Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


June 19, 2019

Laugh and the world laughs with you.



For too long, U.S. foreign policy has shamefully ignored our allies under the sea — extremely buff aquatic mammals like King Triton, ghosts who live in haunted shipwrecks, squid. But no more. President Trump, it seems, has finally opened diplomatic talks with the ocean’s Biggest Boys: whales…

Trump did not elaborate on whether his meeting with the royal cetacean took place above or below water, or what they discussed. Perhaps the effects of global warming, or the relative wetness of the ocean. Maybe the prince apologized on behalf of the overly friendly Russian-spy beluga who eagerly gave herself up to Norwegian fisherman earlier this year. Or maybe he finally told the Trumps what he is thinking.

Hot, hot, hotter

I started this blog two weeks ago, Wednesday, June 5, 2019.  This was the Tucson weather forecast:

Then there’s this week.  (The tennis team I’m on played the last game of the season at 7pm Friday, when the temps dipped below 100°.)

Seen the past two weeks

A coyote strolling along the pedestrian path at dusk.  A number of bicyclists in the early morning, zipping along in packs.  My palo verde is still blooming.

A couple of centipedes in my compost pile, along with a bunch of tiny ones.  (See centipede-v-millipede for identification.)  To have more compost to dig into my vegetable garden as the carrots and spinach are finished, and the lettuce is bolting, I was sifting it, putting the red worms and undigested twigs back into the bin – and think that in addition to the centipedes there were about 753 worms of various sizes, three times that many earwigs (see left), and a handful of pill bugs.

Many birds around.  This is the best I could do to identify the bird at the tiny pink flowers on the purple heart plant.  That patch of orange on its wing, and the yellow on its head distinguishes a verdin.  But they weren’t after any sparse nectar.

They forage almost continuously… by gleaning live foliage and flowers for spiders and small insects.

A hummingbird, which has at least four feeders in my neighbor’s yard to frequent, sampled the tiny lavender flowers.

A couple of pyrrhuloxias, perhaps making a nest in the desert willow outside my kitchen window.  A quail on duty each morning, on the fence, watching for predators, and gabbling to his harem below – no little ‘uns yet.  A few white-wing doves at the bird bath, or on the fence above, and two small ones, not very good fliers, walking around the yard below, checking me out.  Their parents left them out on their own, without a Watch out for humans.

A Cooper’s hawk stood in the birdbath for a while.  My brother (the hawk expert – see: cazadero) said that birds don’t perspire but in the heat will pant or cool the bare skin of their feet in water.  My camera’s battery was dead, so I just watched it for a while.  There’s a good photo of one from two years ago at the bottom of this blog: 2017

The agave and yucca flowers are progressing.  Saw one bird (Gila woodpecker?) at the barrel fruit and a smaller bird (house sparrow?) picking the seeds, or the bugs on them,  from the brittle bush behind it.  Didn’t have time to get the camera.

Many lizards in the yard, and the cat yowls at them because she can’t go out.  The one on the left was doing his territorial pushups.

Working Out

I’m sticking with the evening tennis; there’s no longer a Sunday 10am clinic, which is now way too hot and 7am is too early for me to start.  But I’ve decided that instead of the exercise classes at the Y that I had cut back to two days a week, I need to condition for my upcoming Road Scholar trip to the Galapagos with my 13-year-old granddaughter.  In addition to seeing the various animals, we’ll be kayaking, bicycle riding on a beach, snorkeling, and hiking a volcano.  For my fellow travelers I’m picturing 15-year-old boys and their 60-year old grandpas who can hike Kilimanjaro.  Anyway, I’m now rowing, riding a stationary bicycle, and doing the elliptical, 20 min each, all in A/C, of course.

However, I do hurt a lot of the time.  I can’t keep up: A mother-of-five with stage IV lung cancer and her daughter hiked up to the summit of the highest mountain in the Americas…  cancer-mother  And one of the women in one of the tennis clinics suggested that we train for the Tour de Tucson (which you can read about here: 2012/11/16).  She’d just done a 2-week bike ride (but she is “only” 67).


I’ve been reading a lot these past two months, as I nurse my sore muscles.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Singaporean author Balli Kaur Jaswal.  This was pretty funny.  (Can a murder mystery be funny?)  Interesting detail about the Sikh community in London.  I don’t know much about Sikhs, except for Kip, the Sikh British Army sapper (photo on left), in the movie The English Patient; whole Sikh families on motorcycles in Malaysia, when I worked there; and one of the supervisors on the US Embassy project I worked on in Jamaica (who mandated hardhats for everyone on the job, except for himself as he had to wear his turban).  Would recommend the book.

Rosewater, the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, which received an Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, by Tade Thompson, a British-born Yoruba psychiatrist who grew up in Nigeria.  Reading scifi by black authors, and this is the best so far; highly recommend it.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, a Nebula-Award-winning author.  One of many climate change, dystopian novels, with colorful characters. (I’m reminded of the skateboarder in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.) And the Breaks is a fascinating disease.  The eight-armed artificial ocean city of Qaanaaq is run by artificial intelligences, the million refugees segregated rich/poor kinda like in the movie Snowpiercer, but that was a train, and this is much better. (Is that the one with Tilda Swinton’s horrible teeth?)  Anyway, it’s rather captivating, and the native american woman’s polar bear and orca add interest.  If you can stand the violence (did you finish The Godfather?), then read this.

Severance by Ling Ma.  More apocalypse.  According to the New Yorker (review), it Captures the Bleak, Fatalistic Mood of 2018 – A début novel’s of-the-moment consideration of capitalism, immigration, and zombies.  (I don’t like zombies as well as vampires, but these are done well.)

