Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why things are quiet around here...

It's National Novel Writing Month and that means I'm both writing a (minimum) 50,000 word novel, and playing Municipal Liaison to over 250 Tucson writers. This is my 7th year doing NaNo and my 6th year as ML, and even though I know what I'm doing, it's still a new experience each year. I'm up to about 44,000 words today, and on-track to finish by Thanksgiving. Trips to Sabino Canyon and places east should resume after that, so I'll have lots of new photos to share. In the meantime, here's one from this year's NaNoWriMo Kick-off Party.

NaNo 2008 Kick off party

Friday, November 7, 2008

Historic Tucson - The Presidio Site

Tucson began as a walled fort. The wall was square of adobe that featured a lookout tower and military barracks for the soldiers stationed there. The wall was meant to keep out Apache raiders, and to protect the earliest settlers to the area. Most of the wall has been lost to time, but an archaeological excavation in the 1950s revealed one corner of the wall mere inches below the asphalt of a parking lot. About four years ago, the City began plans to build a replica of the corner segment of wall and turn it into a living history museum. Before work began, they brought in Desert Archaeology to find out as much as they could about both the prehistory and history of the site. On December 15, 2005, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site to kick off the reconstruction of the Presidio. Staff from Desert Archaeology were on-hand to answer questions and walk people through the archaeological findings. This picture shows how the archaeologists had to work around existing utility poles and such, and also how close the historic and prehistoric remains were to the modern-day surface.

Presidio Groundbreaking

Historic Tucson - Cheyney House

I've been working in historic preservation for almost 8 years now, so I've amassed quite a library of pictures of historic places in and around Tucson. I finally got around to uploading a few to my flickr account, so I'll share some here. This first one is of the Cheyney House after the restoration was completed. This is a house that caught on fire sometime in the mid-1980s and was utterly gutted. It stood vacant for years, charred and crumbling. The neighborhood felt it was an eyesore, and the City was getting ready to demolish it when a couple from Wisconsin found the house, saw the potential in its blackened bones, and decided to do everything in their power to restore it. The restoration cost over a million dollars and was a combination of private and public funding - mostly AZ Heritage Fund money which comes from lottery revenues. The newly restored house is a treasure. It's historically accurate, and now home to people who are passionate about keeping it a viable residence for years to come.

Cheyney House

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Labor Day from Mount Lemmon

We wanted to get out of town and into nature on Labor Day, so the bf proposed a picnic and we headed up the mountain. It was a stunningly gorgeous day, and the mountain was alive with chasing light and shadow. Heavy monsoon clouds started rolling in around the time we hit Geology Vista, and by the time we got to Ski Valley, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain. We ended up eating our picnic in the car while the windows fogged and rain hammered on the roof. It was surprisingly fun. Once the rain let up a bit, we went to the north parking lot and took a look out over the valley to the back of the mountain. Thanks to the clouds, the valley was dappled with shadows, and it all popped out against the backdrop of our gloomy mountain top. I can't wait to get back up there!

Mount Lemmon trip

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Discovery Place

We had a day to kill in Charlotte, NC and since I'm not into NASCAR, the entertainment options were a bit limited. I was poking around on google and found a science center in uptown Charlotte called Discovery Place. As luck would have it, a touring exhibit of Pompeii artifacts was on display. I'm an archaeologist by training, so I couldn't pass up a chance to see a Pompeii show that wasn't likely to tour to my part of the country.
Unfortunately, it was a rather "meh" display, but Discovery Place had a LOT more to offer. One of the coolest exhibits was the dinosaurs. I particularly like this picture because of the skulls on the wall behind the stegosaurus skeleton. My NaNoWriMo novel last year was about dragons, and several of the skulls reminded me of characters in my novel. I might even go back to write in a few more details after seeing these bones.

Stegosaurus and friends

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tucson's 4th of July

We had a very delayed fireworks show this year due to a thunderstorm that pounded the downtown area around 7pm. The A Mountain show was pushed back to 10pm, but that just gave us extra time to find the perfect vantage point. We ended up along Granada Avenue, right near El Minuto. Even though my camera's starting to show its age (and does not do well with low-light photography), I brought my gorillapod and figured it was worth a shot. I mounted the pod in a mesquite tree, forgetting that mesquites tend to be frequented by large, biting ants. Ugh. Got some good pictures and some embarassingly bad ones, and ended up with a final count between 12 and 16 ant bites. Whoops!

4th of July Fireworks - downtown Tucson

Fun with architecture

I spent the past weekend in Raleigh and Charlotte, NC. I was there to visit a friend and take in yet another Rush concert (woo!). We spent Monday at Charlotte's Discovery Place science center, and then wandered around uptown so I could search out interesting buildings. One of my favorites was the Hearst Tower. I'm not at all familiar with Charlotte, so I don't know anything about the building, but it instantly reminded me of the Chrysler Building in New York City (my favorite building in the world), so I wasted a lot of battery power snapping pictures of it. Here's a great shot of the ornate entryway.

Hearst tower detail

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Central Park, NY

I just got a new laptop, so I've been going through all my old photos and trying to get things organized. I found a small set that missed being uploaded to flickr with the rest of my 2006 trip pictures, and this is one of the missing. It was taken in the rotunda room at the Natural History Museum, looking out over Central Park around 5pm. The weather was pretty warm, but the trees were still mostly bare from winter.

