Friday, March 31, 2017

Hot Hiking and the Russkis

Jim took the truck in to be detailed yesterday.  The people at Watson Chevrolet do such a good job. They clay the paint before waxing, so it is smooth as a baby's butt.  It needs to be done indoors so that additional sand and dust is not deposited during the process.  Anyway, the bikes were in the truck, so we had to hike.
We went out to the Tortolitas.  It was a warm hike, due to the late start.  We did one side of the Lower Javelina trail.  The prickly pears are starting their bloom.




This is a terrible picture, due to the harsh light, but the lavender colored flowers were quite attractive.


A front moved through late yesterday and last night, dropping the temperature and bringing very high winds.  There may be more hike today due to winds.


The Senate has started their probe of Russian interference in the election.  The testimony of former FBI agent Clinton Watts was riveting.  Coverage of that can be found here.
To buttress the claim that Trump (unwittingly or not) aided Russian disinformation efforts, Watts cited several instances. Among them: Trump’s citation of an apparently false Sputnik story at an October 2016 campaign appearance; his ongoing denial before and after the campaign of U.S. intelligence of Russian interference in the election; his claims of voter fraud and election rigging, which Watts said was pushed by RT and Sputnik; and Trump’s questioning of the citizenship of former President Barack Obama and even his primary rival Ted Cruz.
Watts added that one of the reasons such tactics are working is that Trump and/or his surrogates have repeated some of the claims, further spreading them through social media accounts that are owned both by real people and bots. Thus, the disinformation is kept alive and gradually becomes more real and plausible. “Part of the reason active measures work is because they parrot the same lines,” Watts said.
This is so disturbing.  Read the whole piece, it's just chilling.  One of the points made in the hearings is that Russia is not only doing this to us but to the European elections.  This could change the entire face of the planet if they are successful.

So, on this happy note, we will now go for a hike.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Moving on Soon

Sunday, Marco and his crew arrived and washed and waxed the RV, with the exception of the recently painted doors.  They can not be waxed until a month has passed, the paint must cure.  This morning, at about 2:30, we had thunder and lightning and a massive downpour - on my freshly washed RV.  Fortunately the roof didn't have enough dust on it to cause streaks, so we still look good.
The end of season round up of money spending continues.  We paid for half of next year, so I guess we're coming back.  Our talk of going to Florida appears to have been just that - talk.  We are leaving Tucson Monday, April 3.  We're going to Fountain Hills, where it will also be hot.  However, it will not be here.  If it becomes too unbearable, we'll leave.  However, I miss riding my mountain bike.

There was a pretty good sunset Sunday night.


 Meanwhile, all of the yellow things are blooming.



 The ocotillos are not leafing out much, but they are putting on an excellent bloom this year.



Now there will be politics, feel free to close the window if you're tired of it.  I'm writing this for me to remember the things that have happened.

Without much fanfare or coverage, US troops are being sent into Syria.  The mission is said to be the retaking of Raqqa.  The administration is not being candid about just how many soldiers are on the ground.  These are not advisors, these are soldiers that shoot move and communicate.  Senator Chris Murphy wrote a good piece about this in Huff Post.  This is one of the more disturbing paragraphs.
This past Thursday, I joined other members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee for lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I was glad that Tillerson was willing to open the doors of the State Department to a bipartisan group of senators, and our discussion was honest and frank. In the meeting, Tillerson showed admirable candor in admitting that the military strategy was far ahead of the diplomatic strategy in Syria.
But this was actually a dramatic understatement. Unless a secret plan exists that Trump is keeping from U.S. senators and his own Secretary of State, there is absolutely no plan for who controls post-ISIS Raqqa, or post-Assad Syria.
We're going back into the Middle East with no exit strategy.

The NYT published an excellent op-ed about the president's meeting with the German Prime Minister.
Trump knew nothing of the proposed European-American deal known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, little about Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Minsk agreements, and was so scatterbrained that German officials concluded that the president’s daughter Ivanka, who had no formal reason to be there, was the more prepared and helpful. (Invited by Merkel, Ivanka will attend a summit on women’s empowerment in Berlin next month.)
Merkel is not one to fuss. But Trump’s behavior appalled her entourage and reinforced a conclusion already reached about this presidency in several European capitals: It is possible to do business with Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but these officials are flying blind because above them at the White House rages a whirlwind of incompetence and ignorance.
The last sentence is just cringe worthy.

