Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rome wasn't built in a day

I have finished planting some portion of the two front landscape beds and I am still fighting a nasty cold, So I decided to rest and watch some television. I am watching a program called "Impossible Islands", a National Geograhic show. This show is about that enormous palm shaped artificial island being built with oil money in Dubai. The island is a palm tree shape offshore which will be a luxury resort and ocean city. The engineering aspects of this monumental task are phenominal. Using a private satellite is the only way they can get the curves on the palm branches accurately curved. Tons and tons of rock are taken from the inland and delivered on a 24-hour-a-day schedule to build the breakwater which I see slowly takes place before they can deposit the sand for the actual island on the inside of the breakwater.

This whole enterprise is mind boggling. The narrator explains that enough rock to build two pyramids was used for the breakwater. Tons and tons of sand are dredged for the island. Environmental issues have not reared their tenuous head yet on the show, although I admit I am watching from the middle of the program. Somehow, though, while I have personally listened to Arabs criticise the way Americans waste petroleum resouces, this argument is not being applied in Dubai.

The engineer that they interview sounds as though he is American. Why do I think that Halliburton is involved somewhere in the massive distribution of money?

Lots of engineering problems are discussed such as stagnant water during the finish of the breakwater (no biologists were clearly consulted in this engineering nightmare), being built in an earthquake zone, and problems with newly deposited and uncompacted sand.

"22 hotels--3 mile island--two years to complete phase one--400,000 apartments and shopping malls." All of the houses are sold in something like three days with the most expensive going for 1.2 million dollars. They keep adding and expanding and as I watch this I wonder why anyone would want to live on a crowded busy island with the business of Miami...wouldn/t a tiny island with a small cottage be so much more lovely?

In a world with starving people, weapons of mass destruction, and new disease challenges every day, this whole project is such a waste of resources and time to me. If I were a Crown Prince, I would like to think I could spend my money in better places. For centuries leaders have built temples, palaces and pyramids to insure eternity of their memory and to show their power.

If you get a chance to see the show, it is most fascinating!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Free lunch

It appears that everyone likes a free lunch prepared by someone else and also likes to eat outside with a view. (Home sick today, so this is all you are going to get.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Barking up the Right Tree

According to an article I found on the Internet (the pentultimate location for research information) there are "probably 118 species of native trees," This was stated by Robert Zahner, coordinator of the Arizona Register of Big Trees. "Approximately half of those are endemic to the desert Southwest, which means they occur only in southwest New Mexico, southern Arizona, and southeast California, and also, of course, in Sonora, Mexico. Nineteen species are endemic to Arizona, which means their national champions must be in Arizona" he says. In spite of this information I still could not find the species name of these beauties below. Of course, since I did not take pictures of the leaves, I am at a bit of a disadvantage. But while these photos may frustrate amataur botanists, the beauty below should give artists lots of inspiration. (As in my prior post, the photos have been reduced in size, but if you click on them, they are still pretty inspiring.)

This last little guy gets honorable mention because he is hanging in there!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hold your breath now

There was so much beauty on that Arizona trip to Sedona that I think I took over 300 photos. I deleted a few, but the natural beauty of this harsh land lends itself to the most amateurish of us. The weather was variable and one day we even got caught in a light rain and I had an umbrella in my back pack which I used. It was exotic being in the desert during a light spring rain.

If I was a geologist I would point out that "Major depositional episodes occurred in the later Paleozoic, Paleocene, Miocene and Quaternary periods." According to the local tourist page this beauty was "formed from ancient deposits of limestone, mudstone and sandstone when this area was the west coast of a still emerging continent." Hey were are talking 2 billion years here folks. Think about that as you smoke your peace pipe and gaze out over the valley and watch the bluejays perform their mating swoops. We are such a little teeny tiny blip on the surface and in the grand scheme of things. And while we are quite lovely, we don't hold a sparkle to this beauty.

Sometimes you will see granite that formed from the volcanic explosions that has layered over the exposed red sandstone. The exotic presence of this violent geology seems to attract psychics and spiritualists from everywhere. They feel the overwhelming presence of locked time and try to grasp its meaning, share its energies, explain its strength, feel its vortexes. But we are too small and we try too hard (and the commercial exchange of money for this is most annoying).

