Archive for the ‘Tucson’ Category

LOL

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.  https://www.thecut.com/2019/06/trump-prince-of-whales-tweet.html

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.  birdsna.org

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).

Books

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

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.

Sports

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).

Music

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

Miscellaneous

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…

Athletes

May 3, 2019

I have got to stop kvetching about my tennis elbow.  Check out this article about the …780 runners (and one dog) from 51 nations… who ran theMarathon des SablesA woman from Malaysia …ran the entire 140.7 miles of the ultramarathon in flip-flopsThe article amy-palmiero-winters-marathon-des-sables is about an American woman with a prosthetic leg who, carrying a backpack that weighed 19 pounds, finished the race.  Note:

…the only thing race management gives you is water, more or less, every six miles. All the rest you must carry in your 14-33 pound backpack.

She wore what most wore for shade, a hat with flaps over the ears and neck, which gave the runners the look of extremely fit beagles.  But they didn’t have to carry tents either – they shared provided tents at the end of each day.  One tent was composed of  five women, a Swiss, two Brazilians, one Italian and an American.  Sounds like a nice mixed group.  (Photograph Runners approached a mountain on the final day of the raceby Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times.)

So I wondered who was the oldest person to complete it: Briton-73-oldest-complete-worlds-toughest-ultra-marathon

Since taking up running ten years ago, Mr Mitchell – a former naval officer – has completed 139 marathons including 30 ultramarathons – like the Marathon des Sables.

Military.  The two men who raced across Antarctica last year, alone and unsupported, were Colin O’Brady, an American adventure athlete, and Louis Rudd, a captain in the British army, pulling sleds of 375 and 330 pounds, respectively.
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/18/sports/antarctica-race-tracker-map.html.  (Colin O’Brady posted this photo on Instagram on the 50th day of his journey.)  Only two participated, but they had to pull everything and they raced over 900 miles.  Yes, the American, 33-years-old, beat the Brit, at 49.

The Yellow of Spring

I love our spring, especially the palo verde (this one in my back yard).

And here’s a photo from my bedroom window of the yellow fruit on the barrel cactus, the yellow flowers on the brittlebush, and beyond, the blooms of the palo verdes in the wash.  The brick back patio is dusted in gold, from the mesquite pollen on the south (which reminds me of the pine pollen coating my car in Greenville, SC) to the palo verde blossoms on the north.

Seen today: quail strolling beyond the fence, but no chicks yet.  Many spiny lizards in the yard; one doing his territorial pushups on the back column.  Another was lying on the gravel next to my hose, thinking he blended in; I had to explain otherwise to him.  White-lined Sphinx moth on the wall. Sorry I hadn’t seen its colorful caterpillar.  

As soon as the sun sets during the warm part of the year … large White-lined Sphinx moths will emerge, and like nocturnal hummingbirds, these amazing fliers can be seen zooming around the garden and hovering before flowers as they sip nectar.

The desert willow, on the south side of the house, in bloom.  Unfortunately, you can’t really see it from the house – you have to walk around in back or front.

Easter has passed, but I loved this drawing by Wendy MacNaughton:

If you can’t read it above, read it here: lac-bug-candy

Retirement

March 29, 2019

Volunteer work

I had mentioned ICS (Interfaith Community Service) in a blog a couple of years ago (who-to-help), when I started my volunteer training for Caregiving Services (just one of their myriad services).  My volunteering had obviously been put on hold when I was working in Orlando for a year.  Now I’m back to driving.  (We do this for people just out of hospital, who have no support system, relatives and so on, to get them to doctor’s appointments, the drug store, grocery store, and such.  Without us, many of them would end up back in the hospital.)

Had a young guy who had had stomach surgery for ulcers, had lost his job because he had been in hospital, and therefore lost his insurance.  Had to cancel his first doctor’s appointment as he didn’t have the copay (that had been with Banner Health – a non-profit health system!), rescheduled for El Rio Health Center.  After his appointment an administrator there helped him fill out forms for AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System), our Medicaid agency.  By the time the paperwork was completed, the lab where his blood work was to be done and the pharmacy were closed for the lunch hour so I picked him up again the next day.  Went to the lab, then the pharmacy but the pharmacist wasn’t in so we’d had to come back.  Asked if he wanted to do any grocery shopping.  Said he had no money yet for that, and he hadn’t heard of food banks.  So took him to the ICS one that has fresh food as well as canned, and set him up for a few weeks.  Then back to the pharmacy.  I am happy to report that because he is so young, he has been healing quickly, and got another job, so is doing well.

