Friday, October 23, 2020

Clear Mind Through Running

 

The Arizona Trail in Buffalo Park. My favorite place to run.

I lack motivation for running right now, even though I'm trying to lose weight. It's because the days are shorter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I think the looming threat of public disorder is contributing. Civil conflict brings me down.

I forced myself out night before last and ran 2.3 miles, a short distance for me, but since I had been putting it off, I was well rested and ran with complete comfort. Maybe I don't do rest and recovery properly?

It was nice to be able to think about nothing while I was running, as opposed to having to silently tell myself not to stop over and over again. When you get that runner's high going, it brings a clear state of mind with it.

One of my favorite places to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Stealth

Cplbeaudoin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


When I was about 11 or 12, like many 80s kids, I was obsessed with ninjitsu, Navy SEALs, and camouflage. I had an entire outfit of cammo. I arranged a "hunt" with the only two boys in the neighborhood. This included my lifelong friend Scott, and another kid named Jeremy. We went back to the woods along perennial Pipe Creek, and agreed to boundaries, within which we would take turns hiding and trying to find each other.

What I achieved amazed me. I had head to foot cammo, with black, mud-spattered tennis shoes, a cammo baseball cap, and even a cammo bandana around my neck and face, with a ninja ski mask underneath. We took turns hiding. I assume it was a Saturday, although it might have been summer and we were off school, I can't remember now.

Scott was easy to find. Jeremy hid along a collapsed section of stream bank, rather than trying to rely upon his incomplete camouflage. Scott found him. I simply chose a gentle slope, covered with forbes and ferns, and lay their quietly, with my face concealed except my eyes, which I closed to slits. Both Scott and Jeremy walked around for several minutes and looked carefully over every inch of ground. I held my breath, squeezed my eyes almost entirely shut, and they looked right past me. I finally had to reveal myself.

During that period of my life, I read many Louis L'amour novels. His descriptions of tracking and how to move quietly through the woods to avoid detection and without startling wildlife captured my imagination. I first practiced walking quietly and slowly, then learned how to move faster with reduced noise. It was easier when I was lighter weight, but I still remember how to do it.

I've always been good at stealth. Some people might call it sneakiness. I frequently startle other hikers out on the trails. This is what we call the law of unintended consequences. Oops.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ping

One of my pet peeves is when these city slickers out on the trail with very expensive technical clothing and gear look down on others because they didn't spend $1500 on their kit. Said city slickers maybe take a couple of vacations a year and otherwise hike once a month. Nonetheless, they took classes at an REI and read some books and now believe they are hot shot hikers.


For a number of years I hiked in the Ping brand golf hat above that I bought at a course in Tennessee one time when I forgot to bring a hat. I sunburn easily so I picked up whatever was available in the pro shop. That became my sweaty, outdoor hat. Many hiking friends and strangers on the trail ridiculed it, as if wearing a golf hat while hiking was some type of bumbling mistake indicating a lack of experience.

I've been hiking since I was 3 or 4 years old. I grew up in the country, roaming where there were neither trails nor roads, wading through creeks and thickets, pulling off the cockleburs and scraping off the mud with sticks. I taught myself to track and stalk.

No, city hiker, your Arc'teryx thousand dollar jacket does not indicate superiority of experience or fitness. It just means that you are an unusually foolish person who judges a book by its cover. That hat accompanied me on dozens of outdoor expeditions and was perfectly functional for hiking, as anyone who spent their entire life hiking and exploring the outdoors could tell you.

I finally had to get rid of it, but I don't regret wearing it on hikes. You don't need the correct name brand for adventure.

Poseurs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Misadventure

Verde River, somewhere between White Bridge and the Clear Creek access point.

I took a five day weekend, Thursday through Monday. It's a long enough break to forget what is going on at work. Unfortunately the weekend didn't go exactly as hoped. Our kayak trip on a new-to-us section of the Verde River ran a little longer than I expected. The water level was barely adequate. Everybody was relieved to see the takeout. I think the next time I go back, I will look for more flow, both to avoid rocks and to speed up the trip. Even a difference of a half mile per hour makes a big difference on a 5 mile float trip.
Waterfowl in the Kachina Wetlands, with Woody Mountain in the distance.

The next thing that happened was that I apparently dropped my eye glasses somewhere on a 2.5 mile hike at the Kachina Wetlands. This necessitated losing a morning to an eye doctor appointment. Now I'll have to wait two weeks for up-to-date eye glasses. I'm using outdated prescription glasses in the interim.

When you like adventure, you have to be prepared for the inevitable misadventure that goes with it.

Still worth it though. We got in two and half hikes and a paddling trip. Not bad.
Mount Elden from a hot, dusty Fat Man's Loop trail. Is that the "slabs" route? This was the last hike of the weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Glory


It's still smoky in Northern Arizona, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the magnificence of autumn in the high country.

M took me to a "secret" spot to view the fall colors on the San Francisco Peaks. We were alone on the trail at a time when many thousands of people flooded the Arizona high country to see the fall leaf change. The view from the high point brought me a sense of euphoria and glory.

Life is still good.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Patina


That week was too long. I was very productive at work but there were too many tasks required. Even though my job is a sitting job, I sometimes find myself exhausted. It isn't a physical exhaustion. It's an exhaustion of the mind. The brain needs rest too.

When I was younger, I felt a sharp inquisitiveness about work. I wanted to learn everything about technology. I dreamed of success as a leader or a software entrepreneur. Now I feel like I have a rusted coating on the outside. It looks good. It looks like experience. But the rust makes it difficult to move and think as quickly. It's difficult to get new information to the inside.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Intermittent Feasting

We went hiking last weekend. There weren't enough aspens but the ones we had were beautiful.

