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:

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8 Responses to “Spiders”

  1. Price Says:

    Blair- congrats on the teaching position; about time your educators took note of your myriad skills.

  2. Jim Says:

    In regard to the those fascinating spiders, are you unaware of the most deadly spider of all – the brown recluse. Most bites occur when the spider is concealed in shoes and pants. I have never had the thrilling experience of a spider bite, but I have had the thrilling experience of scorpion bite. It is something I will never ever forget.

    • notesfromthewest Says:

      A friend’s sister was bitten by a brown recluse on the east side of town. I’ve never been bitten by a spider (that I know of) but have had two scorpion stings. The second was my fault as I had left my jeans on the floor overnight. (My son got a sting, same reason.) Last night a large scorpion in the bedroom, but as it had not bothered me I took it outside and dropped it in my rosemary.

  3. Jim Says:

    What a coincidence. Last night I saw an small insect in the crevice of the block wall by the toilet. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was 3/4 inch scorpion. I too captured it and dropped outside.

    I have never been luck enough to see a live brown recluse. I suspect you can see one at the Desert Museum.

  4. Laura Merrill, entomologist Says:

    Okay, so I’m more than a year behind in my reading. No brown recluses in AZ . You have to go to Missouri to be bitten by one, and even there, where they are abundant, it takes some effort to get one to waste venom on you. So… if you would like to read the latest and most scientifically accurate information on the recluse group, please check out this website: http://spiders.ucr.edu/
    It is created by the great arachnologist Richard S. Vetter.

    • notesfromthewest Says:

      This site http://www.desertusa.com/desert-animals/brown_spider.html says the Arizona brown spider, or the desert recluse… is found in the southwestern desert states. A friend (many years ago) had an old house in Tucson and her sister visited. At night she was bitten. The tissue around the bite was necrotic. Hence one of the brown recluses?

      • Laura Merrill, entomologist Says:

        I was wrong! Rick Vetter (a friend) told me that the recluses all have the same components in their venom, so if a desert recluse bites it might cause the same problems as the brown recluse (in both cases, it depends on how much venom is injected and other factors). He told me that part of the reason Loxosceles deserta might not have caused medical problems is because of the relative rarity of encounters between humans and L. deserta, because the human population is sparse in places where L. deserta lives.

        One thing that happened a lot in the past is that doctors were misdiagnosing skin infections as “recluse spider bites.” Thus I erred in assuming that was the case in your earlier blog. It was (and still is in some places) common for certain bacterial skin infections to be misdiagnosed as recluse bites. When I was working in southern California (for USDA) I was contacted about a case that turned out to be a herpes infection on a baby’s face.

        One of my pet peeves is when medical people think they are experts on arthropods.

        Thanks for writing such a great blog. It is a pleasure to read.


  5. Laura Merrill, entomologist Says:

    Just reread my earlier comment and realized that your reader had some confusion about the species – there are not brown recluses (Loxosceles reclusa) but there is another species, L. deserta.

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