Monday, June 29, 2020

Cool

Brace yourselves, Independence Day is coming. Some of us still fly the flag without irony.

The normal dates for the beginning of the monsoon are quickly approaching but the forecast remains ambiguous as to whether or not it will deliver moisture. Unfortunately there is a high pressure area forming that resembles some that have stifled the monsoon in past years. That said, the weather is changeable right now, which is welcome, and the air temps are cool.

Back to work today. Independence Day is coming and I have arranged a three day weekend. For some reason, people tend to refer to it as the "Fourth of July," which is merely the date. Maybe it's a pet peeve, but people seem to have forgotten the reason this country exists, and I like to refer to it by the official name: Independence Day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Crazy

Armand Gautier / Public domain (Detail)

Every few weeks I have a 1 to 3 day crazy period where I'm a little off. I think I just went through one and still not sure if I'm out of it. It's characterized by circular irritation and saying awkward things. I don't really think it's caused by stress although perhaps that is a contributing factor, because the fact of the matter is that I have always been this way since I was a child. It almost seems to be cyclical. I have to let it out once in a while.

On the other hand I have been thinking about how it will likely be another year before we have a readily available vaccine for the novel coronavirus, if in fact we get one. I don't want to think about what if we don't? There is a little stress there.

When I'm like this, I never know what I'm going to say next, and indeed, I got mildly outrageous on a meeting yesterday. I'm trying to shrug that off.

At least it is Friday and I hit my weight target for the week.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bryan, not Ryan, Adams

Marco Maas / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

I rarely admit to being a fan (fanatic) of anyone. It dates back to my adolescent years. Engaging in hero-worship inevitably ends up in disappointment because people are humans and their imperfections are always eventually revealed. But in the musical sense there are some people whose work I have always liked to near that point. Some songs are better than others but I consistently like everything at least to a degree. One of these is the Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams.

Bryan was one of the earliest rock stars that I would unapologetically state that I liked. Prior to that, there were very few non-christian recording artists that I would admit to liking. Still love his music.

If I had to criticize it in any way, then Bryan Adams tends to be derivative, however I have always perceived this as much as tribute, or simple affection for the style, as copycat behavior. Every artist is influenced by previous artists anyway so to me, it's ok to imitate another artist's style as long as you don't infringe copyright.

There are elements of Beatles songs in "This Time," Rolling Stones in many of his songs, Blue Oyster Cult in another huge hit "Run to You," and probably some others that I'm not thinking of right now. His sense of melody is wonderful, and in just a few years in the early to mid 1980s he wrote or co-wrote numerous hits both for himself and other artists, including Joe Cocker, .38 Special, Roger Daltry, and the Canadian band Glass Tiger. He charted additional hits in the 1990s and even wrote a hit for one of the Spice Girls in the early 2000s for her solo album.

Bryan Adams wrote so many hits that he gave away some that he merely thought didn't have the right characteristics for his personal material or sound. Although most of his songs have co-writing credits for others, these were typically producers he was contracted to. They really just arrange music but the co-writing credit is a way for producers to make money from their efforts.

Ironically, my favorite album of his has long been Into the Fire, which has a very different sound. Unfortunately it wasn't as well received as his more guitar-pop oriented albums and he went back to making pop music (and had several more huge hits).




Heavy Cloud No Rain


First sprinkling in several weeks a couple of days ago.

Flagstaff is in a very dry period, which is normal for this time of year. We had a very short sprinkling on Tuesday. It lasted only about 3 minutes or so, just enough to wet surfaces and raise the distinctive pungent smell of a rain after a period of drought. In the southwest, you will hear people say, "It smells like rain," when a storm is approaching and you catch the scent on the wind.

The trails and forest roads continue to be bone dry and covered in "moon dust." It gets into everything and I have to walk directly into the shower immediately when I get home from trail running every time, sheets of dirty water circling the drain.

There is another slim chance for rain this weekend and then more dry until the monsoon arrives. The National Weather Service says the leading indicator is water temps in the Gulf of California, and those are not quite high enough yet. Likely we will not have any significant rain until after Independence Day.

It brings to mind this old song by Sting.

"We look to the sky
But we look in vain
Heavy cloud but no rain"

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Training and Recovery

Trail running at the Highlands Trail yesterday, Flagstaff. It was a sea of dust and pollen.