I reduced the size of the pictures, so I apologize if the digital rendition is compromised. And where you may ask does the red come from?...iron oxides.

The next lesson is on botany and involves tree bark...yes more photos of tree bark that are like Monet or Pissaro paintings. I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Early to bed, and better yet, early to rise!

There is a bit of tension between those folks who are up bright and early like eager squirrels ready for their daily nut hunt and those who role out of bed late wondering why their gray matter is so sluggish and why they can't find the coffee pot.

I am a squirrel and usually up at 5:15 getting my shower, dressed and then making a quick cup of French Press java to carry with me as I walk the few blocks to the office. I left the apartment at 6:00 this morning, and everything went as usual, until I reached the steps up to the parking lot. Something was odd...what was I missing...oh.. yes, that great cup of coffee had been left on the kitchen counter.

I was over half-way to the office, so, since my walk takes me right by the Caribou Coffee store, I decide to get a cup from them. The lights were on low toward the back of the store, but the door was unlocked. There were two people ahead of me waiting for their order to be taken, and the two java vendors were busy setting out all the carbohydrates for "breakfast on the run" and getting the paper cups stacked. They seemed to take their time taking orders. First the woman in front got her coffee. I wasn't paying much attention when the man in front of me got his coffee. Good, me next.

"I want a 16 ounce Fireside." I looked at the young man in the dreadlocks behind the counter.

He turned and proceeded to fill my order while I reached for my wallet.

He handed me the coffee and then shook his head. "No charge. Technically we are not open, so it is free this early."

Geese mareese, I have been way too efficient in the mornings...making my own coffee and all.

Where were you when?

Remember when the Dixie Chicks got trashed for speaking their minds? Where in the h*** was Donald Trump then? The master of the opportunity, oh yeah, he speaks out now??

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weather or not

"Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it." ...or so it is said. (The Parks Ranger said this was a rare purple flower...can't remember if he said the name and I simply cannot find it on the Internet. I stumbled across it several times while hiking, so methinks it is not that rare.)

Well we can't say that anymore about the weather...can we?

Guess who is changing the global weather, big time? Yep, we are. We are talking more about the weather because we are doing something about it. Not proactively, but certainly reactively.

Those of you who are not able to afford beachfront property, if you live less than a mile from the coast just wait.

Above are photos of some of the first blossoms that I was able to photograph in the Arizona Sonoran desert. This is the third year of a major drought that has confronted the flora and fauna.

Below is someone I have only seen in cartoons. Catching this shot was a 3/10s of second feat with my head cranked backwards in the front seat of the car. Therefore, it is not a great photo. He CAN run!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Water and the surface of living things.

As a human being I have been told many times to make sure to drink lots of water because it makes skin look better. This directive does not seem to apply to desert trees. Look at this beautiful bark below on this sycamore.

No water and yet the bark of the Manzanita or Mountain Driftwood is like flowing red ribbons in the desert air.

Below the trunk of the same species gives you a better look at how lovely the deep brown-red bark can be with access to so little water.

Here is a Manzanita lifting weights!

I think that this is the Alligator juniper below. It was tall and shady along one of the hiking trails we took. It's bark looks just like the and rough.

And finally the bark below is the underside of the roof (restored) of a traditional house for the Sinagua (meaning without water) Indians that started extensive agricultural communities in the valleys, on the hill sides and at the tops of hills and disappeared suddenly from the Arizona valleys many many years ago.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Travel is REALLY so much fun! LifeStory #8

I have to admit that I have traveled LOTS and LOTS in my life. I have traveled across the United States, throughout ASIA and even somewhat in Central America and Europe and Northern Africa. This was due to a promise I made to myself as a young girl that I would see as much of the world as I could, come hell or high water. And, after all of these trips, the airlines has lost my luggage only once. This was on my first trip to my new in-laws in Florida. I didn't panic too much because at 24 you can still look good in clothes that you have been wearing for 24 hours. With the luck of being young, the very next morning a van arrived at my new in-laws door and dropped off the suitcases intact and locked.

