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



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


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


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


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


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


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.