Herland Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  A utopian, versus distopian novel.  Found it on some scifi list, and hadn’t heard of it, and I’m interested in scifi by women, so thought I’d try it.  Well, it’s from 1915 and is so outdated.  The plot has three men stumble upon an unknown country full of only women (who miraculously have virgin births – parthenogenesis – to only girls).  The author was a feminist and has all of the women and girls getting along peachy keen.  No Margaret Thatcher, bombing the Falklands, just to show that the Brits were still powerful. (Yes, this photo comes up when you google the Falklands.)

Good Omens The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.  I’d recommend it if you want funny escapism; many of the jokes are groaners.  After reading it I watched Amazon Prime’s three-part series, which premiered on May 31, and I don’t know if you’d get it if you hadn’t read the book.  But did like Michael Sheen as the fussy, anxious angel Aziraphale, and especially David Tennant’s Crowley (who started off offering Eve an apple, hence his name), the shades-wearing, Freddie Mercury-worshipping, ultra-cool demon, as The Wrap put it.  His swagger was great. Had read Gaiman’s American Gods, which was cute, but loved his Neverwhere.  (Had gotten Prime free for a month to watch it but had to pay for each episode!  The quality if the videos was bad so only watched two episodes.)  Had read Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic comic fantasy novel and first book of the Discworld (a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle) series – but too silly for me.

The Beggar Maid, Stories of Flo and Rose by Alice Munro. She may have won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, but I disliked the book, a series of short stories first published 1977.  They just seem antiquated (I don’t like books by the Brontes either) – guess that comes from reading so much scifi.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Second time around, thought I must read this book, and tried my darnedest, but still couldn’t get through it, which Barnes and Nobel says is for Age Range: 14 – 18 Years!

The Heavens by Sandra Newman.  Kinda interesting time travel (but I preferred the Outlander series).

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.  Trending – #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller.  Have read many books and seen many movies about the Holocaust, and this is historical fiction, but its not my favorite (which is The Wall by John Hersey, about the Warsaw Ghetto, based on real life recording of events) – it seems to gloss over so much.  I know the author interviewed the main character before he died in 2006, at the age of 90, and he had no doubt forgotten a lot, but I love books crammed with details. Of course, Hersey’s book is 640 pages, where Morris’ is 288, and most people today have shorter attention spans (except for Shades of Grey).  But hey, Buzzfeed posted 46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day, which doesn’t even include Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Life of Pi, and I’ve read most of them.


Bought a bottle of vanilla at the grocery store – cost more than the bottle of wine!

I have lots more that I’d like to blog about, but this has taken two weeks and is already outdated.  Hasta…


May 23, 2019

My Yard

The sand verbena that volunteered into one of my pots is happily blooming lavender.  The texas rangers are in full bloom.

A lizard (Sonoran Spotted Whiptail?) sidled up  to my foot this afternoon to lap up the water dripping from the pot I was watering.  A small spiny lizard had fallen into the bucket that I use to collect patio sweepings before I add them to the compost pile.  Luckily he was fine.  A small spotted lizard – do we have Canyon Spotted Whiptails here? don’t think it’s a gecko – in my compost pile, which has attracted many insects; hope it’s not eating the red worms I bought.  I only see it as I open the lid and it scrambles beneath the top debris. A dove finally ceded half of the birdbath to a much smaller towhee.

My backyard agave (a transplant from friend Barb) is starting its flower stalk.  Unfortunately agaves are monocarpic, meaning they die after flowering, so I’ll lose it.  But a similar species, probably yuccas as they have trunks, in the front yard, with eight flower stalks pointing out, shouldn’t expire so easily.

The agave typically has sharp spines on the leaf edges whereas the yucca has none. Yucca plants also have thinner, straighter, and less succulent leaves than agaves and with time produce trunks.

The spinach bolted, as well as the arugula, so  I’m finishing them.  The tomatoes are just reddening, and the hollyhocks (which I grew for nostalgia’s sake) are blooming.

Most of the palo verdes in the neighborhood are encircled by shadows of fallen yellow blossoms.  After my last sweeping, my back patio is no longer gold.  And my allergies are almost gone!  I’d been doing pills and nose spray in order to breathe, and sucked on cough drops when I’d play tennis.


Speaking of which, my tennis doubles partner and I won on Friday, after a hard-fought match from 6:30 to 8 pm!

Had spent afternoons last week watching my granddaughter’s volleyball team compete in a middle school tournament; at one point, after four games, the grandmother sitting next to me in the bleachers said They must be tired.  Thirteen-year-olds tired after only two hours?  Others watching their daughters playing in the tournament: a guy with a shaved head and a ZZ Top beard, another guy in a three-piece suit, a lavender shirt and a slicked- down Mohawk.

Also went to my grandson’s taekwondo graduation (which I think occurs four times a year) which went on for hours, with performances from tiny kids who looked about four to grey-haired adults.  Here my grandson demonstrating how to deter an assailant.

Mothers’ Day

Not the best photo, taken by a passerby with my daughter’s phone, after brunch at a local resort.  Quite windy.  But you get the idea, a tall family (‘cept for me).


It’s the end of the school year, so there are lots of Events.  Photo from the boys’ piano recital, with their teacher.


Have so many things I’d like to talk about, such as this article on “Fundamental Unfairness”: Leana Wen

Then there’s “Taxing the Rich”: IRS eviscerated

And “Women Take the Fall”: male greed

But I’d just get worked up and mad, and write too much, so you can read the articles for yourselves.

Except there’s one fun article on social spiders: a-social-web.  I have a photo of those I saw in Peru in this blog: the-birds-and-the-bees.  There was also a marvelous article on how important spiders are and how some people (in Africa?) bring spiders into their homes to eat mosquitoes, but I can’t find that one.  I’ve started leaving the webs around…

More Favorite Things

March 21, 2019

The Mountains

View from my desk.  6:30 pm.