My present person has dialysis MWF, which his insurance covers, including the driving, but is with us due to heart surgery.  (Plus his wife has lupus.)  So far I’ve taken him to two doctor’s appointments, a trip to the pharmacy, to the lab, and to the grocery store twice.  Shall do that for six weeks; after that the Health Center gives cab vouchers.

The first guy I drove, back in 2017, had COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – from a lifetime of smoking, but had just gotten out of the hospital for leukemia.  (Treatments include chemotherapy and corticosteroids… usually last four weeks and are done in a hospital.)  He had a car and could drive, but could not carry his groceries to his second-floor apartment, as he could hardly breathe.  So once a week I’d drive him to the supermarket and carry his purchases to his apartment.  (He had applied for a first floor one, but it came in when he was in hospital, so someone else got it, so he’s back on the list.)  I also talked him into buying a few vegetables.  He was much younger than me, but I felt like a spring chicken, bounding up the stairs with his bags.

Also did another bit of unexpected volunteering a few weeks ago.  Was meeting a few friends at the Invisible Theatre for the play Dancing Lessons (which was quite good) and was waiting in the lobby when one of the In Charge people entered in a tizzy and told the person handing out the Will Call tickets that one of the ushers couldn’t make it.  So I asked if I could help.  Yes!  For a short stint before and after the show they put the five of us in the second row of seating!

Note: they’re putting on Letters from Zora, with Award Winning Stage and Film Star Vanessa Bell Calloway at The Berger Performing Arts Center:

TWO PERFORMANCES ONLY!
Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM

for which we have tickets.  (Back in February of 2017 they put on Frederick Douglass: In the Shadow of Slavery, also at The Berger, which was fabulous!)

More books

Finishing The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers.  502 pages in hard cover from the library, but shall be sad when it’s over.  Great characters, and descriptions of the horrible destruction of our old growth trees, much on federal land.  As the NY Times review (by Barbara Kingsolver) is entitled,

The Heroes of This Novel Are Centuries Old and 300 Feet Tall.  books/review/overstory

This week

A clutch (or if you have a better name for a tightly packed group slipstreaming, please tell me) of about 20 bicyclists zipping by in their attractive lycra.

Two coyotes crossing my street in the evening, on their way to cross La Cholla (which is dreadfully being widened – the wash between the street in front of my rental and La Cholla used to be heavily vegetated, with large trees, and now it looks like it’s going to be a concrete V before the four lanes).

An elderly woman with a small dog on her walker seat going into El Rio.

Roads lined by purple yucca lupine flowers.  Lots of other wildflowers around, seeded next to roads?

My neighbor’s tombstone rose plants trailing over the fence between us, decked in white flowers.  (This photo from my breakfast room/office, with the photinia in front.)

A roadrunner behind my yard who stopped to look at me when I talked to it, then ran off on his mission.

Harvested enough spinach from my garden for a salad and a soup.

Do have a complaint (besides the denuding of the wash).  The landscape crew started cutting limbs off “my” mesquite out front at 6:30am!  #firstworldproblems  I had asked that no lower branches (the only thing between my living room window and that horrible scraped land) be taken off.  Crew leader said he had to so his guys could climb the tree to cut out the mistletoe, as they didn’t have a ladder high enough.  That poor tree has been trying to grow back its lower branches for years!

The mistletoe seeds are dispersed by  birds, the phainopeplas, which have been around all of my desert yards.  This blog, more-critters, has a good photo of one, along with the description of the mutuality between the plant and the animal.  An over-infestation of the leafless hemiparasitic plant (it takes water and minerals from its host plants but it does its own photosynthesis, making it a hemiparasite) can kill a tree in 15 to 20 years.  (Walked four blocks down our main drag to take a photo of this poor palo verde that died of mistletoe.  It’s the worst I’ve seen.  Two across the road also look dead.)

