Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

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 joke.


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

Peoples 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

Everybody knows the good guys lost

November 15, 2016

Leonard Cohen died last week.  Nothing to watch on this, just listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEQldSi-heE
A friend said that, after he heard of Cohen’s death, he played Hallelujah
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttEMYvpoR-k) the entire day at his office at full volume.  (He and his partner are in a separate building from their receptionist, secretaries, and paralegals, so he only drove his partner crazy.)  These recordings are with Cohen’s younger voice.

Aging

Within the last month my toaster oven broke (which may have belonged to my mother, who died in 2005), my small espresso machine broke (which used to reside at our cabin on Mt. Lemmon when the kids were little, about 25+ years ago), and the frame on my glasses broke (this is the third prescription put in them).  Well, I hope I last longer than my possessions.  Seems ominous.

I also just turned 70.  Had friends and relatives (son! brother! cousins!) visiting for half a week from San Diego, Vancouver, Sonoma, and Denver.  We partied for days and they helped me put on a celebration dinner for 30.  After they returned home, I noticed that my kitchen no longer automatically gets cleaned.  I wake up in the morning and have to face dirty dinner dishes.  Well, that bit of spoiling didn’t last long.

Social Venture Partners – Fast Pitch Tucson 2016

svpWent to a fundraiser last week.

SVP does more than give away money. We amplify the impact of those out to do good in three distinct ways:

  • Connect and engage individuals, helping them make the greatest impact with their philanthropic giving.
  • Fund and strengthen nonprofits, helping them take their vital work for communities to the next level.
  • Invest in collaborative solutions, so those with a common cause can align their efforts and go farther, together.1

astronautFirst, the keynote speaker, Ron Garan, decorated astronaut and social entrepreneur, gave us a great talk, showing us the world through his Orbital Perspective.

Then seven finalists (Fast Pitch Tucson gives free two-month communication skills training … for nonprofits) made three‐minute pitches to a panel of judges and an audience of hundreds of philanthropic, business, civic, and nonprofit leaders, competing to win cash awards.  They started with heart-rending stories.  Two hankies worth.

Awards
$5,000 Tucson Federal Credit Union Tucson Matters Award
$5,000 TEP Power to the People Award + featured in Biz Tucson
$7,500 Cox Charities Award
$7,500 Judges Award
$10,000 SVP Tucson Award

The Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona (not just cookies – leadership development is the core focus of Girl Scouting, offering diverse programs on Science and Technology, Self-Esteem, Career Exploration, Financial Literacy, Environmental Awareness and more) won big, with three prizes. Helping Hands for Single Moms Tucson (a community-based nonprofit that assists impoverished single mom families while the moms are pursuing a college education and financial independence) won one.  Children’s Clinics (a non-profit organization, dedicated to delivering family centered, coordinated medical and health services to children and families with complex medical conditions) won the other.

As they won lots of $, I spread my largess elsewhere.  I signed up to volunteer for ICS (Interfaith Community Services) Care Partners.  (Volunteers in the Care Partner Program work together as a team to assist newly discharged patients from health care facilities to assist them with transportation to follow-up appointments, pharmacy, grocery store, etc. )  And I gave a fistful of money to Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (a non-profit agency dedicated to assisting low income homeowners in Tucson and Pima County) that friend R recommended.

img_6557Desert Museum

Last Friday was Veterans’ Day, a day off from school, so after visiting my father’s grave, my daughter and I took the kids to the Desert Museum.  The Raptor Free Flight is always my favorite.  This is my favorite shot, but my grandsons and I took a few more, sharing my camera and my phone.

 

 

img_6540img_6558

 

Here’s Why We Grieve Today

A friend emailed me this.  I put it last ’cause it’s too depressing.  But read it anyway!

November 9, 2016/ John Pavlovitz

I don’t think you understand us right now. I think you think this is about politics. I think you believe this is all just sour grapes; the crocodile tears of the losing locker room with the scoreboard going against us at the buzzer. I can only tell you that you’re wrong. This is not about losing an election. This isn’t about not winning a contest. This is about two very different ways of seeing the world.

Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.