I've been "intermittent fasting" to control my weight. We used to call it "skipping a meal," and were criticized. Now it's trendy and called by a medicalized term. The problem with it is that intermittent fasting usually causes me to feast when I break the fast. It's intermittent feasting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Relocation

The Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks, September 24, 2017.


Back around 2011, when I said I was looking for jobs out-of-state, my ex-girlfriend told me that I "couldn't move away from my problems." My retort was that I didn't expect to move away from my problems. I just wanted to move someplace with a landscape that I wanted to look at every day, and have new places to explore. 

It's certainly true that you either bring happiness or unhappiness with you wherever you go. Some days I'm happy, and that comes mostly from my current life. Other days I'm unhappy, and it mostly comes from past experiences. Ongoing stress can cause unhappiness, but only by sending me back into unhappy memories.

 Either way, a beautiful landscape helps to get back into happiness.

More inspiration arrived over the last couple of days for a new novel, but it's fragmentary. I must fit the pieces together before I start writing.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Celebrity Sightings


I'm creating this list as a permanent record and will update it as necessary.

I've seen a few celebrities in person over the years. Most people have. I do not engage in celebrity worship, because celebrities are still human and flawed, and worshiping other humans inevitably leads to disappointment. Still, it's mildly exciting to see a celebrity in person and I can't resist thinking about the various sighting sometimes, and decided to make a list of celebrities I have seen in person. 

I question how to define celebrity, since some local politicians and radio station DJs are considered celebrities. I wouldn't include them, but I probably would include a television personality from a major market. When I lived in Chattanooga, I saw several reporters around, but never the anchors, and Chattanooga is a small television market. I wouldn't count the reporters but I would count the anchors.

I'm also counting athletes if I have seen them outside of a sporting event. I've been to too many live sporting events to count all the athlete-celebrities I have seen in a stadium or arena.

I'm unsure how to rank these by importance and do not have a clear timeline in my head, so I'm just going to make an ad hoc list.


The List

George W. Bush - seen when he visited the hospital where I worked. He was president at the time.

Sting (Rock Star) - seen at a concert. This was after he broke up The Police for his very lucrative solo career.

Bryan Adams (Rock Star) - seen at a concert.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (NASCAR driver) - seen leaving the Lookout Valley Walmart, Tennessee, in his Lexus SUV, confirmed by vanity license plate "ERNHRDT."

Lynyrd Skynyrd (Rock Band) - but particularly the lead vocalist at the time, Johnny Van Zant. They were making a public appearance at a Walmart in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where I was living at the time. I went in to pick up some nylon rope to use with my kayak. I was amazed at the line of people waiting to see them that wound out the front doors and around the parking lot. I walked up behind them while browsing through the sporting goods section, where the band was sitting at an elevated table and Johnny looked back at me nervously, but he could see I was only shopping and we nodded at each other. I suppose someone like Johnny has to worry about stalking. It was a strange but memorable moment. I admit to being annoyed at the mobs when I was just trying to shop.

Lance Armstrong (professional bicyclist) - seen at a steakhouse in Durango, Colorado. I wrote a previous blog post about this but at the time thought it couldn't be him, because he was too bulky, and guessed that it was another rider who looked similar (can't remember the name now) but was bigger. I later found out that Lance had been strength training (this was after he retired from professional cycling, and after the scandals) and saw a couple photos of him bulked up. He was wearing a Specialized baseball hat, and after we made eye contact, turned it around so that the brand couldn't be seen. Specialized was his last sponsor and a brand with which he was closely associated. I'm now sure it was him, especially considering the prominent ears, a feature which we share, lol.

Martha McSally (US Senator) - I saw her at a park the other day when I was running. I did not speak to her but I think she realized she had been recognized. She was wearing a COVID mask but I'm sure it was her because she was driving a distinctive dark-blue Dodge Ram pickup truck that was featured in one of her TV campaign commercials. Also, she is reported to have a residence in Flagstaff.

Tommy Lasorda (MLB manager, two time World Series winner) - I'm counting him because I saw him sitting in the stands at a minor league baseball game, where fans lined up by the dozen to meet him and get his signature. I'd also seen him managing before his retirement, but that doesn't count since he was down on the playing field.

The Brown Family (from the TV show "Sister Wives" that covers their Mormon polygamous relationship).  - They lived two houses over from me for about a year. They eventually moved out after building a "compound" in Baderville, several miles outside of Flagstaff.

Mo Farah (Olympic gold medalist runner) - seen running a couple of places around town, but particularly on Woody Mountain Road, near my house. There is something amazing about being out for a run and seeing an Olympic medalist running in the opposite direction. Woody Mountain Road is world-famous in the running community.

Aliphene Tuliamuk (Olympic marathon runner) - winner of the 2020 US Olympic Trials at the marathon distance, and therefore the top runner on the Olympic Team for that event. I've seen her around town running on several occasions.

Molly Seidel (Olympic marathon runner) - second place at the 2020 US Olympic Trials, and therefore on the team. She stayed in a "runner house" on my street recently, about 4 houses down, apparently altitude training for the London Marathon. I literally saw her as I was jogging down my own street. Also: https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/page/Going-September252020/how-olympic-marathoner-molly-seidel-found-way-run-again

Kellyn Taylor (professional marathon runner) - the 8th fastest US woman at the marathon distance in history. I've seen her out running and also outside my office at work. The hospital hosts regional continuing education for firefighters and paramedics in addition to our own healthcare employees, and Kellyn is a trained firefighter. The education offices are in the same building.