Chilling (Monday, 3/21/19) this am before another foray into the garden.  Saturday had done my bi-yearly trip towards New Mexico (past Pantano) to Mesquite Valley Growers, my absolute favorite nursery in town.  Bought plants for cherry, plum, and Early Girl tomatoes.  So had to buy FoxFarm Happy Frog Soil Conditioner (contains screened aged forest products, earthworm castings, and bat guano, not to mention soil microbes to help increase root efficiency and encourage nutrient uptake) after reading a blog about tomatoes from a woman no doubt shilling for the company.  Only 3 cu ft, but me with no wheelbarrow, so my neighbor lent this teenager to schlep it for me in exchange for the rest of my mizuna, which had bolted.  Also purchased this pericallis cineraria, which was artfully parked next to their entrance, calling to me.  Should have googled it first: a tender perennial in regions with cool, moist summers.  Ah, but…

When I am an old woman I shall grow purple…  (variation of “Warning” poem by Jenny Joseph.)

The sweet pink jasmine on a trellis next to  the bedroom window has just started to bloom.  Too bad I can’t reproduce the very sweet (hence the name) smell in this blog.

Enjoying the birds right now.  My cat was interested in the roadrunner which sat on the fence for a while, emitting those metallic-clacking tones (roadrunner).  A woodpecker took a few drinks from the birdbath, as well as a few finches, having eaten only the Nyjer thistle from the gourmet seeds and berries that are prized by finches, such as sunflower hearts, canola seeds, cranberry seeds and Nyjer seeds, but a towhee enjoyed a marvelous splashy time, taking no heed of the need to conserve water in the desert.

75° (feels like 80°).  My vegetable garden is just five foot by eight foot, but, after sifting out the rocks and invasive tree roots, transferring the dozens of worms to my compost (hoping PETA doesn’t get wind of that), and digging in the marvelous conditioner, I’ve now planted seven tomato bushes (the plums and cherries came in six-packs, so I gave my daughter half of them) and seeds for beets, sugar snap peas, kale, and butter lettuce.  The carrots and spinach are still in their infancy, as well as a few hollyhocks.

The bougainvilleas get zapped by the freezes every winter, so I have to cut them back.  Unfortunately, they do not agree to this process, and attacked with lots of long thorns.  Even after I explained that a friend is taking out her bougainvilleas as they look so dreadful in the winter, and I’m only trimming them.  (Kinda like me explaining to my cat that a  co-worker had her cat declawed, and I’m only trimming her nails, but she still scratches me.)  I wear gauntlet gloves (for the bougainvillea, not the cat), yet still am bleeding, mainly from carrying the branches out front.

The photinia outside my kitchen window doesn’t flower, perhaps because I keep trimming it down, but the budding leaves look like flowers.


Another Favorite Thing – reading.  I’ve put an asterisk * by the books on last week’s NY Times bestseller lists, Fiction and Nonfiction.

Recommended this book to a friend and think I neglected to put it in my blog: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and an upcoming American mystery thriller drama film (not the same as the 1944 movie).  Lots of twists and turns.  Especially liked the ending.  Would recommend.

Parable of the Sower is a dystopian science fiction novel by Octavia Butler, the first in a two-book series; she got a Nebula Award for the second.  (She has also gotten many other awards.)  I like that a black woman writes scifi, so there are a variety of characters, as opposed to the old Star Trek with one Russian guy, one Asian, one Vulcan, one black woman, and everybody else white except for the Klingons, and otherworlders.  Yes, yes, I know that in Generations people of color are included, but I’d stopped watching it by then.  I grew up in the 50’s where men wore hats, women wore dresses and screamed a lot when creatures invaded.  People of color weren’t trying to kill off giant ants with pistols (see photo, right).  Anyway, back to this book.  Too dystopian and dark for me, but I’ll probably read the second one anyway.

*Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, who won the 2017 Costa Debut Novel Award for it, is fun. Especially the ending. You may think that Eleanor is A Bit Much, especially with her baking soda, but you’ll forget about politics while reading it.  This is also going to be a movie, perhaps as a potential star vehicle for Reese Witherspoon.

*Educated by Tara Westover, which I mentioned in this blog: books-movies-dogs-cats.  Just read it.  Yikes!  Truth is stranger than fiction.  How Westover lived to tell the tale (it’s not like someone was trying to kill her, she was just made to do dangerous tasks at a young age) is amazing.  Highly recommend it.

*Becoming, an audio book I started, written and narrated by Michelle Obama.  Described by the author as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother.  Commented to friend, Trying to read Becoming but it’s way boring by comparison to Educated.  Friend answered:

I too am having trouble with Michelle. I can only read about 20 pages and I have to put it down else fall asleep. Overall, “nice,” I guess, to know the story, but not a page turner.

So far her male relatives have fared poorly, but she’s perfect.  Probably won’t finish it.  Know how it ends.

Finished reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, also mentioned in that blog.  Not as good as Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (when did book titles start getting so long?), which I highly recommend, but this one is interesting.  There is an awful lot that isn’t covered in undergraduate American History.

Also just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, an historical novel.

Kingsolver uses interwoven timelines to trace the lives of two families living in the house a century and a half apart.

Liked it.  The political climate in 2016 is (unfortunately) true, and Vineland, New Jersey does exist, but wondered which persons in 1871 did.  Would recommend it.  Marvelous female characters.


Back to stuff I don’t like.  Sent my legislators emails that I thought they should enact a higher minimum wage.  Arizona’s is $11/ hour; if someone worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year, they’d earn $22,880.  (The Federal poverty level for 2019 for a family of three is $20,780.)  Got only one reply:

Thank you for writing Lynne. After hearing from many college students who have lost their jobs due to the recent increase in our minimum wage, I am not inclined to follow the lead of a state that has out of control cost of living. The additional cost to the working poor for basics offsets the increase of wages spread across every service they have to buy.