Trump supporters believe in a very selective America; one that is largely white and straight and Christian, and the voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions otherwise. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation—and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed.

They have aligned with the wall-builder and the professed p*ssy-grabber, and they have co-signed his body of work, regardless of the reasons they give for their vote: Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated. Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed. Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on. Half of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.  This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity.

We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth. Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages. Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.

This has never been about politics.

This is not about one candidate over the other.

It’s not about one’s ideas over another’s.

It is not blue vs. red.

It’s not her emails vs. his bad language.

It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.

It’s about religion being weaponized.

It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.

It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.

It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.

And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside. That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is. It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that.

We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize. We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do.

This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.

This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.

Grief always laments what might have been, the future we were robbed of, the tomorrow that we won’t get to see, and that is what we walk through today. As a nation we had an opportunity to affirm the beauty of our diversity this day, to choose ideas over sound bytes, to let everyone know they had a place at the table, to be the beacon of goodness and decency we imagine that we are—and we said no.

The Scriptures say that weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. We can’t see that dawn coming any time soon.

And this is why we grieve.

1http://www.socialventurepartners.org/tucson/

Computers!

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.

Carnage 

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!”)

Pneumonia

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.

1http://www.webmd.com/lung/tc/pneumonia-topic-overview
2http://www.pennlive.com/bodyandmind/index.ssf/2011/12/5_questions_about_getting_a_pn.html
3https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/mycoplasma/fact_sheet.htm

Women of a certain age…

May 17, 2015

Yesterday in the mail I was informed that You may qualify for the Funeral Advantage Program… Guess I’m of that certain age.

The poet Byron in 1817 wrote, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years/Which certain people call a certain age,/Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” Five years later, in a grumpier mood, he returned to the phrase: “A lady of a ‘certain age,’ which means Certainly aged.” Charles Dickens picked it up in “Barnaby Rudge”: “A very old house, perhaps as old as it claimed to be, and perhaps older, which will sometimes happen with houses of an uncertain, as with ladies of a certain, age.”1

Snakes

A few days ago when I left for work there was a rattlesnake, about four feet long, in the middle of our cul de sac.  I went around it; it was not there when I got home, so I guess nobody ran over it. Snakes are good – they keep the pack rat population down.

…in 2012 only one person in the nation died from a snake bite whereas 791 were killed by toasters…2

Bobcats

bobcats 009Got home from work yesterday to see a large bobcat sitting in my backyard.  My cat sat on the bed and growled.

This morning as I was reading the newspaper in bed the cat sat up, eyes wide.  I looked over, and a smaller (?) bobcat was crossing the spa deck with a large lizard in its mouth.  (Notice the lizard’s turquoise underside.)  The bobcat jumped from the bridge into the wash, but stopped a minute to put down the lizard and look at us.  (I had the door open to the screen, so maybe it heard my cat growling.)   The lizard took off running, so the bobcat dashed after it, through the fence as if it weren’t there, catching the lizard again in the neighbor’s yard.

bobcats 014
1
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/02/magazine/in-language-a-woman-of-a-certain-age.html
2https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2015/Redefining-Curb-Appeal.aspx

April

April 19, 2015

April Fool’s Day

April started with a friend posting on her Facebook page:
So we’ve decided to sell our house, moving to Puerto Rico!

My daughter posted:
trailerJosh and I are super excited to move into our next adventure… we have decided to take a little break from “real” life and have purchased a camper to move into with the kiddos for the next 6 months to a year. We haven’t decided yet where we will be parking and living, so let us know if you have any good suggestions!

Birding

yellow 009A few weeks ago got up at 5am (!!!) to go birding with a friend.  Noticed that while she was looking up, scoping birds, I was looking down, taking photos of the wildflowers.  We both checked out this broken saguaro.

(When T. S. Eliot wrote, April is the cruellest month, birding 013he wasn’t living in Arizona where our temps are in the low 80’s.)

birding 011


House for Sale

Many people won’t consider buying my house because it has stairs.