Glenn Robinson (NBA player) - I worked at a supermarket in West Lafayette, Indiana for a few months in college (my first degree - Purdue) and bagged his groceries a couple of times. Obviously that was when he was still in college.

Gene Keady (NCAA college basketball coach) - I saw him many times outside of sporting events. Keady is not a household name but was a top coach for over 2 decades, winning multiple conference championships, though never getting a Final Four. He was famous for scowling and looking angry all the time. Off the court he was a friendly person who clearly liked people and loved being a local celebrity.

Joe Jacobi (Olympic gold medalist) - Joe is a whitewater paddling athlete who lives near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, where he made his home after the end of his athletic career. I was on a first name basis with him for a while, as we both liked to hang out at the same surfing wave, where he was teaching his daughter to paddle. I saw him many times, though I doubt he would remember me, since whitewater kayakers are usually decked out in distinctive gear and helmets, and Joe knows a lot of people.

Jean Kirkpatrick (US Ambassador to the United Nations) - I attended a free lecture at Purdue, featuring Ambassador Kirkpatrick after her retirement. She had a combative view of foreign policy.

Jim Walmsley (Professional ultra mountain trail runner) - one of the most celebrated ultra-marathon runners. He lives in Flagstaff and is around a lot. Jim holds the record for a rim-to-rim run in the Grand Canyon.

Rob Krar (professional ultra mountain trail runner) - another very successful ultra-marathon runner, though he is less outgoing and self-promoting that Walmsley. He always waves or nods at fellow runners.

Herbert C. Brown (Nobel Prize for Chemistry) - I spoke to him in the corridors a couple of times when I was at Purdue, in the building that was named after him. He was a friendly fellow who liked students and greeted us with an upper class English accent. Although he is not generally famous, I'm including him because his legacy will last forever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_C._Brown


Other than the list here, I've been around various CEOs and other corporate officers, at least one two-star general that I can think of, and various local politicians, but I don't consider them notable, since most are only famous because of rank. Probably there are other celebrity sighting that I have forgotten because I didn't care that much about it.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Despair

This is how I feel today.


Not my best Friday. Again I find myself battling despair. The cause is a combination of work stress, the COVID pandemic, and the collective, societal anxiety of the upcoming general election.

For my entire life, I've seen people in a constant state of panic over politics and for the most part I resisted it, and even ridiculed it at times. After a few elections you start to realize that some eras are better than others, but usually your day-to-day doesn't change much.

I don't think that this time. I've observed politics for a long time and read many books on the history of human conflict. I predict we are in for a hell period and it is my suspicion that things are not going to be alright this time. It's just a question of when everything goes to hell, not if. If Trump wins, it goes to hell immediately. If Biden wins, there will be a delay of months to a few years, and then it goes to hell.

Either way it's going to be hell. I'm engaged in prepping right now, another activity that I have ridiculed in the past.

Fortune favors the prepared.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Books

These are the books I have yet to read. The stack on the left is active. I've never been a fan of Bill O'Reilly but strangely people keep giving his books to me. This will be the third one I've read. I'm annotating Stephen King's On Writing with pencil and have plans to write a second novel soon.

I have always been an avid reader, but my page rate has gone down over the last year or two and I keep buying books. I now have so many queued up that I shouldn't buy anymore, but virtually every time I order things online, I get more books. The stack above doesn't even include some nonfiction books that I bookmarked years ago and put back on the shelf, with plans to finish someday.

I don't make resolutions for New Year's Day because I think you should immediately do things that should be done. Reading more pages per day is a September 24th resolution. I need to reduce the stack.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Development



I attended a public Zoom meeting a couple of evenings ago regarding housing development in neighborhood. One thing that is clear is that it isn't possible to build a new housing development without making at least some people unhappy. The other thing that is clear is that most people are oblivious of planning issues until the plan has already been carried out. There were only 30 households on the call, out of what, 200? Probably much more than that were invited.

Soon the neighborhood will be teaming with cars, and the developers already know that the highway will probably have to be widened to 4 or 5 lanes for another couple of miles. Short of a large, organized movement, it's difficult to see how anyone could stop the development from going through, although it must be that the developer was worried enough to hold the meeting. I think that's because they need a zoning change to build out their design.

The main issue I have with it is that all of the new houses are going to be rentals. It isn't an apartment complex, but it might as well be. I'm also a little concerned about their proposed switch of zoning to high density residential. It seems to me that once the zoning is changed, they could simply revise their plan and build apartment buildings. I'm the suspicious type and I wonder, is that the real plan?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Equinox

I impatiently await the changing of the aspens into this golden spectacle.


Autumn is one of the most beautiful words in the English language, but you have to pronounce the n. Autumnal equinox is a lyrical term. Today is fall, but autumn sounds better to me.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Garmin

 


After much shopping, I decided to get a Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS watch. It has the advantage that the GPS works in the absence of cell coverage. Although it is a triathlon watch, and I am not a triathlete, it does everything I need. It also allows me to go running without having to carry my large, heavy iPhone, though I have yet to convince myself to go without ID.

I took the day off and went for a bicycle ride. The Garmin watch declared my workout to be "Unproductive." How insulting, I thought. Then I looked it up, and to Garmin the term means that no increase in fitness was achieved. I realize they make the products for competitive people, but I specifically had in mind a "maintenance" ride. I can't see how that is unproductive. Maintaining fitness is more important to me than increasing, but then I've never been a competitive person.

