Monday, June 27, 2022

On Bonus Tracks

By The cover art can be obtained from Arista., Fair use, 

A million years ago I decided that I liked The Alan Parsons Project. It was the song "Eye In the Sky" that got me. Such a catchy song, driving and melodic, yet mellow and thoughtful. It was one of my favorite songs during my childhood, and still is.

Over thirty years later, I decided to buy the LP Eye In the Sky that contained the single. Then I was faced with a choice of buying the original LP as it was released in 1982, or a special edition with "bonus tracks." The bonus tracks included early demo versions of some of the songs as well as a guide vocal track, which is what a songwriter records for the vocalist or lead singer to go by to achieve the desired final product. In other words, the bonus tracks consisted of material that was imperfect or not intended for release due to lower quality. I decided to buy the special edition.

While it is interesting to hear what early versions of songs sounded like before they were perfected, the presence of these songs in the playlist messes up the flow of a carefully compiled album. When you get an LP, you are getting something that has been prepared by professionals. Experts listen to the playlist before the consumer does, and make sure the end product is good. It's carefully curated.

With modern software, it is fairly easy to curate your own track list to recreate the original album. In this case, the extraneous tracks are wisely appended to the end of the LP, which makes it easier. But even so I think it's a mistake.

Don't get the special edition with bonus tracks unless you already have the original. You lose the effect of listening to the original, historical version, and it isn't usually better.

Sunbeams and Rainclouds


Although there are some reflections on the window, I finally decided that weird sunbeam over the peaks was real. I'm not sure I've ever seen the like. At first I thought it was a tornado. My brain can't make sense of it, even though it more or less aligns with the angle of the sun for the time of day.

We really got a LOT of rain yesterday, enough to cause flooding. Most of it was a result of increased runoff due to wildfires, but a newspaper reporter found the cause of a flooded street to be a clogged drain. The explanation was mundane and a little funny since it was in a recently reconstructed area - meant to improve drainage. "The best laid plans of mice and men . . ."

I follow several professional writers on Twitter. This is a great way to learn, although writers being writers and Twitter being Twitter, it can be difficult to find people to follow that don't lose their minds to the mob mentality and go unhinged for days at a time. We live in an era of irrationality.

Still, I read their analyses of popular stories and try to follow their tips, where appropriate for my fiction. The more I learn, the more I despair of ever writing something satisfactory. I made a tiny amount of forward progress last weekend, sitting in my screen door garage, in between fleeing indoors when the lightning got close and loud. My cats got wild-eyed and jumpy. I'll keep thinking about it and writing when there is something to write.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Monsoon Lounge


My boy Shadow relaxing on the sun-warmed, and engine-block-warmed hood of the car, as only a cat can. He looks ill or something, but I can assure you he was in a state of bliss.

It's said that no human can relax as well as a cat. I present you this photo. My boy surely knows how to relax.

The monsoon arrived early! The official meteorological monsoon season begins on June 15th but historically the rain usually arrives around Independence Day, July 4th. Usually people just call it "The Fourth of July" but I refuse to cooperate with that tradition. It merely describes a date, whereas "Independence Day" describes the meaning behind the holiday.

Either way, we got excellent rain on Saturday and the air temperatures are perfect right now. I don't have a rain gauge but it fell for at least an hour at my house, punctuated by downpours. Now the skies are blue from horizon to horizon. The only fault is windy conditions, which present fire hazard and shake the house from roof peak to foundation. But all in all, things are good.

I'm happy again, even if it is only ephemeral. The monsoon will return in a day or two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Humbling Arizona Trail

The rock layers visible here correspond to the upper strata in the Grand Canyon.

I decided to explore a section of the Arizona Trail that I had not seen before. I started at the Sandys Canyon trailhead, which I have mentioned here before. This intersects with the Arizona Trail after a mile or so, and if you take a right turn you head uphill onto Anderson Mesa.

I watched birds of prey circling over Walnut Canyon as I looked back towards the San Francisco Peaks. There were several miles of beautiful though dry trail on the Arizona Trail.

Everything went well for the first few miles. The trail switched back up the mountain through a variety of habitat. The sandstone escarpment along the bottom of the mesa: pink and red; photogenic. After ascending the initial steep sections, the trail levels out a little and crosses a burn scar reminiscent of that on the Hart Trail on the flank of Little Mount Elden. It's beautiful. There are views into the high country. The trail continues climbing into dry pine forest with a few pinyon pines and junipers interspersed. At some point I noticed I was lightheaded but wrote it off to exertion. I drank more water (I was carrying 3 liters).

Humphreys Peak and the inner core of the San Francisco Peaks from an old burn scar that has started to recover. This reminds me of the Deer Hill Trail.

As planned, I turned back after the trail crested out atop the mesa and intersected a fire road. The distance from the trailhead had been 3 miles according to my slightly unreliable Garmin watch.

Arizona Trail single track on the slopes of Anderson Mesa. This photo was taken along the side of a particularly "lush" drainage, atypical in Arizona. It reminded me somewhat of the drier hillsides in the Southeast.

The downhill return started off easy and fast, but I still stopped and rested in the shade, where available.

My turnaround point atop Anderson Mesa, where the Arizona Trail crosses a narrow fire/forest road. There were old signs of logging. By the time I got there I was anxious to turn around but made myself take a few minutes to consume a gel and some water before heading back downhill.

By the time I reached the floor of the canyon and began to ascend back to my car, I wasn't feeling energetic. I reduced my pace. I was frustrated with the slow pace, but as I hiked up Sandys Canyon, I found it necessary to stop to rest in almost every patch of shade available, and sat down on a boulder at least twice.

Sandys Canyon, filled with atypical undergrowth and short-needle pines more usual at higher elevations.