Then, had to take photos of two dumb houses.  The first, which has a beautiful stucco finish, has a humongous window, with no overhang, facing due south.  The architect that designed that should not have been licensed in Arizona.  Unless that is a really super shade inside, they can never use the room. The second house,  obviously, should not have been built so close to the fairway.  The first architectural office I worked in did many Sun Cities, and our boss bragged that their fairways were wide enough to avoid that problem. 

 

 

More Favorite Things

March 21, 2019

The Mountains

View from my desk.  6:30 pm.

Spring

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.

Books

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.

Politics

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.

My Favorite Things

March 13, 2019

I started this blog two weeks ago.  Thought I just ought to post it, even if incomplete.  I didn’t even mention art or books or travel or bugs or gardening or bobcats and javelinas…

A cousin (one of my favorites) emailed me after my last (downer) post: And yet, we must find the delights in life or ….  So here are a few of my favorite things:

Humor.  As in the book, Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo:

A children’s picture book released by comedian John Oliver about a gay bunny has hit the top spot on Amazon, outselling a vanilla version featuring US vice-president’s Mike Pence’s pet rabbit.

The satirical doppelganger… was strategically released by the British late-night TV host a day before Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, which was written by Pence’s daughter Charlotte and illustrated by his wife, Karen.

Within two days of its release, Oliver’s Marlon Bundo had sold 180,000 copies on Amazon and become the bestselling book on the site, outstripping the Pence version which at the time of writing languished in fourth place.

The Pence book tells the tale of Marlon Bundo trailing his master for a day, but Oliver’s version, written by comedian and staff writer Jill Twiss, is about “a lonely bunny who lives with his grampa, the vice-president of the United States” who one day “falls in love with another boy bunny”.  gay-rabbit

Also, this is a great video of John Oliver being interviewed about Marlon Bundo on Late Night with Seth Meyers: John Oliver on Late Night.

Snow.  (Photos from my family room two Fridays ago.  The yard snow was gone by mid-day, but it took a few days for the north side of the Catalinas to melt.)  I liked sledding and ice-skating when I was a kid in Michigan.  In fact, my parents would flood our back yard for a “rink” and we pretended to play hockey with the kids on the block.  One night, when I was at Michigan State, Lansing had three feet of snow overnight.  MSU had to close, even though it had 21 snow plows.  What fun!  Also took figure skating while at MSU.  (When my daughter was in elementary school I drove her to Phoenix for a class when she wanted to give figure skating a whirl.  The first lesson was how to fall – she refused.  Said she’d never fall, and she didn’t.  Don’t think she ever fell skiing either.)

We would go up to Mt Lemmon every February, because there would always be snow.  (Photo of my daughter with a snowman.)  So we decided built a cabin in Summerhaven after our son was born.  I taught the kids to ski there, although I was dreadful myself, having had only a few lessons from a boyfriend on what was a very low “mountain” outside Detroit.

Relatives and Friends.  I adore my brother, despite the fact that he was always beating me.  I was awarded a $300 bond for winning the poster contest – I have no color photo of it; he got actual cash for $300 his National Art Scholastic win.  I once beat him at tennis, but then needed surgery on my elbow, after catching one of his serves backhand.  I did pretty well in architecture by end of my career, but at that point my brother was making four times what I did directing commercials! This is one of his best (make sure you have your sound on): Honda Eraser

I could go on and on about my two kids, three grandkids, favorite cousins, and old and new friends, but will have to do that at another time.  However, must put in a photo of my son, in his lab about 15 years ago, to give him equal time with his sister (above):

Tennis.  I’ve always loved tennis.  I grew up in Detroit and bicycled to a city park in the summer when in junior high to take free lessons (at least that was my recollection from the late 50’s) and earned a spot on my high school team.  During the summer played on the Detroit team, and my couch, a student at Michigan State, said I could make the MSU team.  Problem was, I needed to work through college, so had no time for sports.  But after I settled in Tucson, I played at the Racquet Club for many years with friends; my son did All-Sports Camp there during the summer, and my daughter did the tennis program after-school every day when she was in high school. When I was working one my architecture degree I played on the Racquet Club team. (As competition was in the morning, I couldn’t do it when I was working.)  But when I was working in South Carolina, played on my company’s team – we practiced after work and competed on the weekends.  That ended when I returned to Arizona.  Hadn’t played in ten years until my daughter suggested we start back up, so I’m taking one to two clinics a week to try to recreate my game. I’m sore most of the time but love it. Was 30 degrees when I left home two Sundays ago to play, but got warm enough in our sun to shed the warm-up suit.