It also integrates with Strava automatically.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Paper Cables

Rare Flagstaff duck pond from last evening's run. I made a wrong turn and ended up wandering around. It happens.

Last night I dreamed that I was asked to help setup for a company meeting. It was being held in an open air theater and the stage was backed by cliffs that looked uncomfortably like a scene from the movie Midsommer. They were going to have DJs and I was asked to help connect their laptops to the sound system. The "cables" they had were bare copper wires lying atop strips of lined paper (like from a notebook), all held together with transparent tape.

I said, "What the hell? Real cables aren't that expensive."

The other guy said, "Fire hazard," or similar.

The CEO of the company stood nearby watching.

Dreams are weird. This one obviously had something to do with work, which has been on my mind a lot recently.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Deadline

This cat is not dead. In fact, she was enjoying herself thoroughly. I'm feeling a little dead on this Monday, though.

 

My stress level is a little high right now. It's almost entirely down to work, where I have learned to hate the word deadline. It's a little too graphic, if you think about it.

In point of fact the deadline was self-imposed, but I like to be aggressive with a big project. Sometimes you miss . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mexican Pizza

The Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, in all its glorious, yet disgraceful simplicity.


Taco Bell canceled the Mexican Pizza. It's a huge disappointment. It isn't gourmet cuisine, but these things were affordable and got me through the second half of the 90s and the early 2000s, until I could afford better. I had to get one more for the memories. I guess I should probably work on a home recipe. They aren't complicated.

Friday, September 11, 2020

9/11 and Evil

Meme shamelessly stolen from the internet.

It's September 11th, and once again there are people who, rather than marking the tragedy and loss of life of the attacks in 2001, take the opportunity to denounce the flaws of American society. The claim is that the United States is a fundamentally evil country, and that the only way to discuss it is in terms of the things that have gone wrong with it, or the evils that have occurred in its history. This, of course, is meant to imply that the 9/11 attackers were morally correct, and that the people who died deserved it.

It is important to not deceive yourself that American society is 100% good, but if you believe the only way to consider it is to think of the bad things, then you do not understand the history of the United States, nor yourself. Thinking that way does not make you a good person. It really means that deep down inside you are a negative person.

There is also intellectual folly in thinking that other cultures are morally superior, especially if history paints them as victims of American culture. There are no cultures that are exempt from evils that can be identified in their history. If you are not aware of that, then you need to read more. The most dangerous people are not those who have read little, nor is it those who have read much. It's the in between people, who have read only a moderate amount, or avoided reading sources they suspect they will disagree with. An in between knowledge of history is worse than no knowledge of history.

We make our society better by thinking critically about it, yes, in the sense of critique, but critique also includes positive observations. Positivity includes celebration of successes and appreciation of opportunities. Everyone knows positive thinking is the key to improvement. Countless successful people have said it and published it in countless autobiographies and other commentaries. If you've gotten anywhere in life, you should know that only happened because you were thinking and acting positively and proactively. So why are you still thinking negatively about history? Fixation on complaint or grievance rather than opportunity says nothing good about you to others, and it isn't good for your own happiness. In my opinion, the perpetuation of historical grievance is one of the greatest evils. Stop doing it.

People who insist on speaking and writing only in a negative way about American history (or any other culture), deep down, are unbalanced, and are prone not to fighting evil, but to committing acts of evil in the attempt to settle old wrongs for which there are no living victims. We see this manifested in the streets of American cities right now. Having known many such people, I kind of get the feeling that they know this about themselves. That's why they think the way they think. I dislike calling people evil and prefer instead to say that actions are evil. But if you keep doing it over and over again, and that defines your world view? Evil is as evil does.

Habits

 

The San Francisco Peaks, Arizona, in a haze of smoke from burning California forests.

Over the last 20 years I have occasionally ordered things online, but in the era of COVID-19, I think I have to admit to myself that it's become something of an addiction. This dovetails with disposable income. It reminds me of a couple of lines from a Faith No More song:

Sense of security

My pockets jingling

Midlife crisis

I think my midlife crisis already came and went early but I find myself wondering what I'm doing ordering yet more stuff. I have disposable income but it's not like I'm wealthy. Probably I should stop ordering so much stuff. Still, at least half of it is books, and my value system supports that, and at least they don't take up that much space.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Overuse: Chaos in the National Forests

This was the best view of the Canyon of the West Fork of Oak Creek that I could get to easily via bicycle. In the distance are the Black Hills or possibly the Bradshaw Mountains. There was a spot with a sweeping vista from a cliff but a group had setup an elaborate camp all along it and I didn't feel comfortable approaching. Some people are unfriendly about such situations, especially in the particularly remote part of the forest along the canyon. Only the hardiest campers seeking solitude would have driven that far back into the forest.

I used to want more people to utilize public lands and enjoy the outdoors because I thought it was a generally beneficial thing for public welfare and would recruit new advocates for land preservation. I don't think that anymore. One of the things that changed is the population of the country, especially in the western United States, where there are now many more people than when I formed that opinion. It's a question of proportionality. There are too many people for the uses that are available.

I went for a mountain bike ride on what I hoped would have been a reasonably quiet road to find a view of the nearby canyon of the West Fork of Oak Creek, along the Mogollon Rim, in Coconino National Forest. What I found instead were many huge encampments with hundreds of vehicles, and I presume thousands of people. The main road, despite being a narrow, gravel forest road, featured traffic to rival two lane state highways.

