Saturday, September 17, 2022

Xenomorph Root System


This is not an H.R. Giger design for the Aliens movie franchise. It was under the landscaping in front of my house.

My house is relatively new, having been first inhabited in 2015. As a consequence, I have to live with some of the choices of the previous homeowners. At the time I bought, the housing market was tight and competitive so I accepted some compromises that I might not normally accept. One of these compromises was the choice of trees and bushes in front of the house.

I'm reluctant to change the plants that came with the house I bought due to the necessity of getting the approval of the HOA. Also, the cost, time, and effort. All the tree species in front of the house send out root runners to reproduce vegetatively. This causes a plethora of shoots and if left unattended, young trees, to crop up around the yard. This violates the HOA rules.

I looked online for an easy way to deal with this situation, but the usual course of action is just to dig up the ground and cut all the root runners. You can expect to have to do this periodically. This turned out to be a few hours of work. I had to rake off the gravel xeriscape, cut through and peel back the weed barrier, and then dig and cut with loppers and an axe to get rid of the roots. I put more weed barrier over the gaps before raking the gravel back over it. I don't really want the trees to die but if they do I won't grieve too much. I'll just get a tree company to remove the stumps and plant different species, subject to HOA approval. Ones that don't send out root runners.

Unfortunately I promptly injured my left rotator cuff during this process, and it isn't healing. Pretty disappointing. I've tweaked both rotator cuffs many times before back when I was running whitewater in a kayak, but this is worse. It's especially disappointing since I had been lifting dumbbells one or two days a week for months precisely to avoid this scenario. I'm not sure if I wasn't lifting enough or if lifting more would just have resulted in a similar injury.

The perils of aging.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Superyachts and Travel


Look at that cute devil! How can I leave him for any length of time? And yes, he is the one who ruined the window blind.

I'd travel a lot more if I didn't have pets. The other problem is money. If you can solve the latter problem then you can solve the former problem because pets can travel on a super yacht, and it's easier than in a car or aircraft. Yachting seems to be in fashion the last few years, popular amongst billionaires of both the legal and gangster type. With the economic downturn and sanctions on Russian oligarchs I bet you could get a good deal on one right now, if you could merely borrow a hundred million. Wouldn't I love it if I could afford it. Only knowing my cats, I'd have to watch them carefully or they'd end up in the ocean.

Seriously, I'm sitting here on some airline credits and my calendar is jammed up with critical deadlines at work, doctors appointments, weeks that I have to be on call, and business travel (but that doesn't count). Frustration is one of the most common human emotions.

As for why do I have cats? Because they keep me company in between travel. My oldest cat Zelda has been with me longer than any girlfriend. Girlfriends are better companions for travel though, and some other things.



For my tastes, this small section of park with pine trees, natural mulch, and wildflowers is more beautiful than a carefully manicured lawn with a grass monoculture.

There is an idea in American popular culture that the exterior of a home should be a neat, orderly, and uniform exhibit. The lawn must have a monoculture area of grass, typically of a single species that has been carefully bred by professionals. It's anachronistic.

We now know that monocultures are somewhat antithetical to a balanced ecosystem. They also tend to require chemicals to maintain. I've never thought that small flowering plants in a lawn were out of place. Especially not if they are native species. They beautify the lawn.

When I lived in Georgia my lawn was full of small flowers every spring. I thought it was beautiful. Wildflowers are not "weeds." This outraged my boomer parents and provoked much eye rolling. The young, stupid son didn't know how to maintain a proper lawn. Fortunately that mentality is dying out. Someday we will have seen the last of the monoculture lawn.

Where I live, we have mandatory gravel desert-scaping. Unfortunately the HOA rules were written by a bunch of boomers over a decade ago, so they still want everything to be completely neat and uniform. Of course, this is also tainted by the influence of investment buyers (house flippers) who want the neighborhood uniform because they think it will drive up property values and make it easier to sell. I don't know if that is true about value but it's morally untrue either way. Neighborhoods are for living, not for business ventures.

Uniformity is obsolete. It's one of those ideas whose time has come and gone, only the people holding the ideas haven't accepted it yet. They will either die out or live to see it change against their will.

Monday, August 22, 2022



Greenery on the Highlands Trail. The tree in the middle seems to be a rogue fir or spruce from higher elevations.