I finally made it back to my car, got the air conditioning going, and returned home without incident. After I got there, I determined that I was dehydrated. This was surprising since I'd had more than enough water with me. I realized that I need stop thinking of hydration in the same terms I would have when I lived back east and at low elevation. I also took my blood pressure and found it high. 

The other issue was nutrition. I'd eaten a fairly large breakfast of 3 eggs with butter, Roma tomato, and onions, but even so I don't think I'd eaten enough. The weather was hot (by Flagstaff standards), and the route was hilly. I've hiked much more difficult trails but that was when I was younger and thinner. When I reached the turnaround point, I stopped to consume a gel packet with sugar and electrolytes. This helped for a short time, but I really think I consumed inadequate food for the undertaking.

The Flagstaff region. The US Naval Observatory is the white dome just right of center on a hill. My house probably lays just between there and the point of view and to the right (not literally visible).

For what it's worth, Strava rated the Relative Effort as "Massive." Whatever the explanation, I would say the hike is a good route, although I feel a little humiliated that I wasn't able to complete it in a good, healthy state. Perhaps I am simply getting old. I work out regularly but have to admit my diet is not the best. I still hope to have a good second half of the year in terms of fitness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022


Days are still getting longer

I love the long days of June. Unfortunately it won't last. We approach the spring equinox. It's the twilight of spring. Just contemplating.

It's too early for the monsoon, though the local NWS office said the chances of precipitation start to climb later this week. I'm looking forward to some upcoming travel with a combination of anticipation and dread. I've had so many problems with airlines recently that it almost seems predictable there will be some type of issue. Hopefully it won't be weather. From what I hear, almost everyone is having trouble with air travel recently. I'm not alone in that.

Right now everything is perfect. I'm plotting exploration of a few new-to-me segments of trail and trying to get myself to work on my latest novel. The feeling of "things left undone" nags.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022


The spring house at Veit Springs - one of the most beautiful sights in the Flagstaff area.

What a great four day weekend that was! I took it easy on Friday and Sunday but the other two days featured explorations.

Ancient pictograph at Veit Springs.

First up I led a hike at Veit Springs to view petroglyphs and generally enjoy spring in the high country. It was beautiful, though windy. We wandered off official trail to seek more mileage and got a bit lost, but we certainly got to see some forest that few other hikers see.

Skunk Canyon features some desert vegetation in the sunny areas.

On Monday I went out for a mountain bike ride into Skunk Canyon. I've hiked it before, but had never bicycled in, and I wanted to see how it linked up with some of the other approaches to Fisher Point. The canyon is a broad, sunny place that gradually heads downhill. I didn't start from the usual point, but the alternate route that I used from a small parking area on Lake Mary Road is a good beginning. It adds a little distance.

Skunk Canyon narrows.

The canyon narrows down in a couple of places and finally constricts to single track in a true stream bed, albeit usually dry. The vegetation ranges from semi-desert grassland to alpine species in the shady, steep-sided areas. Unfortunately the double track braids into true single track, split between a high road and a low road, and I chose wrongly. The high road was a little too difficult and risky for a solo rider of my low skill and I ended up doing hike-a-bike for a few minutes.

Fortunately, it didn't last too long, and Skunk Canyon opens up again shortly before the old tracks intersect with the Arizona Trail. From there I followed the AZ Trail over to Fisher Point. I decided not to ascend the short connector to the top, having done it before, but I did visit the cave at the foot of the promontory. It's one of the most beautiful spots in the Flagstaff region.

Fisher Point - another of the most beautiful places around Flagstaff.

I'm such a lackadaisical mountain biker that, as usual, I forgot to stop my watch as I walked around rubbernecking and taking photos. This habit causes me to register slow times. It's slightly embarrassing but I'm not a competitive person and I guess nobody really cares how fast or slow I am. Mostly I don't either. I compare my times and speeds only to my previous times and speeds. It's a good way to judge my fitness, but I tend not to pay attention to how fast other people are.

After visiting Fisher Point, I rode Walnut Canyon "upstream" to the junction with the Sandys Canyon trail, which turned into a beat down of hike-a-bike. There are bicyclists capable of riding up Sandys Canyon but I am not one, lacking both the technical skill and shear power to achieve it. I've pushed a bicycle up the trail before on an out-and-back so I knew what was coming but it was still unpleasant. I've done worse hike-a-bike a few times so by my very low standards it was acceptable though not fun. I was pleased that it didn't destroy me. I recovered quickly and resumed riding.

From the top, rather than going straight over to Lake Mary Road, I decided to follow some unmarked trail that headed in the right direction, but it didn't entirely work out. I ended up riding out into a neighborhood, probably over private land, although nothing was marked. The short road system still delivered me to Lake Mary Road and somewhat to my dismay, I realized that there were still a couple of miles of rolling hills to climb over to get back to my car.

It was a good workout, though the track from my Garmin watch seems to have understated the amount of elevation change. I'm unsure if it was literally inaccurate or if it is just that the route is deceptively difficult. In this case, you start on a plateau, drop down into a series of canyons, then must climb back out. But even after climbing back out, you have to deal with the long paved climbs on Lake Mary Road. Strava says it was a mere 594 feet of elevation gain, but that feels like an understatement. It's a rugged, difficult route that included inefficient pedaling on sandy trail in addition to the technical hike-a-bike.

I really enjoyed the ride. It was a fun day!

Thursday, May 26, 2022


Sprinkles on the sidewalk for the first time in weeks.

Much to everyone's surprise, we got a few sprinkles earlier this week. May is a difficult month for precipitation in Flagstaff, but the month is sometimes punctuated by a few showers. It was lucky, but not abundant. It was just enough to raise the scent of rain. God willing, it precedes an abundant, or at least adequate season of the North American Monsoon.