Representative Mark Finchem

Probably white male college students too.  Didn’t consider people whose families exist on minimum wage?  Now we in Arizona only pay our legislators $24,000/year, but that’s for only 40 legislative days each year, or about two months.  You can bet they’re earning more the other ten months.  And they also get per diem.  Probably don’t talk to the working poor.  But my other legislators, Bret Roberts and Vince Leach never bothered to answer, so I guess I should be more pissed with them.  Note: they’re all Republicans.


February 21, 2019

Have there always been this many crises in the world?

Yes, yes, Michael Flynn is trying to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis, which violates laws designed to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons program, but if that’s not bad enough, this info comes after Mohammed bin Salman “allegedly” had our reporter Jamal Khashoggi dissected, and Trump wants to take money away from the armed services to build his ineffectual wall, after he convinced the Republicans to give tax breaks to the rich so our deficit is through the stratosphere (the feds’ spending of $4.407 trillion is higher than its revenue of $3.422 trillion), but somehow he’s going to add a Space Force to the military budget (even though we’re not even fighting the Formics – see Ender’s Game1), and of course, our prez believes whatever Putin says over his own intelligence (important word that!) people2 so now 47’s smokescreen is that Obama was at near-war with North Korea…

Then there are the humanitarian crises- along our southern border with people (mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) escaping gang and political violence, only to have their children taken from them, or to be pepper-sprayed, and with asylum-seekers from African countries (from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, et al) trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, where many countries don’t want to take any more.  Huge refugee camps around the world.  These are just the first five mentioned by

  • Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Population: 886,778 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, and the UN hasn’t even given Aung San Suu Kyi (who had been a Nobel Peace Prize laureate almost 30 years ago and who Ai Weiwei had included her in his display in Alcatraz open-up-your-golden-gate) a slap on the hand.  (AP Photo/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury)
  • Bidi Bidi in Northwestern Uganda. Population: 285,000 refugees (about half the population of Tucson, if you can get your head around that) who have fled South Sudan since civil war broke out in 2013.
  • Dadaab Refugee Complex, Kenya. Population: 235,269 refugees, most of whom came there during the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s. Of these, many have children and grandchildren who were born in the camp.
  • Kakuma in Northwestern Kenya. Population: 184,550 refugees settled there, starting in 1991, fleeing the Sudanese civil war…
  • Nyarugusu in Kigoma, Tanzania. Population: 139,630 refugees fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996…

No, not nuclear, financial, or humanitarian Armageddon, but the decimation of the earth by other means.  (Sorry – an aside: re financial Armageddon see Amazon Prime’s Mr Robot.)

Antimicrobial Resistance

Just finished Never Home Alone3, which was hard for a non-science-person to get through, but very interesting.

One of the chapters discussed antimicrobial resistance.  Not only are we overusing antibiotics on ourselves, when we should just be getting down and dirty with the cows at the University of Arizona Livestock Facilities, but cattle, pigs, and chickens are getting penicillin and tetracyclines in their feed and water, which I guess is cheaper than giving them space to move.  Since microbes can evolve quickly, having short life spans, and we kill off the ones we can, all over the world we’re finding the ones which survived, drug-resistant diseases.  According to the World Health Organization: In 2016, 490,000 people developed multi-drug resistant TB globally, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well.4

The Sixth Extinction

That’s a book I read, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, back in 20165.  My winter edition of the Nature Conservancy magazine brought this to my attention yet again.

Because we’re polluting, poisoning6, and crisping up the earth7, other species are becoming extinct.

…the Earth is losing animal species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, and as many as 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s species may be extinct by 2050, the Center for Biological Diversity describes.  extinct-animal-species-2018


This is one of my standard rants:  overpopulation.  Another reason for The Sixth Extinction, as we’re killing off animals and plants to give ourselves more space.  (This photo from the Arizona Daily Star, near Wilmot and I-10.  Notice the scraped land.)


This week NPR got me thinking again of plastic-waste. I had written a screed about it over a year ago: notesfromthewest/2017/11/02/plastics.

And somewhere this last week I read about a woman in the US who’s trying to do without plastic.  Thought about that as I brushed my teeth with a plastic toothbrush and toothpaste in a plastic tube, after having taken my daily pills8 from plastic containers.  And when I donate blood, I’m given a plastic bottle of water to rehydrate.  I’m typing on a plastic keyboard, using a plastic mouse.  The hand-me-down printer, which I use primarily as a scanner, is plastic.  Believe the kitchen counters are plastic laminate.  And I’ve only turned my head 20°.  Here’s Beth Terry’s suggestions:


I shall boycott Eegees.  Not only do they put their frozen drinks in styrofoam cups, but when the grandkids don’t finish everything (like, always), there’s a styrofoam container for the leftovers.  This is worse than plastic ’cause you can’t recycle it; it just breaks down into little beads which fish and seabirds accidentally eat.  Here’s one of my tirades about that, from last year: notesfromthewest/2018/03/13

High Point

You can be buried in a biodegradable casket in Tennessee to help conserve the land.9

2 Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who took over the bureau after President Trump fired James Comey, claims Donald Trump dismissed US intelligence on North Korea because Russian president Vladimir Putin had given him different advice. ‘The president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States … because President Putin had told him they did not,’ McCabe told CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday night.
8 lutein to stave off the family curse of macular degeneration, iron so I can donate blood as I’ve been anemic, and calcium to help – though not as much as my exercise – to keep osteopenia at bay


January 31, 2019

A devastating cold front, complete with extreme low temperatures, wind and precipitation, is hitting much of the United States this week. The phenomenon, known popularly as a “polar vortex,” will move across the Midwest and Northeast, keeping temperatures in many places well below freezing for an extended period of time. (Photo: DieterMeyrl / Getty Images)  arctic-blast

Guess that’s why Arizona is so popular in the winter.  I’ve been going to tennis clinics these past couple of weeks and it’s so warm you don’t even need a jacket.  (Photo not me, just a Racquet Club shot.)

