Monday, January 21, 2019

MLK Day, the Desert and Complaining About Google

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day to you all.  I realize some of you are up to your waists in snow and I'm sorry about that.  I can not imagine the awfulness of the amount of snow in the middle of the country and the east.  Here in Tucson we're under a high wind warning (which the forecasters got right), but there will be no complaining about our climate.

There has been hiking.

The other day we headed towards the water tower and went uphill from there, towards this.

Notice the saguaros growing out of the top of the mountain.  How do they do that?  There is a bench placed on the trail, just as it peters out.  To continue, one must bushwhack.

This is buffel grass which is the scourge of the Sonoran Desert.  Awhile ago I read an article that said its spread was due to illegal immigrants bringing the seeds in on their clothing from Mexico.  Hopefully I never referenced that article because it's not true.  Ranchers planted it for forage for their cows.  It's non-native, spreads like the weed it is, burns hot enough to kill the cactus, shades the baby cactus and kills them and in ten or so years depletes the ground so that all is left is an area unable to support life.  Great plant, eh?   Our neighbor has been removing a patch of buffel grass up by the bench.  He levers it out with a bladed tool, leaves it to dry (and be less heavy) and then bags it up and brings it down the hill.  I saw him this morning at 8:45 having brought down two bags.  We have an infestation on the side of the wash just on the other side of the wall.  Five weeks of glyphosate last October has killed the existing plants.  We don't know if the seeds have escaped death.  I've ordered up a bunch of casoron and another pre-germinant to try to keep any seeds from sprouting.  Looks like killing buffel grass will be an ongoing project.  We can't dig it out because the bank is really unstable.

More of the always lovely desert.

This was from today.  The chollas are very happy this year.  They had a good monsoon and then a bunch of rain in December.  Cactus happiness abounds.

This is a pack rat nest.  It's hard to see, but look at all the cholla pieces that are all over the ground.  I think they put them there, there is no cholla in the immediate vicinity.  They dig huge burrows, and then the individuals have little rooms.  Rattle snakes will go in there and eat them, which may be why they've booby trapped the area with cholla pups.  If you live in the desert, think carefully about seed bird feeders.  The birds drop the seeds, the pack rats come for the seeds and the rattle snakes come for the pack rats.

This is a close up of one of the palm trees.  I love the way the light illuminates their fronds.

There is a persistent belief in the bloggo-sphere that Picasa will die in March.  I have been told by smart friends that it's only the API that will die, but one tends to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't happen.  It just annoys the living snot out of me that Google killed Picasa in 2016 and replaced it with Google photos which is an absolute piece of dog doo-doo.  Its biggest fault is that it's not local to your machine.  If one is using a mi-fi, one is using much bandwidth to upload photos to edit them.  I have yet to figure out how, or if, the product will de-resolution photos.  I down loaded PhotoScapeX from the Windows store.  It will de-res, but although it says it will batch de-res I don't see how to do that.  It is resident on your machine, so there's that, but it's a pain to use.  Picasa is the best there ever was for the use of sliders.  Oh - the other thing PhotoScapeX does, is that is sorts your folders by name and not date.  Who does that?  All of my April photos are at the top of the list, I have to go looking for January.  Does anyone have a stump stupid easy to use photo editor that they like?  This is just a depressing state of affairs.  I don't have enough brain cells left to learn Photoshop.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hike and Bike

Yesterday was good.  It has warmed up some.  We were up at oh:dark:thirty for a trip to the doctor.  When we got back we laced up the hiking boots and drove down to the Sarasota trail head.  If we were more motivated, we could get there from the house, but that would make it a really long hike.  What is needed here is an off-road golf cart.

Lumpy rocks seen leaving a wash on the trail.

Today we got the bikes out.  One of the downsides to living in the house is that the Tucson Loop (bike trail) is about six miles from here, and part of the route is has heavy traffic with not so good shoulders.  This is tile surroundng the sink at the restrooms that are next to the trail.  There is parking there so that's where we start.

The other reason for starting there, is that the trail under Ajo is no longer available to us.  They're widening that bridge, and the bike path has been subsumed by equipment access.  One either rides on the road with cars, or one parks north of Ajo.

You can better see the ramp here, foreground.  If you look in the background, you can see that side of the bridge is also involved.

Here is where the trail ends, rather abruptly.

According to the Arizona Dept. of Transportation, the trail will be available again in December 2019, but I really doubt it.