I'm continuing with my rumination on aging again today, this time on the topic of athletics.

Every summer I get overtrained in the legs due mostly to running and bicycling. Usually this starts to resolve itself around August, but I find it necessary to take an entire week off at some point, usually June or July. The problem is that getting in shape after your low 30s takes a certain amount of maintenance just to retain your base fitness. Making progress becomes more difficult than it was in your 20s.

Taking an extra day off means that your next workout is not likely to make forward progress. Instead, you will merely be preventing yourself from losing your gains. Speaking from experience, after age 34 to 35, gains tend not to be loyal.

If you take two extra days off, you will likely lose some small amount of fitness and need more than two workouts to get it back, in addition to normal recovery days.

If you take an entire week off, it will take more than a week to regain your fitness. I'm 46 and it seems to take me about 10 to 14 days to get back to where I was before I took time off. Since I took time off in the first place due to being overtrained, this assumes I can avoid injury or going into an overtrained state again.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Senescence

Youth vs. Adulthood

I expected aging to involve a degree of physical and mental deterioration that would be uncomfortable, but an aspect I did not expect was the feeling that time is getting away from me. Once I got into my forties I started to feel as though time was flying and I was rushing towards the end of my life like a runaway train. I try not to dwell on it but sometimes I experience an urgency about accomplishing things. There is this realization that there won't be enough time and money to do everything I thought I would or travel to every place I thought I would see.

I suppose I have difficulty living in the present and look to the future too much. I know many people become very happy and complacent with their lives in middle age and accept aging gracefully, but I have yet to get that feeling. I'm not sure it's in my character.

Friday, June 19, 2020

History and Choices

The officers quarters at Fort Loudoun State Park in Tennessee, 2012. This is a recreation of a colonial era fort, hence the red coat in the painting.

I read a lot of military history. For every war, there is a debate about whether the outcome could have been different. For every such debate, there are a bunch of professional historians that argue the outcome of the war was inevitable based upon initial conditions. It's like they can't think outside of the historiography. Initial conditions are important but for the most part choices direct outcomes. We call it a choice because the decision isn't predetermined.

If we consider a lifetime as a personal history, the same thing applies. Initial conditions are important, but outcomes are mostly a consequence of your choices. I will always believe that I could have done more with my life, but also recognize that I could have done worse. A few times I came close to disaster but somehow made it through.

Hiking tomorrow in the high country. It hasn't rained in weeks at my house and no sign of the monsoon yet. We could use some rain but at least we won't have to worry about lightning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Verde River - TAPCO to Tuzigoot Bridge

From a trip on Monday, June 15, 2020.

The TAPCO RAP launch site. A pueblo is just visible on the mountainside at center (much more visible in person).



My girlfriend graciously arranged for a float trip down the Verde River in Clarkdale, Arizona last Monday. Her father is a river steward and is very familiar with a commonly floated section. We were all on inflatable kayaks as a group of 5. The Verde is one of very few perennially flowing streams in Arizona, and with the possible exception of the Salt, is probably the most accessible.

The Verde flows through north-central Arizona through a series of canyons and valleys to the Salt River. It features stretches of relatively calm paddling interspersed with shoals, good scenery with towering colorful mountains, a pueblo that is visible from the river just down from the launch, vegetation, and wildlife. More remote sections feature some more difficult whitewater. The easily accessible section in Clarkdale from the TAPCO River Access Point (RAP) to the Tuzigoot RAP features rapids up to about class I+ (maybe class II at very low water). It was swifter than I expected and I was told that the June water levels are about as low as it ever gets.

Cattle were a common site both on the road and river.


The water quality was quite good, though there are cattle roaming around in the open range in which the TAPCO launch site is located (TAPCO was the name of The Arizona Power Company, later APS, and an old power plant was located just upstream of the launch). After living in Arizona for over 5 years, it is always refreshing to see a flowing river with abundant life along the banks. It's become a somewhat rare sight for me and I hunt places within range of Flagstaff where flowing water can be seen.



This section of the Verde features mostly very long pools with rock shoal drops consisting of wave trains. The most significant rapids are Willow and Boulder, the later of which has more of the quality of a rock garden drop. Willow flows in a very narrow channel swiftly along the left bank for a few dozen yards with a modest wave train. It was the most fun. Boulder was quite low and everyone got stuck except me, though I had the benefit of seeing people get stuck before me to choose my line. I eddied out, picked a line along the left and slid over shallow rock into the pool below. 