Today the House approved the selling of customer data by the ISPs. Some articles are indicating that this will include social security numbers. If you'd like to participate in a GoFundMe campaign to buy the data of congress people, go here and donate.

It would appear that the Lord of Darkness, Bannon, is once again trying to broker a deal in the House to repeal the ACA.  One wonders how he will find common ground between the extreme Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group.

Every day I wake up and wonder how did we get here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Death of the AHCA

I know, I know, you're all tired of the drama associated with the president's failure to overturn the ACA.  However, if you're at all interested in how it happened, this is an excellent article.  The first few paragraphs are pretty stunning.
Donald Trump had heard enough about policy and process. It was Thursday afternoon and members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off.
"Forget about the little shit," Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. "Let's focus on the big picture here."
The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill's defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the "little shit" meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.
We are now off to storage get the things we put in there prior to fixing the bus.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Return to the Bus and the FCC

We're back!  The bus was ready to be picked up at 1:30.  It's a short drive to the RV park, and we plugged into shore power and turned the refrigerator back on.  It's amazing how fast it cooled down.  Since we had a cold refrigerator, we went back to the condo and rescued the remaining food.  They were incredibly nice, and allowed us to delay departure.
The paint looks good, they blended it back towards the rear of the bus.  If you don't look too closely, all the doors appear to be the same color now.

With all of the racket in the news over the repeal of the ACA and Russia-gate, the Senate's recent actions regarding internet privacy have not been sufficiently reported.  The gist of the legislation is this:
The move means Verizon, Comcast or AT&T can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without permission, and it alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers. They warned that broadband providers have the widest look into Americans’ online habits, and that without the rules, the companies would have more power to collect data on people and sell sensitive information.
“These were the strongest online privacy rules to date, and this vote is a huge step backwards in consumer protection writ large,” said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow for the consumer group Public Knowledge. “The rules asked that when things were sensitive, an internet service provider asked permission first before collecting. That’s not a lot to ask.”
The full article can be read here.   We're considering signing up for a VPN service, which provides protection against this.  I also think we are done with patient portals for the various doctors' offices.  There is no telling how good their security is.

Since every post needs a picture, here's another attractive church in Tucson.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Progress Stalled on the RV

In a previous post, I expressed my doubts that the RV would be given back to us on Thursday.  And so it was not.  We called about 12:30 and were told that due to the enormous drop in temperature (40 degrees), the paint would not dry fast enough for us to drive it today.  There was an implication that it had been painted.  We went by at 2:30 and lo and behold, it was not painted; nor was the exhaust pipe for the Hydro Hot installed.  We talked to the shop supervisor a bit and he assured us that the pipe and the paint would be done TODAY before anyone went home.  We still can't get the RV back early in the day tomorrow because it's cold.


So, that's very aggravating and we are somewhat aggrieved by this turn of events.

This is a 1957 Thunderbird that they are in the process of restoring.  It will be sold when it's done, estimated sale price will be $35,000.  We would buy it, but you can't tow it wheels down.  


Here is another view of my favorite church.  Notice how the palm trees are being blown by the wind.  It came up this afternoon and was quite strong.


Did you read the interview with the president published in Time magazine?  If you haven't, you should.  CNN did an op-ed about how he's living in a fantasy world.  It's also a good, if disconcerting, piece.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Riding, Progress, Car Crashes

We got a ride in this morning.  We parked at the north end of Fantasy Island and rode north on the Harrison Greenway.  It's a nice trail.  Eventually it will go to the Morris K. Udall park and then connect with other trails.  Unfortunately the trail is closed before the park.


We rode up to where the trail ends to see if we could walk through the construction.  Nope!  The trail has been dug down to the dirt.  It is supposed to re-open in the Fall of 2017.