The coldest I’ve ever been in was -20° at Michigan State walking one evening in very dry snow.  (Yes, that was just after the dinosaurs died.)  Hard to wrap my head around temperatures with wind chills of -65°.  I’m sure you’ve all read “To Build a Fire”, the short story by Jack London. I think the guy was told not to go out when it was 60° below.  (?)


I go to exercise classes at the local Y five days a week (Senior Aerobics and Piloxing – a non-stop, cardio fusion of standing pilates, boxing and dance) but the Y’s new rule is that classes over 30 need two instructors, which these don’t have.  The 10am MWF Aerobics is so popular that there is a line by 9:30.  Got there then on Monday and the last five of us were overflow and couldn’t get in!  Today there was no sub for our TT Piloxing class, so that was cancelled.  Aargh! Walked fast uphill on the NordicTrack for 15 minutes and did another 10 on the rowing machine, but got bored and left.  Guess if I had music on my cell with an earphone I could have done the 50 minutes, so must be prepared in the future.

The Government Shutdown

Dec. 26 [2018] The Federal Emergency Management Agency issues a “stop work” order to all contractors, telling them they will not be paid.  government-shutdown

Note: I was a contractor, through my company (Fluor), for FEMA.  If I hadn’t quit (end of October) I guess I’d have been home for an extended holiday, not paid.  Sure feel sorry for my compatriots who stayed on.


So if the Prez gets impeached and actually leaves, we’re left with the Veep.  There’s a recent, hostile (read this: NPR review) biography of Mike Pence, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, out by Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner.  According to them, Pence is a “Christian supremacist” biding his time until he can take over the presidency from Donald Trump.  Sure, Trump is not fit to be President, but do we want to replace him with a Christian Supremacist?

Back on September 5 there was a NY Times op-ed white-house-anonymous: I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration; I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. Then speculation that Pence could be the author, based on the op-ed’s use of the word “lodestar,” which Pence has used throughout his career. Check out this video from The Late Show: Stephen Cobert

But when it says that docs have been removed from Trump’s desk how do we knows that they weren’t something liberal?  Trump used to be a Democrat.  Maybe he wanted the government to fund Planned Parenthood (hah!) and Pence couldn’t stand that!

Plus, according to the Los Angeles Times’ letters editor (the bold is mine):

God’s presidential plan for Mike Pence
God's presidential plan for Mike Pence

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018.  Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.  (Photo: Vice President Mike Pence gestures while speaking to the Republican National Lawyers Assn. on Friday. Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Permit me a brief biographical digression. I grew up in the world of evangelical Christianity, having attended schools that promoted things like biblical literalism, doubts about Darwinism, and abstinence-only education, including the lie that condoms contained microscopic pores that allowed transmission of the HIV virus (more on that in a bit). Each week, we attended chapel services that often ended with calls to rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ, even if we were already professed Christians.

It is this background that helps me understand the behavior of Vice President Mike Pence, the pious man who faithfully serves the famously non-penitent President Trump. Just as the faithful Christians at my school were happy to perpetuate falsehoods about disease-spreading condoms if it served the greater godliness of abstinence before marriage, Pence is willing to abide Trump’s constant lying and personal moral failings if it puts him in the best position to do God’s will by becoming president.  latimes

You must read the whole article, which does quote from the above book.  Scary.  But no, I haven’t read the book.  Can’t even finish the article on Mitch McConnell in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine (Mcconnell) that a friend says I have to read.  Politics is making me sick to my stomach and am reading mostly scifi for escapism, although said friend did lend me Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania.  It is non-fiction, but a long time ago, and lots of people die (Cousin Hal – I can hear you laughing at my lame jokes), so I can stomach that reality.  Am reading more now that I am not working.  Shall mention the books (a few about memory) in my next blog, if I remember!

Last October

You can kinda tell that I had emails to myself all through the five months when I wasn’t blogging, of what I could write when I got back to it.  Today tossed out all of the FEMA letters to the troops (us) – buck up, next hurricane coming, etc.   But there’s a note from October 19th:

This morning, exiting Orlando for home in Tucson, went better than expected.  First, I had scored on a hotel baggage cart last night.  (They often could not be found at all.)  And gave my leftover food to a compatriot, just a floor above me in the same timeshare building.

I finished packing and got everything in my expandable two bags (one an inexpensive duffel) and a carry-on, not bad for almost a year away from home.  Had never used my bathing suit; had never even gone to the ocean, which I guess I should have done at least once in the year in Florida.  But skin cancer can do that to you.

Pulled up to check out at timeshare main desk and valet said he could do that for me.✔  No traffic to the airport.✔  Person checking out my Avis car got me a valet with cart.✔  ($10 but worth it, as only one bag had wheels.)  Remembered to get a receipt for $40 for second bag to expense.✔  (My AA status gives me the 1st bag free.)  Long line to hand in bags but it went fast.✔  A few minutes to finish my morning coffee (no liquids through security), then a short time through TSA pre-check, well worth the $85 for 5 years, with all of my travels.✔  Full flight, but with AA Priority (gold, not platinum), I got a seat an extra inch wider!✔

A New Year

January 28, 2019

OxiClean for the Eyes

Had my second cataract removed on Tuesday (the other side had been done two weeks ago), replaced by an intraocular lens, and the color I used to see, with a grayish-tan tint, that I had simply thought of as Desert, is now bright, with a hint of blue, rather what OxiClean does for your dingy white sheets.  Or like brightening a photo with Photoshop.  Amazing!  Plus I have discarded my graduated tri-focals and can now read (except for the fine print on prescription bottles), and see mid and far distant.  Wow!