Aside from the cattle, we spotted various birds and fish. There were catchable size fish jumping periodically. The air was filled with birdsong and insects. I saw a couple of dragonflies, a rare sight in Arizona. The forest along the banks was dominated by cottonwood and what I presume to be willows, but we also saw some catclaw, a notorious bush that grows in the surrounding high desert. There were even some ferns in the well-watered river bottom.

The remains of a diversion dam.


We had one swimmer on the day, the victim of one of the sharper eddy lines where an old "diversion dam" failed recently. This was a structure meant to provide a pool of water to feed into irrigation canals or aqueducts. The decision was made to not replace it.

It was not a bad day for swimming, with a high of around 96 F, though we got an early start and avoided the heat of the day. The water temps were cooler though, and this moderated the heat. Clarkdale is around 3500 ft above sea level, which in Arizona means that it is a very hot time of year and moving any significant distance from the banks brought you into the dry blast furnace of Arizona June. All the better to be on the water.

A quiet place we setup folding chairs for the afternoon while the kids went swimming.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Heat and Paddling

Meanwhile, in 2006 . . .
Hiwassee River, Tennessee. May 28, 2006.

As evidenced by the history of this blog, I used to spend quite a bit of time on whitewater. In fact, in the years prior to starting the blog it was what I did with most of my free time. I was either paddling or planning and preparing to paddle. When I lived in the southeast, we went all year round. That is very difficult to do in the western US due to a relative lack of water most of the year and the presence of snow and ice in the high elevations. Anyway my lower back no longer tolerates the long periods confined to the cockpit of a closed-deck kayak. Nonetheless every summer I look longingly at my friends photos of paddling on a hot day.

I haven't been paddling in over two years at this point, due to a variety of factors: the death of my father, injury, moving into my house, etc. Paddling takes a little bit of effort and you have to be motivated to go do it. Hopefully that will come to an end on the upcoming three day weekend. If everything goes according to plan, I will be able to add another stream to my river list. It's going to be hot and I am going to be on a river. I can't wait.

Better yet, I won't be on call as of 5 pm today!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Ryan, not Bryan, Adams

By 6tee-zeven - Originally uploaded to Flickr as Ryan Adams, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5624192

Ryan Adams is usually described as an indy rocker, folk rocker, or a country rock recording artist. It's not unexpected that he is frequently confused with the Canadian guitar-rock legend Bryan Adams, but Ryan Adams is from North Carolina and it shows. I think it's reasonable to confuse a few of their songs, but Ryan (not Bryan) Adams is clearly an independent creative force. I'm also a huge fan of Bryan Adams, who seems like a nicer guy and has many more hits, but is also a highly commercial artist.

Since Ryan writes country rock, the music can be a little bit of a downer upon prolonged listening, but he really is a brilliant lyricist. On the other hand he released an entire cover of Taylor Swift's album 1989, played in his own style. It was a remarkable move that completely contradicted his entire career up until that point, and it was successful and well reviewed.

This is a sample of his original songwriting.

Nobody Girl
https://youtu.be/YgUTRUs9Lxg

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Cats Are Liquid


Slither

Trying to get my oatmeal.

I was walking the cats out front yesterday around 5 pm when a juvenile coyote came trotting down the sidewalk, fortunately on the other side of the street. It made a left turn at the corner and continued out of sight. Very civilized to use the sidewalk like that. Kind of makes you think.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Self Evaluation

The Flagstaff weather is glorious. Not a cloud in sight and temps in the 60s F.

We are assigned to do self-evaluations at work. Normally I'm in favor of self-examination as a good practice but the specificity of trying to meet goals and compose text that will satisfy the requirements of work feels unnatural and I find it tricky. I had to resist titling this entry in my blog as "The Tyranny of Self Evaluation," or "Caught in the Hell of Self Evaluation." I don't consider it fun.

In addition, I find it difficult to keep track of my accomplishments. I know that I have completed a lot of work over the last year and there is a trail of change request records marking it, but compiling this into a list always eludes me. Every year after completing my evaluation I vow to record my activities and accomplishments, and every year I fail to record most of them. This year I can't find any at all.