Under current law, everyone has a right to be there. In some areas the US Forest Service limits access with a permit system, but I think some uses should be banned first. In particular, the all terrain vehicles are a problem. What I observed was drivers of "dune buggy" type ATVs racing back and forth on the main gravel road. At first I thought they were on their way to and from the more rugged side roads, but soon it became clear they were simply doing laps on the smoothest, fastest road available. Most had no interest in the side "jeep" roads. I know this because I eventually headed down the intended spur that goes along the canyon, and the ATVs all but disappeared. People own those things specifically for racing along high quality gravel roads.

This is incompatible with almost every other conceivable use for National Forests. The vehicles violate the speed limit, and this is obviously the primary intent of the drivers. They are a hazard to other types of vehicles who use the roads as transportation routes to come and go from destinations, they present extreme hazards to pedestrians and wildlife, make a disproportionate noise compared to other vehicles, and seem to have little or no pollution control devices. You can tell from the smell of the exhaust. They also contribute to erosion and increase silty runoff into streams. The drivers are also a hazard to themselves. Flagstaff Medical Center reported the busiest trauma weekend in the history of the organization and physicians attributed it to ATVs. This uses up first responder time and resources and takes up the resources of medical facilities in the midst of a pandemic.

The drivers also seem to have bad judgment if they are afraid to go on the more rugged side roads, which is a use for an ATV that I can appreciate. They seem to not realize that racing fast on loose gravel is probably equally or more dangerous than riding a rough road, and indeed there are accidents. All this occurs on roads with a 30 mile per hour speed limit.

Since ATV drivers seem to not be responsible users of the national forests, I'd like to see ATVs banned from most forest roads and possibly banned completely from all US Forest Service property. They can go on Bureau of Land Management lands or private property instead.

Other irresponsible behaviors I saw: a guy walking around in tall, dry grass, smoking a cigarette, people playing extremely loud music, and evidence of littering.

Unfortunately it was unusually hot last weekend and it's apparent that many people who camp in the high country simply want to be outdoors without burning alive, so they have taken up camping. But they aren't in the forest for its natural beauty, hunting resources, bird watching, or other outdoor activities  They are merely there to setup an outdoor party location where it isn't too hot. I think it has been established that this type of use has been increased by the COVID-19 crisis.

I don't entirely blame people for wanting to get away from 115 degree urban areas, but I also saw large groups of people sitting and standing close together and not using masks. If there is a breeze, this may be ok, but in still air it is as dangerous as being indoors in a crowd without a mask. Many of the groups (and vehicles) were blasting loud music. I also wonder about disposal of human waste. This type of dispersed camping use is completely legal and should be, though the loud music is uncalled for. But I find myself in despair over behavior that shows a lack of education and a general disregard for the solitude of the forest.

There are too many tyros in the national forests this year. I pray things improve in the near future, but considering the unending growth of the population of North America, my expectations are low.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Omelet



This is the best "filled" type omelet that I've ever prepared. I still didn't have the courage to flip it in the air but I managed to get it to hold together.

The filling is a mango pico de gallo that I picked up from Safeway (sautéed).

white onion

tomato

green pepper (mild)

mango

salt

black pepper

cayenne powder

vegetable oil

cooking spray

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Autumn

Aspen Loop, San Francisco Peaks. October 2019.


One of the good things about living in the high country is that we have four definitive seasons. In the hot parts of Arizona, they have the moderate season, and then the season when being outdoors too long means death.

I'm always torn about it though, because spring, fall, and summer are always happy, comfortable times when the vast forests and prairies can be enjoyed. Winter is a little more oppressive. I snowboard to keep me from falling into a gloom that can arise from being stuck indoors with short days, but it isn't the same. If I want to get outside the way I like, I have to drive at least 45 minutes or so out to the desert. But at least I have that option.

We are approaching Autumn, which is beautiful in Flagstaff. The aspens change to gold and reddish-gold, and the other deciduous species in the canyons and ravines change to a variety of colors. It's a bittersweet season though, since it is the harbinger of cold, short days, and deep snows.

But I still look forward to enjoying it while it is here. Especially since it is hot today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

September

It's very windy today and this was nearly the only leaf to hold still long enough for a photo. Small flocks of leaves where swept back and forth on the street and into corners therefore to swirl about in small cyclonic patters.

The year keeps flying by even though at times it has seemed the longest year in history. And now we have reached the end of summer. It is a time for planning for the winter. My plans are about half completed.

In the meantime, I'm very busy with work.

I look forward to the leaves changing. The mornings are already brisk and the days noticeably shorter.

Earth, Wind & Fire - September

Monday, August 31, 2020

Lying Apps

These monsoon clouds looked glorious through my polarized sunglasses but not as good with the default iPhone setting.

I noticed a month or two back that the Weather Channel iPhone app started offering in-app purchases for additional functionality. I also noticed that the default iPhone Weather app that ships with iOS started to become less accurate around the same time. The Weather Channel supplies the weather to the iPhone app. Weather varies a lot from place to place but I strongly suspect the Weather Channel of intentionally degrading the quality of the forecasts they provide to the Apple app. This is particularly true since I have the Weather Channel app and the forecasts don't agree with the default Weather app. It doesn't seem like a bug.

The obvious motivation for this would be to drive people to their app and therefore presumably generate more revenue from in-app purchases. No doubt the Weather Channel app would be one of the preferred choices for consumers who become disappointed with the forecasts in the default app, but they have some competitors. There is no guarantee that people would always choose their app.

