
by Matthew Nussbaum 02/03/17

Trump’s multimillion-dollar trip, which comes just two weeks into his presidency, shows that Trump is not shy about engaging in the same type of jet-setting that he and other Republicans heavily criticized Obama for throughout his presidency…
“The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 milion +++ while there is 20% unemployment,” Trump wrote on Twitter in December 2011 (when the unemployment rate was actually 8.5 percent).
“President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars——Unbelievable!” Trump opined again on Twitter a few days later.
http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-mar-lago-taxpayers-234562

hidden_figuresFriends and I went to see a movie, Hidden Figures, the true story of the women who crunched the numbers for NASA. It was great!

Much better than La La Land, which we saw last weekend, and which has 14 Academy Award nominations.  A friend commented:  “…Why not get actors who can sing and dance?  It’s not like there aren’t plenty of them in LA…”  But hey, they have to keep the “Oscars so white”.

tom-bradyThis on Sunday, instead of watching the Super Bowl.  There were the controversies of Tom Brady having a Trump Make America Great Again baseball cap in his locker, and spending his four-month suspension sunbathing nude in Italy, but he was back, and the New England Patriots won, so who cares?  (Or as the Washington Post said, Tom Brady won this Super Bowl…)