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone…
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day.

Yes, many of you have emailed me to see if I’m okay, not having blogged in almost five months.  Just over-dosed on computer usage with my FEMA job, and quit end of October.  Have traveled a bit since then, first with Road Scholar (and a marvelous group) to Vietnam and Cambodia, then to my brother’s in northern Sonoma for Thanksgiving, and to my son’s in Vancouver for Christmas.  This year am back to my five-day-a-week exercise classes, seeing friends here in Tucson, these surgeries, and two tennis clinics so far as I think I’ll get back into the game.  Depending on my sticktoitiveness, I’ll try to give you the backstory.

The Wall

But before I do that, I’d like to rant.  We had thirty-five days of the government shutdown, but I’ll bet the prez still had someone to make his bed and cook his meals.  Or is that why he served take-out hamburgers and pizzas to the Clemson University Tigers at the White House?  trumps-sandwich-celebration.  Anyway, I donated yet more money for the Community Food Bank as they had to feed government workers too.  (I wrote this before Trump Announces 3-Week Government Reopen, Threatens New Shutdown If Border Wall Not Funded.  I had to look up the sword of Damocles.)

“I think everybody’s relieved that the government’s getting back open,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. “But I think everyone’s still a little tenuous because we’ve got a sword of Damocles hanging over us three weeks from now to see if we can get things worked out.”

But hey, when we didn’t have enough money for our schools (Arizona ranks 47th out of 50 for expenditures per student – least-on-education), we’d do a phone-a-thon.  (I had been chair of our school district’s foundation, and know them well.)  So maybe Trump should call all of his rich buds and get them to fork out the money for The Wall.  And he could spend as much as he got.  Someone else has started for him:

Florida veteran Brian Kolfage, 37, created the fundraiser titled “We The People Will Fund The Wall.”  …By [December 21] the GoFundMe reached $10.9 million…

Last of Orlando

(Wrote this last October, but never finished the post.)

Hope I never see it again.  Bad enough to be working in a freezing cold office (read about how men decide the temperatures, which are generally 5 degrees cooler than women prefer – chilly-at-work) all day long, then half a day Saturday, in front of a computer, but the work got too depressing with changes in rules.  Imagine if an outfielder caught a fly and at that point it was ruled that flies caught within 10 feet of the fence don’t count, and any that were caught that close within the past 11 months shall be ruled invalid, thus changing the scores of games.  Aargh!  Yes, I know that we were working with an entirely new system (totally computerized for the first time), and “they” were working out the details as we went along, but my applicants were not pleased, and, of course, I was their fall guy.

Here are a few of the enjoyable times from the last month or so:

View across the Lake

This is a sunset shot from my last “villa” rental.  Couldn’t decide which exposure I liked best.

Epcot Center

More photos from Epcot Center from my ears series:

Frank Lloyd Wright

Once voted by The Princeton Review as “The Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation,” Florida Southern College is a National Historic Landmark, and home to Child of the Sun, the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

There was an ad for the tours on NPR, and it sounded interesting, so I took a four-hour tour.  The buildings had engaging design, but it was depressing to see the lack of upkeep.  That seems to have been a problem with so many of Wright’s buildings.  Shown here are the Usonian House, which wasn’t built until 2013, but is used as the Tourism and Education Center.  Next the Water Dome “symbolizing the fountain of knowledge”, then the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel and one of the esplanades which give needed shade.  (The supports are said to suggest the orange trees that were then numerous on campus.)  I believe the next are the Ordway Arts Building and the William Danforth Chapel.  I have a lot of detail photos of doors set on piano hinges, and so on, but this is enough.


My daughter had given 23andMe to my son for Xmas last year, and he gave a packet to me.  They keep asking you to fill out more forms.  I finally got tired of it, until I thought I’d see if I’m going to get Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease or Age-Related Macular Degeneration.  Never mind. That costs $125 extra.


I had written this about the Kavanaugh hearing, what, seven years ago?  Seems like ages ago, but so nice to quote…

Krysta Fitch, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother in Walls, Miss., said she cast the first vote in her life for Mr. Trump and enthusiastically joined his rally in the nearby town of Southaven this month. She said that women have no business running for president. “In the Bible it says that a man is responsible for leading his household,” she said. “And a woman’s only supposed to step up if he’s not willing. Aside from that, women are just too emotional. I feel like it would be dangerous to have a woman in a position to potentially start a war.”

Phew!  Didn’t she watch Dr Ford’s calm demeanor and Judge Kavanaugh’s literally screaming and crying about calendars? (Getty Images)

May give all y’all more updates more frequently.

Baked or Steamed

July 2, 2018

Obviously we’re baked in Tucson and steamed in Orlando.

Except in the office, where we’re refrigerated.  Maybe they think that if they keep us cold we’ll work faster to keep warm?

But the A/C was out at work for three days.  The first day the residual cold was extinguished.  After that it gradually warmed, so I wound down from my third layer jacket, then my sweater, to short sleeves, and was actually warm by the third day.  Reminded me of the punch line from the a fifteen stanza poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert W Service, Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.

(You can look it up and read it.  My father used to recite it at campfires every year when we’d go camping, and I memorized it in about the 4th grade.  After I had kids I would recite it at campfires. Had taken them on a raft trip down the Colorado River, and our boatman said he’d recite it at campfire; my son announced, My mom knows it!  So we recited in tandem.  My son also learned it, freaking out my daughter, You sound just like Mom!)


Between the dark and the daylight,
When the rain continues to shower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as Commuters’ Hour

Blue Men

They’ve performed at U of A on many occasions, but I’d never gotten around to seeing them, so I bought a ticket at the Universal Theater complex, for the row behind the first 4 rows, where they have a splash zone, like at SeaWorld for the orcas and dolphins shows. They color splashing from the snare drums appeared to be mustard and catsup.  And later on someone smashed bananas. But the audience there were all wearing those $1.95 clear ponchos, which I assume the show gave out.  It was vacuous but fun.  They didn’t allow photos during the act so I just snapped this afterwards.