Chocolate.  It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re in love.

Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate.

I try to eat chocolate every day – it’s easy to make pots de creme au chocolate, which are marvelous with whipped cream.  Sliced pear goes nicely with dark chocolate for dessert.  Looking through a Living (Martha Stewart) magazine in the dentist’s office yesterday, saw a recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownie Bars (pictured right) which was not hard to make!  Even talked my mother into making me a Flourless Chocolate Cake one year for my birthday.  Death by chocolate!

Positivity.  As Nicholas Kristof’s column “Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History”. progress-poverty-health

Cooking.  I’ve gone through many different episodes, including Julia Child for many years, starting in college (yes, chapter by chapter, which got a bit much in the souffles), and many years of curries after living in Jamaica, which included making my own curry powder.  A few years ago I got away somewhat from my Mediterranean cookbook to The Pleasures of Cooking for One and Radically Simple.  Although, as many people whose cookbooks are falling apart are doing, I’m simply Googling.  Like what to do with mizuna, as I have so much of it and it’s bolting now.

Architecture.  I had been a math and an English teacher, and then a computer programmer which I quite enjoyed (until IBM left town and my spouse-at-the-time didn’t want to move), just as I still enjoy math games.  But then I went into architecture, later in life, and really really loved it.  Bad luck for the youngsters in my class, trying to date simultaneously, with their brains rattled (been there, done that), as I was top of my class.  Designing microchip factories with Fluor wasn’t a lark, but it was so engaging to work in Taiwan and Micronesia (not so much Dublin or São Paulo), and designing US embassies was interesting (Kazakhstan, Haiti, and Jamaica) but the most fun I’ve ever had in life was designing two houses for myself (on the side, while working full time). Above, my first house.  Fifteen years later when I was working on my program to teach 3D CAD (which was also a lot of fun), I did the above house in 3D.  Here is a rendering (not a photograph) of the living room/ dining room:

Diving.  Scuba diving opens up a whole new world, and is very calm.  This trip to Fiji wasn’t my favorite fiji-day-5, but it’s the only one I blogged.  The best was Palau, on a live-aboard, with friends, diving with my son.  If I had a dive partner, I’d go again to some exotic locale, but haven’t had one in a number of years.

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feelin’ sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad…

Crises

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 raptim.org:

  • 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

Overpopulation

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.)

Plastics

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: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/

Styrofoam

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

1 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/tucson-mid-september-2013/
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.
3 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/books-movies-dogs-cats/
4 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance
5 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/connect-the-dots/
6 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/monsanto/
7 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/global-warming/
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
9 https://www.npr.org/2018/03/11/589974185/tennessee-natural-burial-ground-will-offer-a-simpler-farewell-casket-optional

National Emergency

February 14, 2019

I hardly think that migrants fleeing from violence in their countries, applying for asylum in the US, are our National Emergency.  Our mass killing are.

Today, Valentine’s Day, is the anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, although I wish they’d call these murders instead of making them sound like a day at the shooting range.  Seventeen students and staff members dead, seventeen others wounded.  There were ±307 mass shootings in the US in 2018, depending on how you define them.  This from Wikipedia:

Mass Shooting Tracker: 4+ shot in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time.
Gun Violence Archive: 4+ shot in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at one location, at roughly the same time.
Vox: 4+ shot in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at one location, at roughly the same time.
USA Today: 4+ shot and killed in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time (same as the FBI’s “mass killing” definition).
Mother Jones: 3+ shot and killed in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at a public place, excluding gang-related killings.
The Washington Post: 4+ shot and killed in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at a public place, excluding gang-related killings.