I was watching the Today Show a few weeks ago and they were talking about lost luggage. The guest expert was providing tips for when the airlines lost your luggage. He repeated the word "when" and emphasized that he did not say "if."

If you live and travel long enough the world changes and your luck changes. Upon our arrival at our airport in the early evening this past weekend, we noticed a large number of people waiting for their bags at one baggage claim. We lined up like penguins and waited and watched as the intermittent and sometimes static aluminum delivery belt went round and round. After 20 minutes my husband realized that our luggage had not made the transition from Phoenix to Denver to Columbus and to our final destination. (When you travel on 'points' you get to see a lot more of the country than you can imagine or actually want to see.) . Shortly after my husband's realization, there was an announcement on the loudspeaker system that the baggage officials (hiding behind the speakers) were very sorry but they did not know where the luggage from the Philadelphia flight was. They were working on it and they asked for patience. About 50% of the people moaned, groaned and wandered off. We were not on the Philadelphia flight and while wondering how an airline can lose all of the luggage on a flight, we became more concerned about our sweaty but well-packed clothes.

We were rewarded almost an hour later with a blue form to complete regarding our missing luggage. (One of the wives asked her husband if this meant they would get a free flight---she hasn't traveled much I was thinking.) I walked the length of the entire baggage claim area which is about two football fields and I hate to tell you that I saw hundreds and hundreds (not exaggerating) of suitcases and bags that sat on the floor forlornly alone next to baggage claim areas on that Sunday evening. The dozens of strollers alone made me sad for the aching arms of mothers and fathers in our nation.

The announcement that we had been recently moved from yellow to orange in our homeland security settings (much like the settings on your oven) did not assure me in any way as I saw all these potential lethal weapons of mass destruction sitting on the floor as far as the eye could see.
Thus, we went home and to bed.

Hubby got a call at 1:00 P.M. on Monday. "This is United. Are you going to be home for the next 4 hours? " When he answered "Yes." they hung up. They were either planning on delivering luggage or robbing us. So, he waited patiently.

Five hours later I was home and had eaten dinner and there is still no luggage. Hubby called the number that had called him at 1:00 and heard from a computer that they were too busy to answer the phone and to call back later. My guess is that the all-great office of baggage losers had been discovered and passengers were holding them hostage.

After this recent trip, I wondered if the wagon trains crossing the desert had it any easier? I really think that the good ole USA is getting to be more like a developing nation each and every day. It is a good thing I have traveled in the 'third' world or I would have said some of the things that were being said at the airport last night when people headed for their taxis empty handed.

Post Script at 6:00 P.M.

Hubby is currently talking to a computer.....

Now he is talking to someone who clearly lives in India or Pakistan...

Now he is listening to very irritating United Airlines music ...good choice on their part to continually remind us of the company that screwed up...

9:10 P.M. the phone rings. Our luggage has arrived and doesn't appear much the worse for the wear. I wonder where it got to travel?

Loved to Death

On some of the days the sky in the desert was an indescribable blue. Have you ever seen such a color? I didn't do any digital tweaking and for once the camera lense captured what I saw against the white bark of this desert sycamore. The green in the center is mistletoe. They must do a lot of kissing in Arizona, because it was everywhere. (Click the photot for a bigger view.)

The mornings were a cool 45 and by afternoon Sedona hills were warming to a toasty 70 degrees. Perfect weather for hiking if you layered your clothes.

We had not been to Sedona, Arizona for almost a decade and I noticed substantial changes starting with the fifteen minute traffic jam to get to the other side of the hill where we were staying upon our arrival. This place in the desert among the red rocks is being loved to death by soul searchers, mystics, retirees, real estate developers, bike riders, hikers (us), rich Californians and tourists from around the world. The year-round population of Sedona is supposed to be about 12,000 but this is followed by the statement that over 4,000,000 tourists visit each year. The city of Pheonix to the south is growing even faster.

In spite of the initial shock we were able to get away from it all and find some restorative hours studying the flora and fauna each day. We packed light lunches and extra water and always found a challenging or not-so-challenging trail to fill our day.

I still have over 300 photos to sort, but will not post them all here.