If you go to New York City, you will find thousands of 85-year-old ladies climbing three flights of stairs and shopping with their bundle buggies. They claim that those stairs, and the walk to the bodega, keep them healthy. In fact, we need to bring people closer together, not spread them apart with ever-bigger bathrooms in bungalows. Climbing some stairs might not be a bad thing for some people, and it might keep them out of wheelchairs. (Isn’t that better than designing our houses for living in wheelchairs?)1

More from Facebook

Sent this to my niece, who lives in Brooklyn:

My daughter posted a photo of my grandson (age 6) at the doctor’s with strep, and a photo of the grocery list he made for her.

groceriesfinn

queen
I bet Monty Python could do a spoof on this.  (Read it with an English accent.)

The Queen has spent a second day enjoying the spring sunshine in Windsor Great Park this week.

Her Majesty, who is approaching her 89th birthday, was spotted riding her faithful black Fell pony, Carltonlima Emma, as she was joined by Lord Vestey [one of the richest men in England] and her Head Groom Terry Pendry in the beautiful park close to her Windsor Castle home on Monday.

She was well prepared for any spring showers in a lightweight waterproof, and, as is her wont, eschewed a helmet in favour of one of her silk scarves.2

liberalA friend posted this, Being Liberal:

 

 

 

 

Nostalgia

February 13, 2015

There was an article in the Sunday Times regarding the United States Pond Hockey Championships1.  Reminded me of the skating rink we had in our backyard when I was a kid. Mom didn’t want us going down to the Rouge River, which was only a block away, to ice skate – she was sure the ice would break and we would drown.  So she and Dad flooded the back detroit 003yard.  Before going to bed Dad would spray water on it so that we’d have a good skating surface.  Then Mom would get up at about 3am to do the same.  I had a hockey stick, but boy, was I bad at it.  (My father was small, so never played hockey, but when he had been at Michigan State, he jumped barrels at half-time.)  Photo of my brother on the rink.  I’m the shadow.

The Times article (January 31) on Nigerian electricity2, or the lack thereof, evoked memories of Jamaica, where I was in the Peace Corps 35 years ago, teaching elementary teachers (who had only graduated from high school) how to teach math.  You’ll have to read the article to appreciate this (see 2 below).  Anyway, the workers at the electrical plant in Jamaica were often going on strike, so we’d have brownouts.  One night I was reading in bed and noticed that the book was an inch from my nose.  The light had been going out gradually so I kept moving the book closer.  I looked at the bulb – it was almost brown.

Another time one of the schools I worked with was going to have the equivalent of a PTA meeting.  My husband at the time wanted to impress them by showing a rented movie.  The meeting was scheduled for 7pm, we had a quorum by 7:30, and at 7:35 the lights went out.  So much for a movie.  The principal gave the parents a tour of the school by candle light.

Because of the lack of confidence in the electricity,  many people who could afford refrigerators (not many where I was stationed, “in da bush”) had kerosene refrigerators.  It took a lot of hard thinking on my part to figure out how you made ice cubes from fire.

Transporter or Time Machine

Which you you prefer be invented, a Star Trek Transporter or a Back to the Future Time Machine?

If we all had transporters it would eliminate all cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, ships, all gas-powered vehicles, reducing the need for so much gas, thereby helping solve Global Warming.  (Gas would still be used for heating, cooking, drying your clothes, and so on.)  And transporters would eradicate traffic jams.  Plus you’d be able to sleep in an extra half hour, as you’d be rid of the commute.

chinaPhoto of: August 2010, China was crowned the unofficial “host” of the mother of all traffic jams,  with a huge car panorama that stretched for more than 62 miles and lasted for 12 days.

However, everyone I asked would prefer to go back in time, preferably to when they were young.  There are problems, of course, of messing with the past.

To better understand what we’re dealing with here, consider the famous grandfather paradox. You’re a time-traveling assassin, and your target just happens to be your own grandfather. So you pop through the nearest wormhole and walk up to a spry 18-year-old version of your father’s father. You raise your laser blaster, but just what happens when you pull the trigger?