I think we all known human resource management doesn't work the way it should, and many employees complain about it, but apparently it's harder to do than one would think, because here we are again. For the millionth time I wish I was self-employed, although being independently wealthy would be better.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Abyss of Social Media

"Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.” - Warren Ellis


By Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States - A man stands on a burned out car on Thursday morning as fires burn behind him in the Lake St area of Minneapolis, Minnesota, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90742413
Social media has been heavily involved several popular uprisings in the 21st century. Back in the 90s, everyone thought that the internet would increase awareness and the world would become a more peaceful place. I think we can now see that the internet is more frequently used for the spread of misinformation and the provocation of anger (although I assume its main use is probably commerce). You can identify who is on social media the most by who is most angry. If you have no issues with your next-door neighbors then you should probably have no issues with people you see on the internet, but it's a chicken or egg question. Once the disagreement starts it's very difficult to stop it.

There are too many people saying that you should be angry. You can be aware and proactive without anger.

Social media is the abyss. Don't stare into it.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Zebra Mechanical Pencils



One of the things I'm very particular about is my writing utensils. I prefer to write in pencil when possible. It has to do with the way the writing tip feels as it moves over paper and the things you can do with graphite. Also, graphite is more erasable than ink. Being a liquid or gel, ink can't provide the same feel and effect. By my second year of college I realized that I like the 0.5 mm leads rather than the more common 0.7 mm. It makes a very fine line though is more brittle and requires a lighter touch. A few years ago I settled on the Zebra M-301 and I now own several. They are simple yet have the very high manufacturing quality and durability of Japanese design. Look at that metal cylinder!

I also own Zebra F-301 blue ink pens but despite looking similar and obviously sharing common parts they aren't as good as the pencils. It is merely an expensive ball point pen, though the design does seem durable and I assume I could get refills for it. I don't have a favorite ink pen design although I prefer fine point when I buy new. Zebra does not make fine point pens but they do have some nice looking gel pens that I suspect write smoothly. Maybe someday I'll find the perfect fine point pen to go with my mechanical pencils? I'm open to suggestions.

https://www.zebrapen.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Dreams

Photo from a dinner theater from a few years ago. A friend commented that it looked like something from a David Lynch movie, which resonated. There is a dream-like quality to it.
I woke from annoying dreams a couple of times last night. Not nightmares, just nagging, annoying episodes which I am grateful to have no specific memory of. After going back to sleep, I woke in a better mood, but thinking it was Thursday, which will signify my weekend. Unfortunately it is not yet Thursday but the middle is holding and I still feel happy.

I have a fascination with dreams and I write about it significantly. I record them when possible, but most of the writings will never see the light of day, or at least not until I am retired and no longer have to worry that my online presence could affect my employment.

I have been at my present job long enough to accumulate benefits to the point that I can afford to take a day every pay period yet still accumulate Paid Time Off at a low rate. That is an amazing benefit and it occurred to me that I'm essentially on a 4.5 day work week, which makes me pretty happy. It's almost as good as a previous job I worked where we had a 37.5 hour work week, which came about because several of my coworkers were nurses (that is a normal work week for most nurses in North America). If we worked extra hours, this made it possible to get every other Friday off without using PTO. This isn't quite as good but on the other hand I am making about twice as much money in this job.

Happy. I'm trying to not get paranoid that it will all go away somehow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Average to Angry Tuesday

Work has been flowing pretty productively but I allowed myself to get into another argument on Twitter last night. One of my replies, which I thought was nuanced, got viral and my phone is still going off this afternoon. Twitter doesn't do nuance. I'll eventually delete the two or three most controversial tweets but I'll leave them there for a while to make my tiny contribution to the ongoing discussions, if you want to call them that. Basically the topic is covered pretty well in this article (and series of Tweets, which fortunately still have not been deleted despite being several years old).

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

Monday, June 1, 2020

Angry Monday

By George Shuklin (talk) - Own work, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5521043

The Evil Kitty chewed through my mouse cable this morning. Yes, the cat ate the mouse. I'm on backup now but he's already shown interest in it too. I may have to go wireless.

In addition the entire world is trying to force us to join their revolution. I don't want any of it. The revolution is cancelled in my house.

I could be happier but at least I finally got a haircut. She took off a good inch. I think it went a solid 3 months.

Another short week ahead with Friday off, then I'm on call again. Grind.