We went by the collision repair place.  The door has been fabricated, but not hung yet.  They plan to have the door installed, paint and clear coat done by noon tomorrow.  They also have to install the exhaust pipe for the Hydro Hot.  Hopefully they'll complete in time, because we can't have the condo for the weekend.
Their paint guy is offended by the previous body work and paint that was done by the first owner.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.  Look at the bottom stripe on the door in front of the utility bay.  Then look at the stripe on the next forward storage bay door.  They are not the same color.  He's going to do all of that stripe so the color matches.


Finally, today we saw this.  How does this happen?  It's a clear day and this young woman has driven up on to a curb and into the pole.  The half shaft on the other side of the car fell off and is on the sidewalk.  She was sitting in her car, talking on the telephone.  The police will have to come and close the intersection so that the tow truck can get her off the sidewalk. 


If you look carefully inside the car, you can see that the air bags deployed.


So that is all the news from Tucson.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Progress is Being Made on the RV

Greetings Earthlings!  How are things in your neck of the woods?  We remind me of turtles on a log.  Today was remarkable for its level of inertia.  There was sleeping in, there was a trip to collision repair to see how things were going, and then lunch followed by a trip to the air conditioned mall.  We spent time at REI looking at all of the camping doo-dads one could purchase for communing with the out of doors.  I got a new hat, so that was good.
In my original report of the damage to the RV, I forgot to mention that Williams also crushed the exhaust pipe for the Hydro Hot (it's a diesel burner that makes hot water and heat in the bus).  The exhaust pipe runs almost to the back wheels, makes a 90 degree turn, and exits on the other side of the bus.  Having any impedance in the flow of exhaust is bad.
Anyway, collision repair took the pipe and the supports off yesterday and sent it out to an exhaust shop, where they will fabricate a new one.  That's good, progress is being made.
The utility bay door is off the bus.  


This is the storage bay door.  The bend in the door has been straightened, and that door does not have to come off.  The white area lower left is where the paint popped off the door.


This is a confusing picture, the camera was struggling with the light.  The small square (oriented as a diamond) is the door that sustained the bulk of the damage.  It's resting on a sheet of aluminum.  The tech will cut out a new door and bend it into shape.  Then the insulation, the latch mechanism and et al. will be screwed to the new piece of aluminum.


There are RVs in various stages of being painted.


This unfortunate RV rear ended a semi trailer.  Apparently it's not as bad as it looks.  Once the broken pieces are removed it can be put back to its original state.  I am surprised insurance didn't total it, but they didn't.


The shop manager we talked to today thinks we will be done Thursday.  That would be a really good thing, because the condo is not available to extend the stay.  Another move to another condo may finish me off!  The good news is that the heat is supposed to break on Thursday.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Still Hot With Flowering Plants

Yesterday was spent moving out of the bus and in to the condo.  It was a fairly laborious process.  Regular clothing, bike clothing, non-refrigerated food, refrigerated food and frozen food, all tucked into the truck.   Our pickup has remarkably little space in it.  We should have gotten the crew cab, but we didn't.  Next time we will.  Anyway, after two trips to the condo, it was back to the bus to clean out the frig, uncover the tires, and make ready for departure.  Today we had it at the collision repair center at 9:30.  W.W. Williams did cut us a check for the condo rental without complaint, so that was nice.
It's weird being here.  I had forgotten how nice residential air conditioning is.  When we run the bus a/c it's impossible to hear anything, especially if the convection oven is on.  We also have a real oven here, which is nice.
After going out for breakfast, we walked around through one of the historic neighborhoods.  It was a short walk, too hot.
Oleanders.


I don't know what this is.  The blossoms are thick and waxy.



The first wave of the steeeking yellow blooming trees.  There will be two more after this tree species finishes.


It's a good year for the bougainvillea.   Their color is just amazing.


Yuccas in bloom.


This afternoon we decided to scout a ride we used to do in 2009, back when we were younger and stronger.  I wanted to see how bad the road surfaces were and if the area had been over run with houses.  Road surfaces are bad, houses are everywhere.  It's kind of depressing.  This used to be out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing out there.  Now there is retail and housing.  There is a lot of land for sale, so it won't be getting any better.  This is out on the way to Colossal Cave.