Distilled Water

We’ve had a number of people who have “demob’ed”.  One of the guys in our group, who went home to get his roof, severely damaged from a storm, fixed.  He left me a gallon of distilled water that he bought to iron his shirts.  (! You can tell he’s old.)  Now I rarely iron, so I thought to just drink it, then thought I ought to check before drinking that water:

Distilled water tends to be acidic and can only be recommended as a way of drawing poisons out of the body. Once this is accomplished, the continued drinking of distilled water is a bad idea. Water filtered through reverse osmosis tends to be neutral and is acceptable for regular use provided minerals are supplemented.

So thought to make coffee from it:

If you care more about the longevity of your coffee maker, feel free to use distilled water. Your morning fuel won’t be great, but it will get the job done. However, if you’re all about stellar coffee, always skip the distilled water. Instead, make coffee with cold tap water. Your taste buds will thank you.

But it works well for my Waterpic.

Six things you could do without

Try to limit it to just six.

Betsy DeVos, office coffee, the Heritage Foundation*, plastic grocery bags, the Syrian war, soda (except for tonic to go  with my gin)…

*…Heritage’s recommendations included some of the most prominent members of Trump’s cabinet: Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos (whose in-laws endowed Heritage’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society)…

…Feulner packaged his fledgling think tank’s ideology into five basic principles: free enterprise, limited government [= no help for the poor], individual freedom, traditional values [=white men in charge] and a strong national defense…

…It published papers advocating making Social Security voluntary, argued against giving striking workers access to food stamps and warned parents about the danger posed by the advancement of “secular humanism” in public schools…

…But Heritage had its complaints about Reagan at the time… “They were looking for competent people,” Nofziger, who had gone on to become a key political strategist for Reagan, later recalled. “I tried to explain to them that the first thing you do is get loyal people, and competence is a bonus.”..

…supported a Heritage agenda that included opening offshore drilling on federal lands; opposing mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food; reducing regulations on for-profit universities; revoking an Obama executive order on green-energy mandates for federal agencies; phasing out federal subsidies for housing; and opposing marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity…

Grammar Lady

From the person who manages my weekly hotel bills: your welcome
From a reviewer of my documentation: Debris quantity inconsistency’s

A Rainy Sunday

January 28, 2018

Every Sunday I get the one copy that the local Walmart has of the New York Times, make myself a latte, and try to read the whole thing, as it’s gotten quite expensive (although I am saving four dollars a day by making my own lattes) and I’m trying to get my money’s worth.  I even read the Sports and the Business sections.

In this week’s Business section was a  interview with Bill Gates and Steven Pinker (mind-meld-bill-gates-steven-pinker).  As I often do, I get distracted, and when Gates said that, “If you’ve never seen Eddie [Izzard] perform his stand-up routine… you’re missing out,”  I had to watch a few videos of Eddie Izzard.  Enjoyed Stonehenge, but was really Laughing Out Loud at Eddie Izzard – Learning French.


Then went out for my Sunday lunch of bagels and lox, taking the Magazine.  It started pouring before I left,  so had to stay and read another article, this on gentrification, when-gentrification-isnt-about-housing.  In Tucson I was aware of the gentrification of the barrios, guacamole, and burritos, even kale and pho, but had just heard of the trending raw water  (unfiltered, collected from the natural environment).


I’ve been missing my daily hour of exercise class at the Y.  This hotel has a workout room next to the laundry, so I do some fast walking uphill, lift weights (the smallest is five pounds and I hadn’t done that with my right arm since my last shoulder injury, but I’ve just got a very sore neck), and use the elliptical trainer, good for the arms and legs.  However, it’s boring by myself, so I asked a friend at work what she does and she says that she swims lap around the Spring Garden pond on weekends at the De Leon Springs State Park.

The outstanding feature of the 625 acre park is the spring, overlooking beautiful Spring Garden Run, producing 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round…  swimming nine laps around the pool would be about a mile.

She says there’s a fence around it, so there aren’t any alligators (!), and it’s a bit chilly, so she always wears  a wetsuit.  Brrr – I prefer an 80° pool, or the Caribbean. 

Surf Expo

Because I have a kitchenette in my hotel room, I usualy fix my own dinner, as restaurant meals are usually too large for me.  But Friday nights I often go out,  and if there’s a wait for seating, I eat at the bar.  The Bonefish Grill bar area has a length of bar-height tables, and there was one seat vacant at the end so I asked the good-looking young guy on the next stool over if anyone was sitting there and he answered, Yes, you.  (!)  Started to chat and he said he was here for the Surf Expo,, selling T-shirts.  Then the old guy (my age) across from me piped up that he was here for the Expo selling T-shirts too.  Funny.  I got an earful about merchandising and how much Amazon has cut into it.


I really don’t want to comment on Trump today, and no, I am not going to read Fire and Fury, but I enjoyed Trevor Noah being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, turning Trump’s words into a bad reggae song (and I do appreciate reggae, having lived in Jamaica for two years in the Bob Marley era): Trevor Noah’s reggae.

Future Disasters

Had a meeting with our Fluor rep the other day.  This is what I was recruited for last June, before all of the hurricanes hit and the Feds postponed the decision.  The country has henceforth been divided in thirds, so one contractor gets the West, with fires, floods, and mudslides; another gets the Midwest with tornadoes and ice storms; and third, we get the East, with hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded three companies positions on a potential five-year, $610 million contract for advisory and assistance services to support FEMA’s emergency response and disaster recovery missions.
Fluor Corp., Serco Group’s North American subsidiary and CH2M Hill will perform technical assistance and infrastructure support work the agency has divided into three geographic zones for each individual awardee.
Fluor was selected for the Zone 1 portion that covers 19 states primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Serco Inc. was chosen for Zone 2 that covers 17 states primarily across the Midwest. CH2M Hill was picked for Zone 3 that covers the remaining 14 states including those along the Pacific Coast.