I never blame a company for trying to make money but one wonders if Apple will. They can probably seek other sources of weather forecasting for their default app if they want to keep shipping it with iOS. I wonder if Apple has noticed this yet or if they were a party to it? It seems like a particularly sneaky move.

If the Weather Channel were being clever, they would retain high quality forecasts for the Silicon Valley area, and only degrade forecasts elsewhere in the world.

Friday, August 28, 2020

National Park List

The Grand Canyon in 2015. I first visited in 1978.

Putting this here as a place to keep track of the national parks I have visited. It will be updated as the list grows.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison - Colorado

Chattahoochee National Recreation Area - Georgia 

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefields - Tennessee

Castillo de San Marcos - Florida

Death Valley - California

Florissant Fossil Beds - Colorado

George Washington Memorial Parkway - District of Columbia

Grand Canyon - Arizona

Great Smoky Mountains - Tennessee

Independence National Historical Park - Pennsylvania

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield - Georgia

Little River Canyon - Alabama

Lincoln Memorial - District of Columbia

Mammoth Cave - Kentucky

Montezuma's Castle - Arizona 

National Mall and Memorial Parks - District of Columbia

Obed Wild & Scenic River - Tennessee

Pennsylvania Avenue - District of Columbia

President's Park (The White House) - District of Columbia

Petrified Forest - Arizona

Rio Grande Del Norte - New Mexico

Rocky Mountain - Colorado

Stone River National Battlefield - Tennessee

Sunset Crater - Arizona

Valley Forge - Pennsylvania

Walnut Canyon - Arizona

Washington Monument - District of Columbia

Wupatki - Arizona

Probably some others I haven't thought of lately.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Birthdays

 

It's this girl's 5th birthday.

I mark my pets's birthdays. I reward them in various ways. Why do I do it? Probably because I have no children of my own. It seems appropriate since they alleviate loneliness.

Ada received extra attention, catnip, and some pulled rotisserie chicken for her birthday. Happy birthday Ada!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Living on a Volcano

 

An old lava vent near my house. Like, less than 1 km.

Flagstaff sits atop the Colorado Plateau, and the plateau is slowly cracking apart to add to the Basin and Range region. The process sometimes liberates magma from deep in the earth. We see the evidence of that all around the community. The entire landscape is blanketed in lava flows and volcanic cinders. The original sedimentary bedrock is rarely visible at the surface.

I climbed atop the pictured lava vent within easy walking distance of my house last weekend. It's humped up perhaps 40 feet or so above the surrounding terrain, and maybe 50 above I-40, which runs nearby. The area is within a new housing development, and soon it may not be possible to climb up it.

When I got the top, I was surprised by two things: a small, smooth, unused concrete pad, and a tent. The concrete pad showed no obvious sign of its previous purpose. The tent looks like a homeless camp. It's odd to camp within 50 yards or less of an interstate, but it is a very private spot in most other respects. I've noticed that homeless people are very good at finding spots where a camp can't be seen by passers by. But this will all go away soon due to the housing development.

I feel this way about earthquakes and volcanos around Flagstaff. Life here is great, but it could all be taken away in a minute, and the conical volcanic mountains, ubiquitous cinders, lava flows, and lava vents are reminders. I don't expect a volcano on the west side of town where I live, but there are faults all over the place and I live only about a mile from the major one, the Lake Mary Fault, which is believed to have produced earthquakes over magnitude 6 in the past.

The experts predict the next volcano in Northern Arizona will probably occur either east of Flagstaff or up north on the Arizona Strip, but I looked over some geologic maps and from the dates you can tell that these predictions are not certain.

An earthquake could happen almost right under my feet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Pinwheel of Death

Source: public domain.

The colorful spinning disk that indicates your Mac is trying to complete some task before giving you back the pointer is sometimes called the "Pinwheel of Death," because it used to run off into infinity, and infrequently still does.  The nickname is a riff on the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) that formerly plagued the Windows operating system for decades, and also sometimes still does.

I feel like that some days. Like I'm just thrashing without purpose and achieving nothing with my life. I think that's why I have several aspirational hobbies, such as writing and composing music. It's also why I like to have mid to long range plans for travel and exploration, but that isn't living in the moment. It's planning.

A recurring theme of this blog and my life is the struggle to enjoy the present. I'm doing it again.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Tarantula Hawk

 


This dude was at least 1.5 inches long, say 3.5 cm. Buffalo Park is the only place in Flagstaff that I have seen tarantulas and the season for mobile tarantulas is pending.

I went for a long run at Buffalo Park on Saturday. Then I drank some ice water that I had stashed in the car and walked another mile.

I saw the above Tarantula Hawk wasp near the entrance to the park. The Tarantula Hawk, obviously, hunts tarantula spiders. I've seen a few at Buffalo Park over the 5 years I've lived in Flagstaff. As a bonus, I've also seen huge male wolf spiders at Buffalo Park. These are virtually equal in size to the male tarantulas, though less colorful.

Spiders exhibit a characteristic called "sexual dimorphism" by us biologists, which means that the two sexes are not equal in shape or size. In the case of spiders, the females are usually much larger than the males.

I'm not sure I want to meet a female tarantula, or a female wolf spider in Flagstaff, because the male specimens are big enough for me.

It was a pretty good run, though not perfect. I don't think I will be able to run a solid 4 miles until I lose a few pounds. Unfortunately, I again ordered a massive takeout lunch from Texas Roadhouse, so any potential weight loss from the run was sacrificed to my stomach.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Downpour

The back alley after the heaviest weather had passed. I started this blog as Ravine Ravings because I used to live in a house with a view over a leafy ravine. Now that I live here, I think of this as "Ravine West," only there is no ravine, so maybe it's just The Alley.