But all were executed by American citizens, most of whom were white males (no women).  As usual, little if anything was changed regarding our gun laws.  This also from Wikipedia re Stoneman Douglas:

Following the massacre, student survivors’ anger and frustration towards the perceived inaction of the Republican-dominated legislature on the wider issue of mass shootings and gun violence led to the founding of Never Again MSD, an organization formed by survivors and students of the shooting to demand legislative action on gun violence. On March 9, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that raised the minimum age for buying rifles in Florida from 18 to 21. The legislation also established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers. The law also allowed for the arming of teachers who were properly trained and the hiring of school police. [NPR had a bit on that today.]  So-called “bump stocks” would now be banned and some potentially violent or mentally unstable persons would be prohibited from possessing guns. The …NRA immediately filed a lawsuit that challenged the federal constitutionality of the age requirement clause.

Blah blah blah.  Or as the Onion headline says each time this happens,  ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

My Garden

It is February and the night temps are going to dip below freezing for the third time; on Sunday I covered outdoor pots and my garden with sheets yet again.  But the mizuna has loved the rains.  (It tastes a bit like arugula but not as peppery.)  The spinach is just getting going.  I think I’ve gotten my last eggplant off my two-year-old plants.  But my brussel sprout plant (according to the map of what seeds I planted where) has yielded no sprouts, which are supposed to occur along its trunk.  (Mine v. what the plant  should look like.)  Then I happened to look at the top of the plant.  Huge cauliflower (dwarfed here by its giant leaves)!  Made cauliflower soup (for 4) with a quarter of it.

The Loft

You Tucsonans know The Loft Cinema, our art movie house.  Saturday went with friends to see Documentaries (Short Subject) nominated for this year’s Oscars.  Most were pretty depressing.

  • Black Sheep was the story of a black kid who tries to be white (down to the blue contacts!) to hang with English thugs.
  • End Game follows five people in San Francisco who are dying, who make different choices on how to die.  A few of them were at the Zen Hospice Project, which I have read about, but can’t remember when or why.
  • The next was A Night at The Garden, quite an eye-opener, as it was footage from 1939 when 20,000 Americans rallied in New York’s Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism.  Rather spooky, these Americans giving the Nazi salute.  It’s very short; you can watch it on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/237489146.
  • Then there’s Lifeboat: German volunteers sail to the Mediterranean to rescue refugees from sinking rafts off the coast of Libya.  It is horrible how many people are jammed into these wooded boats or inflatable rafts.
  • The last was Period. End of Sentence.  In Hapur, a rural village outside New Delhi, where a girl’s period can mean the end of her education…  a sanitary pad machine is installed [and] the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads, empowering the women of their community.

The Estrogen Hour

Went to a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with friends Sunday night, as we’ve done for a few years, to which we added hors d’oeuvres and a couple of bottles of wine.  It was at Laffs and billed as Tucson’s funniest females… for this stand-up comedy.  Best year yet.  They were all good, although not all cisgen – ‘guestosteroneTempest DuJour

“She” shall also host the Very Big Show (of Support) for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona at the Rialto Theatre in downtown Tucson.

Saturday, March 9, 2019
VIP Reception: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
General Admission: 7:00 pm

You can look it up and buy a ticket if you’re interested (and I’ll go with you).

Winter

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.  (?)

Exercise

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.

Impeachment

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!✔

The Desert in Bloom

August 9, 2018

The red birds out front are ginormous, probably from the flood from my cracked drip line, which the neighbors reported. $100+ water bill last month for what is mostly a desert yard.  Finally, the owner agreed to replacing a whole section of the PVC pipe, which dries out underground after many years of our heat, not just one patch at a time.  Anyway, I keep a bouquet of the birds next to my computer when I’m home, even though each branch last only two to three day, there are so many to cut.

Flowers on two barrels.

Only three Japanese eggplants this time home.  Photo of my veggies from the last time.  I’ve planted nothing for a year – these are continuing since last year.  Unfortunately, the tomatoes didn’t make it.