Never a Dull Moment

January 21, 2018

What a roller coaster ride this last year.  Never boring.  Just this last week, Hawaii thought it would get nuked, it was reported that Trump “entertained” a porn star four months after Melania had Barron, for which his lawyer paid $130,000 hush money just before the election, he was also quoted as calling African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador “shitholes”, and the Federal government has just shut down.

Well, I and my compatriots happen to work for the Feds.  “FEMA is ordered to execute an orderly shutdown and we will furlough non-exempted employees,” emailed our Director, Brock Long.  Luckily, our group is exempt, so we shan’t have to leave our hotel rooms and move into our office spaces.  Hah!

Speaking of Brock (who signs his emails to us with just his first name, no title or anything else), he visited us last week.  He gave a talk on the seventh floor, broadcast to us on floors four through six.  The video onto a sheet.  With such tiny speakers we could only hear a fraction of what he said.  Embarrassing.  But he did come downstairs and shake hands with all of us, thanking us for our work.  Quite a personable guy, and one one of the few of Trump’s appointees who is actually qualified for the job (as opposed to Betsy DeVos), and doesn’t think that his department should be gutted (as Rick Perry, who said he wanted to abolish the Energy Department, and Scott Pruitt, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency but is a known climate change denier and coal industry supporter).  This from FEMA:

Mr. Long has more than 16 years of experience assisting and supporting local, state, and Federal Governments with building robust emergency management and public health preparedness programs…

From 2008-2011, Mr. Long served as Director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency (AEMA)… and served as the State Coordinating Officer for 14 disasters, including eight presidentially-declared events. Mr. Long also served as an on-scene State Incident Commander for the Alabama Unified Command during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Women’s March Orlando Anniversary

The weather is still up and down – Thursday morning it was 28°, and now it’s 78°.  That doesn’t seem to be helping my cough.  But I take meds, go to work, and vegetate on the weekend.  Didn’t feel up to joining the Women’s March Orlando Anniversary yesterday. (Photo by Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)  It was reported that thousands gathered.

A Glimpse of Beauty

Was driving “home” Friday, following Google Maps suggestions of shortcuts around backed-up streets, grimacing at some of the worst “architecture”, if you can even use that word, and then there was a four-and-a-half foot sandhill crane, standing in the grass on one leg, glancing at the traffic.  With a red head and dove-grey wing feathers, blending into its white neck.  Wow – so elegant!  Obviously couldn’t take a photo of it at 40mph, but Dannie Polley gave me permission to use his photo from the Web that looks just like it.


Practically everybody I know is a descendants of immigrants.  (I have worked with a few Navajos, who also migrated to North America, but about 3,000 BC+, so we call them Native Americans.)  Anyway, this from Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Times last week:

In 1885, a poor, uneducated 16-year-old boy arrived in our country from Germany at a time when immigrants were often looked down on by affluent Americans.

This boy was ambitious and entrepreneurial, and, despite language problems, he earned some money and then traveled up to the Klondike during the gold rush to operate a hotel that became notorious for prostitution.  He prospered, and today his grandson is President Trump.

Please read the whole column: Mr. Trump, Meet a Hero You Maligned


January 16, 2018

With a title like that, guess I ought to see it, but I’m just living across the street.  We had the day off for MLK Day, so I went to Disney Springs this afternoon; it’s a large shopping mall with numerous themed stores – T-shirts or hoodies or pajamas with Mickey or Minnie, with Star Wars characters, with Marvel superheros, with various princeses. And numerous themed restaurants,  most serving french fries (except for the Japanese one).  Went to the Raglan Road Irish Pub for dinner; had a bad cold for the past two days (not the flu that’s killing babies and those over 65 – I’ve had my flu shot) and, as moving got me coughing, had spent a day and a half in bed with a box of tissue, cough drops, and a NY Times, so figured some comfort food would be nice – shepherd’s pie.  And stout, reminiscent of my month working in Dublin, where we drank Guiness every evening.  The Irish singers and dancers were fun.  (Their photo. I didn’t take any.)

But the cold is biting.  Thursday it hit 82° here.  Then another cold front rolled in and yesterday morning it was 39°.

Moved to a Residence Inn closer to the new office.  That hour in stop-and-go traffic on I-4 was wearing; to think that my father did it each way every day for 30 years in Detroit.  Spent Saturday packing, doing laundry, driving, then unpacking and grocery shopping.  The room is similar but I have a large window next to the bed that looks out, from the third floor, to a scraped lot, which shall no doubt be another high-rise in a few years. Within a few miles of my digs are at least 62 other hotel and apartment buildings which all look about the same.   I looked for places to eat and stopped counting at 110.  (See red dots on map.)  Grocery stores near here?  Zero.

Alt Right

There was an article in last week’s Times about how many white supremacist men marry Asian women (alt-right-asian-fetish).  Kinda typecasting.  Then I thought of Doonesbury.  Not alt-right, but geek.  Guess times have changed.

Fire and Fury

At least one friend is reading Fire and Fury, but it was depressing enough to just to listen to Michael Wolff’s interviews on NPR, and with Stephen Colbert, as well as commentary by “Melania Trump” on the Late Show.  (Well, Laura Benanti’s not depressing, she’s hilarious: Melania.)


Despite the false alarm in Hawaii (and another in Japan two days later!), Kim Jong-un won’t be pushing the “nuclear button” anytime soon, as North Korea shall be joining South Korea in the Winter Olympics.   Who would have thought that Trump could bring those two countries together?