I love Flagstaff but one of my few issues with it is the lack of moisture and flowing water. This monsoon season has been so strong that isn't true right now - everything is green! There are puddles and signs of water flow everywhere. The springs are full. I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Fall is usually very dry here.

Monday, August 15, 2022


I follow a bunch of storm chaser people on social media, as well as a few actual meteorologists. They are an odd, geeky bunch, united by the adrenaline of mostly violent weather and academic inclinations. Clear weather is boring to such people. When I was a child I was taught that a desire for action and academic proclivities were contradictory impulses, but when I grew up I realized they are not mutually exclusive.

When I was into running whitewater, there were some common traits among the people who participated in that particular subculture: free weekends, disposable income, and a taste for adrenaline. It's a time consuming hobby and once you find the friends you spend a lot of time with them.

There were also an unusual disproportion of former college athletes who checked both boxes but I never figured out exactly why that was the case, other than to mention that many people are mistaken about paddling being a "low impact" sport. Not on whitewater it isn't. Maybe on a lake. This led to people like me (un-athletic geeks) mingling with college athlete types. Strange bedfellows but it worked.

The point being that there are hobbies that are more than hobbies. They are subcultures that bring diverse people together. When I lived in the Chattanooga area, all my friends were from whitewater. Even when I did other things like hiking or mountain biking or even going to a museum or sampling a new restaurant, I did them with the same whitewater people. The storm chasers seem to be the same way.

I haven't found a subculture in Flagstaff to hang with in several years living here. I'm not sure why exactly but Flagstaff is notorious for difficulty putting down roots. It's hard to make friends or find a mate here. It would help if I got out more and found a subculture. It's a good way to make friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Cycling the Mormon Lake Loop

Mormon Mountain beyond the mostly grassy lakebed of Mormon Lake. There are elk in this photo but they are too far for the iPhone camera to resolve.


I meant to ride my bicycle around Mormon Lake since about the first year I moved to Flagstaff, but for some reason I never got around to it. It's about a 40 to 45 minute drive south of Flagstaff along Lake Mary Road, and I've never been in good enough shape to simply ride from my various domiciles all the way there, around the lake, and back.

I finally made time for it last Saturday. I parked at the Mormon Lake overlook and immediately the day promised a great experience. I started early enough to avoid the thunderstorms but was unsure about riding the entire distance. I committed only to a clockwise route with the potential of turning around if I got out about 5 or 6 miles and things were not going well. Fortunately things went well.

The view back towards Flagstaff under gathering monsoon clouds. It's sunflower season!

The monsoon has been extra rainy this year and everything was green. The lake still has not filled up as much as I've seen it in the past but there were areas of open water and a huge herd of elk were enjoying it. Unfortunately I don't have a camera with enough range to capture that so you'll have to take my word for it.

This incredible view was from the southerly edge of the lake.

The route is rolling with a net downhill to the south and I arrived in pretty good order at the turnoff for Mormon Lake Road. I made the turn and enjoyed the excellent pavement and scenery along the quick two miles to Mormon Lake Lodge. The views were incredible!

Approaching the Mormon Lake community. I would imagine it's a happy place to live but far beyond my means.

The day was perfect and I stopped a few times to take photos. I startled a deer at one point. There were many bicyclists out and most were friendly. Since I was on a mountain bike, I had little hope of passing anyone, and indeed I passed no one and was passed several times. The road winds along the base of Mormon Mountain and the skies were beautiful.

A panorama with Mormon Mountain along the road. It's quiet and high quality bicycling.

I looped back to my car with plenty of time to spare before the arrival of ferocious thunderstorms. It's one of the best bicycle rides I've ever done! I fully recommend it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Western Ambient


The Granite Dells of Prescott, Arizona with late monsoon clouds in September 2015.

The afternoon was pleasant with light rain and distant thunder. I sat working with my cats around me and the air cooled. Ambient western music played from my laptop. It established the perfect tone for sitting in my screen door garage with the monsoon rains falling just outside. My mood has been changeable lately but this afternoon I found a measure of peace in work and things seemed effortless today.

I'm pecking away at my novel. My creative output continues to be high, and I like where it's leading, though I don't know if it will be commercially viable or not. My prose improved over the last decade.

I've been organizing my personal library and it serves as a source of inspiration.

I have the urge to paint again.