Online LiveWriter has once again lost its ability to post to Blogger.  Github knows about it, and here's hoping they get it fixed. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Viadoom or the Coming Carmageddon

The Alaskan Way Viaduct was closed forever Friday night at 10pm.  That would be the 11th.  The police had trouble getting people off the bridge because there were many who wanted to be the last person to drive off.  Saturday hundreds of people walked on to the bridge to watch the sunset for the last time.  It was a nice day and they wanted to see it.  The police were all up in their hair about the danger.  Right, this is the same elevated highway that hosted bike rides and foot races.  Sometimes Seattle is such a nanny state!

It makes me sad, the Viaduct is part of what made Seattle who Seattle is.  It was old and noisy, but driving on the upper level on a nice day was special.  You could see West Seattle, the Olympic Mountains and Elliot Bay, because you were on an elevated highway.  There has been the usual high falutin’ drivel about connecting the water front to the rest of the city by tearing the Viaduct down.  I personally don’t get it.  Alaskan Way, which is a four lane road running through Seattle is between the water front and the city.  It’s the route to the ferry dock, so it’s heavily traveled.  We’ll see.

There is also the fact that the Viaduct carries 100,000 cars a day.  For the next three weeks ALL of those cars will need an alternate route  So far, ridership on the ferry from West Seattle to Seattle has tripled.  Many people are taking the bus, and there is the ever popular working from home in one’s sweats.  Despite all of this, the commute is starting an hour earlier, and commute times have doubled.  In three weeks the tunnel (with its tolling) will open with two lanes in each direction, rather than the three that were previously provided.  Traffic planners are predicting the next five years will be grim.  KOMO did an article about the bad times to come due to constant road construction.  The planners are all saying it will be totally worth it.

This is looking south.

alaskan way viaduct 2

Looking north.  Those are the Olympics in the distance.

alaskan way viaduct 3

Some of the southern sections are already being demolished.

alaskan way viaduct 5

It will be interesting to see how the next three weeks go, and whether people can stay out of their cars.  Eventually, they’ll have to go the grocery store for toilet paper.  Amazon Fresh may see an uptick in orders.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Hike, Cook, Stain

Greetings Earthings!  How have you been?  We have been busy.  Between the wretched staining project, trying to get some exercise and spelunking through our past using old backed up photos and emails, I have neglected the blog.  It seems like there should be more pictures to support my claim of busy-ness, but alas, there are not.

We’ve been out in the desert a couple of times.  On one of the trips we saw this muley buck with horns!  I have not seen horns before in Tucson.  He was with two females.  They looked at us for awhile and we looked at them.


On the 7th of January, the guys who own Copper Standard Landscaping came.  They distributed nine tons of gravel through out the yard.  I’m really glad we outsourced that.  Back in the late 80’s Jim and I moved 28,000 pounds of rocks with shovels and wheel barrows, but those days are over.


David moved the irrigation head so the bubbler head will be in the saucer surrounding the Pygmy Date Palm.  He dug a nice trench.  It took him very little time, that would have been half a day for us.


The wall is made of concrete blocks that were mortared together.  Then they were covered with stucco.  The blocks and the mortar are full of lime.  When it rains, there is efflorescence.  According to the internet this should stop after a couple of years.  So far, we’re still seeing it after rains.  Oddly enough, when we got back in October there wasn’t any on the walls, and there was a pretty good monsoon.  Jim is spraying it with 50% vinegar, which does take it away, until it rains again.


Thursday we crock potted chicken thighs.  It’s not a simple recipe, there’s about an hour prep and half an hour clean up, but it’s good.  Plus there is food for two nights and a lunch.  Jim is shaking chicken pieces in a bag of flour.


Here is the recipe.  It should be big enough to be legible.  If you don’t have a crock pot you could put it in a dutch oven and put it in the oven for 3 or so hours.


Speaking of which, I got one of these for Christmas.  It’s a Lodge enameled cast iron.  After pricing Le Creuset, I just could not get past how expensive they have gotten.  They get good reviews and are about 25% of the cost.


When we last owned a house, we had yard work clothes.  Old sweats with holes in them, terrible looking shorts, like that.  Now we have none of those things.  After being in the RV for awhile, we had no need of clothing like that.  Thus I am staining in my pink fuzzy bunny pants, because they are my least favorite, and they became the sacrificial pants.  We did good, no stain hit the patio or us.


I watered some of the new gravel today.  On the left is how it looks covered in dust.  On the right is how it looks with the dust removed.  It’s a good match to the rock we already had.


Pre-rain gravel.  Eventually it will be a better color.


So, the house continues to provide us with hours of entertainment.