Think about it. You haven’t been born yet. Neither has your father. If you kill your own grandfather in the past, he’ll never have a son. That son will never have you, and you’ll never happen to take that job as a time-traveling assassin. You wouldn’t exist to pull the trigger, thus negating the entire string of events. We call this an inconsistent causal loop...3

But I’d rather go back 2000 years to meet Jesus.  (Yes, I would need a good translator for Aramaic with a Galilean dialect, so good that it would not only translate into my brain in English, but would speak my thoughts back in Aramaic.)

jesusI would like to take surreptitious photos of him and his disciples to show in every church and cathedral in the world (bet he didn’t have blue eyes).  But I’d really like to take Christians (one at a time, for a large sum of money, rather like space tourism, if I had the only time machine) to Galilee.  Have a feeling that would charge Christianity today, all the way from the Pope to the Shakers.

Jesus was quoted as saying, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 19:24.  So all the money I’d amass would go to good projects, say maybe schools in Africa, if the men in charge agreed to allow girls to go to school too.

Gee, if Jesus and I got friendly, I could travel with Him to the 21st century.  Would show him the movie Jesus Christ Superstar, take him to St. Peter’s in Rome and a prayer breakfast for the US House of Representatives.

bearValentine’s Day

Really – a Fifty Shades of Grey Bear for Valentine’s Day.  (No – I haven’t read it. David Edelstein of NPR called it: writing so painful it leaves welts.)

Seen and heard yesterday

Since my kids got me a tablet for my birthday/Christmas, I can sit in bed and read my assignments for Scandalous Females in Film.  Was doing so late yesterday afternoon when the cat started up and dashed from the room.  Sure enough, a large coyote appeared from behind the creosote, on the other side of the fence, and sniffed around what I think is a rabbit warren.

A goldfinch (but only one!) visited the goldfinch feeder, which I had washed out and filled with new birdseed.  Heard a lot of hammering on the far side of the saguaro, but chose not to fight the brush on the other side to possibly take a photo of the woodpecker.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/sports/in-pond-hockey-no-reason-to-have-one-big-fish.html?_r=0
2http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/opinion/sunday/lights-out-in-nigeria.html
3http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/time-travel6.htm

Hallucinogens

September 19, 2014

Toad

A tiny  toad has taken up residence in my back garden, I think in the rosemary which borders my bedroom patio, but I don’t know if it’s a spadefoot or a Sonoran Desert toad, both of which come out during our monsoon season.    The Sonoran Desert toads are the hallucinogenic ones.1  Must look it in the eye; the pupils are vertical in the spadefoot, but the Sonoran Desert toad has golden eyes with horizontally elliptical pupils.  I see it out at night when I open the sliding door to the screen.  But the other night I saw something dark go under my rocking chair cover, and assuming it was a cockroach, pulled back the chair so that the cat would catch it.  It was the tiny toad.  How in the world did it get in?  I know that cockroaches can slither under doors, but the toad was the size of a large marble when it tucked in its extremities (although it looked like it was a poorly-made leather marble).  The cat wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Couch’s spadefoots have a skin secretion that may cause allergic reactions in some humans.2

If picked up or mouthed by a predator, Sonoran Desert Toads will exude a potent, milky white toxin from their parotoid glands. If ingested, their toxin is capable of seriously sickening or killing potential predators.3

So I grabbed the toad myself.  It was wet (with poisonous secretions?), so after I put it outside I washed my hands.  Twice.

Sacred Datura

The leaves of the myriad sacred datura plants4 which have cropped up all over my backyard are covered with tiny holes.  So bugs eat only that much and then get high?  Do insects hallucinate?   No leaves have large bites taken out of them, like the tomato leaves, eaten to the nub by the grasshopper I missed catching.

Organics

My cousin had given me this web site5 to see which vegetables I really must buy organic.  (They list 48; I’ve listed only the first 12.)

Fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data
EWG analyzed pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration to come up with rankings for these popular fresh produce items. Foods are listed below from worst to best.  (lower numbers = more pesticides)

1. Applesapple

 

strawberries 2. Strawberries

 

grapes3. Grapes

 

celery4. Celery

 

peaches5. Peaches

 

spinach6. Spinach

 

pepper7. Sweet Bell Peppers

 

nectarine8. Nectarines – Imported

 

cucumber9. Cucumbers

 

cherry tom10. Cherry Tomatoes

 

snap peas11. Snap Peas – Imported

 

potatoes12. Potatoes

 

In my last blog I mentioned that I shall only buy organic potatoes from now on, because of all of the pesticides and herbicides that the potato field are drenched in.   But there are eleven vegetables and fruits that are worse!

Last week I bought organic milk and orange juice from Safeway (its O Organics™ brand) and from Albertson’s, organic eggs, strawberries, canned diced tomatoes, apples, flax seeds, red grapes, mushrooms, and, of course, potatoes.

Word of the Day

Fungible – (especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

This from an interesting column in last Sunday’s New York Times, Useless Creatures:

…In some cases, conservation groups or other interested parties actually put down cash for these ecosystem services — paying countries, for instance, to maintain forests as a form of carbon sequestration. The argument, in essence, is that we can persuade people to save nature by making it possible for them to sell it. They can take nature to the bank, or at least to the local grocery. They can monetize it. (The new revised version of Genesis now says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, and he said, ‘Let them be fungible.’ ”)6

Flash floods

Flash floods predicted for the week were a dud.

hurricane

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/getting-high-in-the-desert/
2https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_spadefoot.php
3http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2007/08/12/sonoran-desert-toad/
4http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/family-history/
5http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
6http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/useless-creatures/?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A15%22}

Oregon Coast

July 22, 2014

My daughter, son, and two grandsons camped in Sunset Bay State Park, south of Coos Bay (which, with a population of almost 16,000, is the 002011largest town on the Oregon coast) while my granddaughter and I took cooking classes at OCCI.  But we camped with them the first night, saw a large herd of elk, had a ranger show us how to make rope for bracelets from cattail leaves at the Interpretive Center, and spent some time at the beach, where a molting elephant seal was cordoned off.

135After our class we drove up the coast, stopping at the historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest and second oldest continuously operating lighthouse, but we just missed the tour.  The cold winds drove us back to the car (no doubt why it used to be named Cape Foulweather Lighthouse), but the kids loved the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center.  

137On to the condo I had rented for two days in Rockaway Beach, halfway back to Portland airport.  It was on the first floor (European term), carports on the ground floor, with a lovely barrier of grasses between us and the beach.

It was quite cold, but the kids were fine in their bathing suits, if not swimming.

158156
One day we toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory (where they produce 167,000 pounds of cheese each day), had grilled cheese for lunch, and ice cream from their Creamery Cafe.  (They also make 18,000 gallons of ice cream per day.)

171Portland the last day, warm, with the kids playing in the fountain.

Home, July 22, 2014

texas rangers 001I heard that there had been some marvelous storms while I was gone.  No fair!  That’s the only thing I like about July in the desert. But the texas rangers were bursting with happiness and buzzing with an assortment of bees.

texas rangers 007
Since then it has just gotten hotter: 106° today, 109° tomorrow, but at least some rain is predicted (30% chance of rain tomorrow, which usually means that 30% of the city will get rain).

Street Art

Thought that these were great:
http://themetapicture.com/what-happens-when-pieces-of-street-art-cleverly-interact-with-nature/

Rattlesnake

July 5, 2014

 

July 3, 2014

rattlesnake 001

rattlesnake 006As I was having my morning coffee and newspaper, noticed that my cat’s hackles were up.  The adult bobcat on the spa deck again.  It didn’t stay too long, but later I noticed something else there.  Turns out it was a three-foot rattler.  I may start wearing cowboy boots outside to do my yardwork.

 

rattlesnake 011

Later in the day, when I was getting changed for qigong, the bobcat was back.  Sat on the spa cover, then opted for the cool ground cover.  Looked up when I took a photo from upstairs, but my flash went off in its eyes.

rattlesnake 012

rattlesnake 014rattlesnake 019

 

rattlesnake 022

WHISKER DAMReading

Continuing my reading on landscape architecture.  (Believe this was from Landscape for Living.)  Fascinated by a “whisker dam”.  This from 1937.