The monsoon is back and rumbled all afternoon, throwing a tantrum, pelting city and forest with hail or graupel up to the size of a small marbles and heavy rain. My youngest cat didn't experience a full monsoon last season and sat by the screen door watching with fascination as pellets of ice bounced around and water flowed inches deep down the alley. It's been going for hours and the long range forecast looks promising. I don't have a rain gauge at this house but I suspect it caught us up on average annual precipitation in one afternoon.

I should be happy but I'm not and I think I'm in another fit of changeable mood. My id will straighten itself out in a couple of days.

Yes, I'm aware modern psychologists don't believe the id exists, but it's a useful term for discussing self.

Considering the forecast, I think I'll restrict my outdoor adventures this week to a good run in the morning before the lightning starts up again.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Positivity

Cats seeking cover in the rain.

I'm happy this evening. I had a productive day at work. I realize my previous post was negative on work, but when I get things done it actually feels good.

Also, the monsoon finally returned to my house, and we got a steady light rain for most of an hour. I don't think it was a great depth of water but enough for the plants and to relieve the heat. I now sit in my garage screen porch, enjoying the evening clouds and comfortable air temperature. It's positively autumn-like and leaves are swirling in the back alley over wet pavers.

A decade ago I wrote a novel. I abandoned it because it needed a rewrite and I lacked interest in the process, though I think the plot and setting are inventive. Recently I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing and it has inspired me to resume writing fiction, and I have searched for plots.

I had a strange dream last night involving a domestic violence incident, and upon waking modified it into a plausible story. I outlined a science fiction plot a few days ago. In the past I found I need a solid outline of the plot in order to finish a story. Things are looking up.

I just can't stop writing, whether it is technical document for my job, blogging, or fiction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Juggling


Work presses these last few weeks. Our fiscal year runs July 1 thru June 30 so everybody wants new stuff in the first half of the year. It's frustrating, but I don't blame them. When you have an approved budget you need to spend early in case financial conditions later in the year cause projects to be canceled.

Also, people get impatient.

I am not near retirement but long to be. I need to find a way to live in the now and enjoy each day more. On the other hand, I've gotten a huge return on one of the stocks I bought back in 2016. If I'd put everything I had into it my retirement could have arrived earlier. Life is the outcome of a series of opportunities and decisions, not just a day to day experience. It's time to make some financial moves. I'll try to be ready the next time the market is down.

The monsoon tried to come back this week but so far it is mere sprinkles. It keeps trying to rain and the sky made a lot of noise right today but no moisture.

The week is half over.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Bike Stand

I had trouble clamping the cross tube so I went with the seat post. It's a little front heavy but works.

I usually have several projects around the house that I want completed but have trouble motivating myself to finish. I ordered a bike stand a few weeks ago for maintenance and only just got around to assembling it. It seems ok, although I struggled to figure out how to get the bike onto the stand, never having used one before. The greatest value is to be able to turn the crank and wheels without lifting the bike. It also provides the ability to raise the bike to a convenient height to work on it without crouching.

I got my chain cleaner than it has been in months before taking a short ride in the blazing heat of midday yesterday. Flagstaff's official weather station at the airport has recorded record heat several days in a row now.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Lumpy Breakfast Burritos


 I can't even make burritos right. They taste good though so I'm recording the recipe here for future reference.

  • 6 eggs, whipped
  • 1 diced medium tomato
  • 1/4 chopped medium yellow onion
  • handful baby spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 slices crumbled Colby Jack cheese
  • Tortillas


Sauté onions in vegetable oil until about half cooked.

Add diced tomatoes and spinach leaves

Cook until spinach is wilted

add butter, eggs, and garlic

stir almost continuously as the egg cooks

stir in crumbled cheese when the eggs are nearly done


I got just a little too much oil so the finished product is a little more liquid than desirable for a burrito, but they taste great.


I got 4 unevenly sized breakfast burritos with this recipe, but probably could have gotten 5 or 6 more evenly sized burritos if I'd filled them correctly.

Monday, August 10, 2020

High Country


Yesterday I solo hiked a section of the Arizona Trail that I hadn't done before. The first thing I did was make a wrong turn, having not understood where I was on the map when I started. It wasn't terrible, with semi-desert vegetation, huge granitic basalt rocks, and distant views of the crags on the front (southern) side of Little Mount Elden, but I wanted the other side of it so I turned around. After a long, steady climb, I found myself at the junction with the Little Bear Trail and entering the burn scar from the Schultz Fire. It's recovered into verdant meadow, a beautiful place covered with grass, low bushes, and wildflowers. Insects and birds flitted in all directions. Loud grasshoppers buzzed the air. Looking downhill provided sweeping views of the San Francisco Peaks. Unfortunately my wrong turn meant that I was running out of steam and impatient to pick up early supper from a local steakhouse so I turned back after getting a few photos.

I'm going back to make it to the top of Little Elden. A horseback rider advised me that it's beautiful up there. I'm sure he's right.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Masculinity

This is unconditional love. Complete trust. Complete comfort.

I'm always in pursuit of unconditional love. I don't expect to receive it myself, but I expect myself to be capable of expressing it to others. As a man, that's the best I can do.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Grandote Sunflower


Big branching sunflower.

It's sunflower season in Flagstaff. When I was a kid, sunflowers were these huge, dinner plate sized flowers that some people grew in their vegetable gardens to harvest the seeds. I didn't realize there were wild sunflowers until I moved to Arizona. I wonder if the seeds are edible? It seems like a lot of work for relatively little return though.