Saguaros at Saguaro East.  We were going to do another walk, but it was really hot.  So it was a short walk and back in the truck.


Allegedly we'll get the RV back Friday.  I am very dubious about this.  We drove by the collision place at 12:30 and the doors were still attached to the bus.  Being out of the RV over the weekend is going to suck.  Hopefully we can extend our stay here, but it's too soon to talk to the owner about it.
Other than this, I have nothing else to report.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hot and Cranky in Tucson

Just color me cranky, nay ill humored; no color me venom spitting unpleasant.  After a cool wet winter, the switch was flipped in Tucson and it went to the mid-90s.  As I type this, a giant dust devil just went through the park.   This is why one should not leave the awning out.  March is an expensive month.  This week there have been trips to the eye doctor and the dentist.  Monday was the ill fated attempt to align the front end of the bus. It is so hot, it's just stultifying.
Tuesday there was fun.  Our friend Greg, who we met in France in 2002, came to Arizona to see people, and we were fortunate enough to be on the list.  We like Greg a lot.  That's him on the left.  I don't know why it is that I never think to get a picture of the front of people.  We went to one of the new El Guero's for lunch.  The original store is pretty funky, but there is no air conditioning.  Did I mention that it's been really hot?


Here is the Sonoran Dog.  There is a bacon wrapped hot dog in there, smothered in beans, tomatoes mayo and mustard.  That is a soft roll holding on to the whole works.  We haven't been there since the last time Greg was here, which was three or four years ago.  One must work out prior to eating such a thing.  If you're in Tucson, go there, and get thee a Sonoran Dog.


Have you ever been in an RV park with park models?  Ever wondered how they level them?  This is how.  One thick piece of wood, and then a couple of shims.  I often wonder how long until the wood compresses or rots.  It always seems somewhat precarious to me.


The bus goes in to the collision repair place Monday.  We've got an Airbnb starting tomorrow.  This is such a giant pain in the butt. It's not like going on vacation for a few days, we're moving out.  We are having to take all the meds out since the bus will be outside in the sun with no air conditioning.  Heat is hard on the drugs.  We'll also have to take all the food out of the frig because we're turning it off.  Then we have to clean the inside of the frig which will hopefully keep the odor down. They won't guarantee it'll stay on power, so rather than risk over drawing the batteries, we're turning if off.  All food taken to the Airbnb will then have to be thrown away, because it'll take 12 hours to cool the refrigerator once it's turned back on when the work is over.
Today we got up really early so we could cover the storage bays in plastic.  Do I look happy here?  No, why no I do not.  Note the tan line, I would just like to say I'm using sunscreen, but this happens anyway.


Still life under plastic.


Butterfly on a lantana.


Here is an excellent article on how the right intends to stack the court systems with conservative judges.  Due to the Republicans' blocking many of President Obama's nominees, there are a lot of seats to fill. The effects of this administration are going to be felt for decades.
For those that missed it, here is the president with Prime Minister Merkel after the press had asked for a handshake for a photo op.  Too bad the leader of the free world had to return to Germany.


Other than being too hot, and too aghast at people justifying cutting Meals on Wheels and school lunch programs, and being pissed off about them bending my bay doors, everything else is fine.

Monday, March 13, 2017

RV Damage and the AHCA

Recently I have been optimistic about our chances of making it through the stay in Tucson without having to fix anything.  Optimism is also known as the kiss of death.  Never indulge in it, expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised.  
Yesterday we took the bus down to stay in the parking lot of W.W. Williams so that we could get the front end alignment checked bright and early today.  We haven't moved since the end of October, so we were rusty on departure procedures.  We did dodge the bullet of closing the slide on the broom handle.  That would have been bad.  It was close, but a carefully modulated scream alerted Jim to the danger.