A family of eight quail, just beyond my fence.  The spring babies, those little acorns, have grown and are almost ready to be on their own.  The loud cheeping of a towhee on my bird feeder, then the birdbath – first bird I’ve seen there since I filled it last Saturday.  (Put it away when I’m gone as water in it lasts about a-day-and-a-half in this heat.)

Day before yesterday a coyote just next to the fence, walking slowly due to the 105° temp at 1pm, but still too quick for me to find my camera.

Sand

There are two issues that really get me with the Feds: government insurance so people can build back in flood zones and moving sand back into places where rich people have their summer homes.

Hurricanes often wash away or remove sand with strong winds from under the foundations of beach properties undermining the structures. This is a condominium complex in need of serious repair after Hurricane Irma in Key Colony Beach, Florida.
Photo by Robert Kaufmann – Jun 14, 2018 – Location: Key Colony Beach, FL fema sand

Wordsmithing

We used to talk about accidents; now in Orlando they say crashes and in Tucson I heard a newscaster say collisions. A bit more graphic than not-on-purposes.
Would people give more thought to guns being deadly if, instead of a shooting (which could happen to a target at a shooting range or a captive animal at a hunting preserve) we called it a multiple murder.

Disasters

Presently California is burning up. (cbsnews.com)  This is last year, which I am still working on in Orlando:

2017 Atlantic Hurricane season. In three weeks, the nation responded to three hurricanes: Harvey, Irma and Maria. At the same time, wildfires claimed lives and destroyed property across California. FEMA processed more individual assistance claims in one year than the previous decade combined.  In 2017, FEMA had 73 declared disasters, presence in 35 states, and 800 open disasters. fema.gov

A must read is: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. I haven’t finished it yet ’cause it’s real depressing. But we all must read it.  This just part of the Prologue:

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement… hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding… are one in 20.  If… [we] limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf… Three-degree warming… forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities… Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming… the end of human civilization.  losing-earth

Good News

I do look for positivity in the news.  One extraordinary merganser duck has been spotted leading about 76 ducklings. ducklings-creche  I guess if one flunks geometry it’s no big deal.  (I was thinking of when I had 44 kids in a geometry class.)

Health Care

Because I manage over ten million dollars in FEMA claims, most from three regions of hospitals which I’m getting to know pretty well, I’m understanding why Florida Obamacare premiums have gone up 41.8% from 2017 to 2018.

This is a great website: atoday.org/the-adventist-health-business

A business magazine in Florida reported 2011 annual “total executive compensation, including base salaries, bonuses, retirement or other deferred compensation, and non-taxable benefits” for the Florida based Adventist Health System as $1,062,010 per year for the lowest of the top 10 executives, to $3,191,124 for the head of the organization.  I suspect that in 2017 none of them has had a significant pay cut.

DHS

FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which sends us almost daily emails about this and that, and most of them (with this administration) make me mad.

August 1, 2018
Dear Colleagues,
I am honored and excited to be the Department’s Chair for the 2018 Feds Feed Families campaign. This year’s campaign began on July 15 and will run through October 18. Food insecurity impacts approximately 41 million American households, including 13 million children and 5.4 million seniors. This means people lack access to enough food for an active healthy life for all household members.
Feds Feed Families was created to help food banks and pantries stay stocked during summer months when they traditionally see a decrease in donations and an increase in need. There are many ways to contribute, and our Department is uniquely poised to help with a strong presence in local communities across the Nation.
Last year, employees donated non-perishable items at work, traveled to farms to harvest crops (gleaning), and even donated freshly prepared food directly to local shelters. Recognizing that families in financial crisis can find it difficult to meet the nutritional needs of their pets, Feds Feed Families has expanded the campaign to accept donations of pet food. These donations can ensure that families and pets stay together, and that these pets stay out of shelters.
As Department Chair for the 2018 campaign, I commend you for your past generosity, and invite you to make this year’s drive the most successful yet.
Sincerely,
Thomas J. Walters
Director, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers and 2018 DHS Feds Feed Families Chair

Am I a curmudgeon thinking that the Feds want the middle class to take over feeding the poor, so actually, we’d be subsidizing the huge tax breaks they gave to the rich?  (I have been giving to our  Community Food Bank since the old days when Punch Woods was CEO.)