A few years ago I bought some locally harvested pinyon pine nuts. They come in the shell and must be split open, much like unshelled sunflower seeds that you buy in a convenience store. The taste is similar to the Italian pine nuts you can buy in the produce section of a grocery store for making pesto, but it's too much work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Invasive Species

Switchgrass, though native to North America, is an invasive species west of the Rocky Mountains.

I saw an old man shearing the tassels off switch grass in the "pine parks" of my neighborhood. I don't think he was with the landscaping company that the HOA employs, a vigilante environmentalist. 

Many of the species of vegetation we see around us were not here 150 years ago. The seeds ride in on livestock, food shipments, and vehicles. Many have been stupidly introduced by humans intentionally. It seems to me that bad ideas spread around humanity in much the same way. Good ideas spread too though.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Errors

Lava Rock

Error messages are a way of life for me. I see them and work with them every day. I'm annoyed that I have been unable to create new blog posts on my old 2020 MacBook Pro due to a broken link in Blogger. I stick with this platform though it is often buggy. I'm creating this on another computer. I wonder, are any of the other blogging platforms better or do they all have issues?

I'm working my way through Stephen King's On Writing. It reminds me of rules I knew in college but have forgotten. King is a grammar nazi, and it is unsurprising that he was a high school English teacher before he "made it." The book is simultaneously inspiring and discouraging. There are too many things to keep track of to write effectively. I want to write fiction but I don't have anything ready for writing. In the past, I have usually needed an outline to finish anything.

I will leave this world knowing there were many things I wanted to do but didn't finish. It's a characteristic of my personality. Probably getting anything published is going to be one of those unmet goals.

I want to live in the now but spend much of my time either dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. We all know that's wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Levitation

It's so hot the cat is levitating.

It's hot. It got to 118 degrees in Phoenix today. Not quite as hot here (95 max) but it still drove me out of my garage screen porch.

These people will tell you that you don't need air conditioning in Flagstaff. Well today you did, and I'm glad I had it in my house and hoping the power won't fail over here. Other parts of town have been plagued by outages recently.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Skunk Canyon and 47

(This was written on 7/28/2020)


Obviously I have been struggling with my birthday, but today I got past it. I'm 47 years old today, and things can always be better, but I suppose they could be worse too.

I took the day off work and decided that I was in the mood to explore new terrain. I have been curious about an unmarked trail head parking lot off Lake Mary Road for a few years now so I decided that this was the time to explore. From a careful examination of topographic and trail maps, I expected the parking lot provided trail access to Skunk Canyon, a tributary of Walnut Canyon.

The unsigned, innocuous parking lot is easy to miss, and indeed, I missed it for the severalth time, made a u-turn, and went back. There were three trails there, the rightmost labeled with the simple maker "702," the others unsigned. I assume 702 is a fire road number, though I couldn't find much on the internet, but it apparently ran along Lake Mary Road so I took the middle option, which was unlabeled but headed in the right direction.

Social trail off Lake Mary Road.

Soon I was hiking fast through relatively flat, smooth single track into the great ponderosa pine forest of Northern Arizona. This didn't last long though, and the trail joined into an unmarked forest road/fire road that apparently was 702 again. This soon descended on a primitive cinder route into a shallow canyon (dry wash) that exibited the typical Northern Arizona pattern: pines on the edges, grass in the bottom. For the first couple of miles it followed double track that seems to be decades old.


For a long ways, the trail was a little boring, merely open prairie and a cycle of repeating flood control structures, including what I presumed to be a lonely and dry stream gauge.

I think this was a stream gauge.

The canyon narrowed into a defile and featured cool, shady slopes, underbrush, and some plant species more common at higher altitudes.

Eventually the trail became more interesting, as it descended into a narrow, shady defile. You could feel the difference in air temperature and humidity, and the biodiversity of the forest increased. This segment is a true microclimate, featuring dense undergrowth and high altitude tree species.


Undercut rock in the narrow section of the canyon. I propose to call it "The Narrows."

The hillsides are undercut in places. I believe this reveals where the water level was in the past. These undercuts frequently extended deeply enough to be called a cave and provoked my curiosity, but they also looked like possible lairs for bears and mountain lions so I resisted the urge to get too close to them.

Eventually the trail drops into a wider canyon and intersects with the Arizona Trail, though it was unmarked. I never saw a single sign marking Skunk Canyon all day, and would not have been certain I was in the right canyon if I had not asked a passing couple hiking. It isn't a great trail although neither is it terrible. I think the unsigned, relatively unmaintained character of the trail represents the past of Arizona to a certain extent. Newer trails tend to receive signage, but we still have tons of unofficial, unsigned trails that beckon to the curious.

A view from the Arizona Trail. The ridge in the distance marks the confluence with Walnut Canyon near Fisher Point.

After I eventually came upon a sign that confirmed I was on the Arizona Trail, I considered going all the way to Fisher Point, but the day was getting warm and I developed an unpleasant pain on top of my left foot in a place I have injured before, so I turned back. It seemed a relatively short return hike, though over 3 miles. Skunk Canyon is a pretty easy hike.

The foot injury has me limping now and I think I should have loosened my laces when it first started hurting. Too late now. Based upon past experience it should be well again by the weekend.

Skunk Canyon is an okay hike, but not great. I'd possibly roll it on a bicycle next time, or use it for a short out and back trail run, but for hiking there are other places near Flagstaff that I'd rather go.

I'm 47 years old today. I can't believe it.