We were supposed to be on the machine at 8:30.  However, there was another vehicle on it, so there was waiting.  Then we were told that the alignment guy had broken his finger and was going home.  The backup guy would not arrive for two hours.  At that point we and the office manager decided we should go get the wheel balancing done while awaiting the backup.  So, they went to take the bus off the machine.
The machine they use has three sections, they lift independently of each other.  They lowered the front, they lowered the back, and they high centered the bus on the middle part of the machine.
See the bay door in front of the wheel?  That's the badly damaged door.  The door in front of it is also bent.  In order to remove those doors, the fender has to come off and the side radiator cover has to come off.  They're all on a contiguous rod that runs the length of the bus behind the forward slide.


Here is a close up of the door.


And here are the holes in the bottom of the door. It will have to be re-skinned.


To say we're pissed about this would be a massive understatement.  They had ONE JOB.  Get the bus off the machine without damaging it.  It has to go in to the collision repair place on Monday, and will be there for four days.  We will be in a hotel.  I hate hotels, I hate restaurants, I hate packing.  Williams feels terrible about this, and will be paying for the body work and the hotel, but those doors will never be the same.

So there was that.  And there is this.


And there is this.


Thus ends my reportage of Bloody Monday.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Riding and Construction

Greetings and Salutations, Earthlings. Finally I have something to post about.  We've been riding some.  Monday was not a good day, we totally misread the weather and set out on the bikes with too little clothing.  Our being cold was further exacerbated by the terrible headwind, so after nine miles up the trail we bailed.  I just do not need to be sick again.  Tomorrow is the end of week three of the crud, and it is still the gift that keeps on giving.
Tuesday was much better.  We left wearing vests and arm warmers and it wasn't so windy.  We saw that ominous batch of smoke early in the ride.  It's actually about 10 miles north of where we were standing.


I have previously mentioned the Sweetwater Wetlands.  They are part of a water reclamation system in Tucson.  Apparently the grasses there became too tall and too dry, so the fire department set them on fire in a controlled burn.  It was also part of a mosquito abatement program.  Anyway, air quality truly suffered from that activity.
In this photo, the guy on the left is throwing a flare into the grass to set it on fire.



We saw this bird on the way back to the RV.  See the red about mid photo?


It's a Vermillion Fly Catcher.  They are just amazingly red.



Yesterday we suffered from ennui.  We have plans for April and the first week of May, but nothing after that.  Do you think we can come up with any sort of a plan for May and June?  No, no we can not.  We think about going east, but it's far, and I read somewhere that mosquito borne diseases (or maybe it was ticks) will be especially bad this summer.  And then there are the trees.   So, we're stymied as to what to do with ourselves.  It wouldn't be so bad if all of the RV parks weren't over run, but they are.  We don't have anything reserved for Memorial Day which is just giving me the willies.

The city of Tucson gave us the Loop extended routes, and then they took one away.  The trail is now closed at Ina, and will be for two years.  We can not discover a safe detour through the construction.  That's Ina on the right.



This is a giant auger.


In the same area is another outflow from the water reclamation plant.  The blobs in the water are ducks.  They were enjoying the current.


The outflow.


 This pot of succulents belongs to our neighbor.  They had to return to Kansas and have left their plants in my care.  We're really hoping they survive.



There is an interesting article on Huffington Post that did not make me want to tear my hair out.  A coalition of farmers, the Humane Society and others were able to defeat a "right to farm" bill that would have exempted big agriculture from requirements not to pollute, torture their animals or their employees.
Right-to-farm measures come with a sympathetic label, but they benefit big agricultural conglomerates, giving them legal protections that help elbow smaller producers out of the market. The Oklahoma initiative would have amended the state constitution to make it all but impossible for the state government to regulate farming technology, either by statute or agency rules. Unless the government could demonstrate “a compelling state interest” — an extremely high standard of legal scrutiny that also applies, for example, to restrictions on voting rights — new farming rules would be forbidden. Even if the state could show a compelling interest, corporate agriculture could have used the right-to-farm law to tie up new standards in court for years.
This was lead by a Democrat in Oklahoma.  I hope the DNC will quit doing what they've always done, and try something new.  Mid-term elections will be here before you know it.  However, they appear to be locked in mortal combat with each other, trying to visualize their path forward.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Republicans are trying to force their replacement for the ACA through the voting process without the Congressional Budget Office having priced its cost.  These people are just evil on every level.