Central Park

Cat vs. javelina

I've been taking care of a friend's cat, and we had a bit of excitement the other day. A javelina showed up on the porch, seeking refuge from the mid-day sun (and 106+ degree temps!) and the cat got very agitated. Finally, the javelina came over to the porch door to see what was making all the ruckus. Every time the cat thumped against the glass, the javelina's hackles went up. You can see a bit of that here.

Cat vs. javelina

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Watching for polar bears

What's more fun that going to the zoo as a kid? Going as an adult with kids along. Being able to experience everything through their eyes adds such a rich dimension to the day.

The "kid" here is my friend's 5 year old daughter. We were in a subterranean viewing area to see the polar bears, and one large bear was swimming laps around the pool. She perched on the windowsill in rapt attention for about 15 minutes.

Reid Park Zoo

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Giraffe tongue!

More from the zoo trip...

We headed over to the giraffe exhibit in time for the 2pm feeding. For $2, you can buy a handful of lettuce and go out onto a special balcony that overlooks the giraffe pen. All three know when it's close to a feeding time and come right up to the balcony to snatch treats out of your hand. I took this shot before the feeding started, but after the giraffes had already gravitated to the walkway. This one was trying to reach some new leaves on a palo verde tree (obviously stripped as far as a giraffe tongue can reach).

Reid Park Zoo

The world's largest pigeon

No, I'm not exaggerating :) Here's a resident of one of the Reid Park Zoo's aviarys:

Reid Park Zoo

The first thing that struck me about this bird was the fluffy mess of fine feathers on top of its head. It was preening and kept shaking its head so fast that the feathers would blur into a kind of corona. It's about the size of a small turkey and, while shy, came right out onto the pavement when the zookeeper came around with food bowls. It never occurred to me that this might be a pigeon until a friend identified it for me. Now I can't help but see the resemblance. I see hundreds of regular city pigeons around downtown every week - this is just a grossly exaggerated version. Fun to be able to get so close to such an exotic critter.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A trip to the zoo

On Saturday, my friend and I took her daughter to the zoo. It was pretty hot in the sun, so we took a break by the koi pond to cool off for a bit. After a while, the koi got interested in the handful of food pellets we were tossing into the water, and we got a good look at the wide variety of fish in the pond. This one was my favorite - it had long, fluttery fins and looked downright ghostly as it rose through the water. Reminded me a lot of Cleo, the goldfish in Disney's Fantasia (the original 1942 edition).

Reid Park Zoo

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Desert in bloom

A couple of weeks ago, I was housesitting in a place on the far east side of town. While I was there, every cactus on the property burst into bloom, and the desert was a riot of bees and color. I'm not sure what kind of cactus this is, but I think it's related to the cereus. It's a fat, ground crawling variety that puts out enormous, colorful blooms. These flowers are as big across as a large human hand - wrist to the tip of your fingers. This particular cactus is in a shallow depression in the shade of a mesquite tree. It was a breezy day, so the petals were fluttering and the shadows were dancing across the face of the flower. Perfect conditions for taking a photo tour of the property!

Blooming cactus

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

About that Rush show...

Deviating from my standard photo form factor for a moment here...
I snapped a series of shots with my little camera phone while at the Phoenix show. Due to the camera's, ahem, limitations, these are best viewed at a smaller size. They look great on a phone screen - not so hot on a computer :(
The concert was AMAZING. One of the best Rush shows I've ever seen, and a great, engaged, audience to boot. While I have a few quibbles with the setlist (can we break up the Snakes & Arrows block, PLEASE?), the setlist hit most of my favorites, and even the tedious bits passed quickly. This year's tour featured a set of rotisserie chicken cookers on Geddy's side, and a gaggle of Barbie doll "fans" on Alex's side. Geddy also had a little scale model of Neil at his kit - you could even spin the drumstick in his upraised hand.
We had a great view from section 203. I think this is the first time I've ever had an unobstructed view of the entire stage. The folks in the rows ahead of us sat for about half the show (yay, unobstructed view!), but even when they were standing, I could still see everything I wanted to. What a lovely change from the standard "sir, could you please move your big, fat, head?".
I'm sad I'm going to miss the Red Rocks show this year, but the Cricket Pavilion show was wonderful enough to give me my fix of live Rush for another year or so. Here's hoping the wait between tours won't be too long!

Rush @ Cricket Pavilion

Rush @ Cricket Pavilion

Rush @ Cricket Pavilion

Rush @ Cricket Pavilion

Rush tour!

Meant to post this last week, but things got hectic, and it slipped. In 2004, I met up with a bunch of folks from the rushtour.com message boards to catch Rush's two-night stay at Radio City Music Hall. On the day of the show, we met up in front of the theater, chatted up fellow fans, and took an insane amount of pictures. This is one of the early shots, while group members were still trickling in. Having just come back from seeing Rush, again, in Phoenix, this photo brings back extra special memories. I hope the old gang catches a bunch of shows on the current tour!

Radio City Music Hall

Contrails from Wasson Peak

Ok...abandonning the daily numbering in titles for a while. I'm, obviously, not so good at updating daily, so numbers are going by the wayside. But, enough on that - you're here for photos, not explanations :)
Today's photo is from January, 2008. I was hiking to the top of Wasson Peak with a friend and we were doing our best to reach the summit before the sun set. Parks of the trail were in deep shadow, and others were glowing with saturated light. I happened to look over my shoulder and catch this great silhouette of mountain rock and blue sky. When I was little, my mom and I used to have fun scanning the winter sky for contrails, and I've always gotten a little thrill out of spotting one.

Lots of contrails

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Day #43 - Desert tortoise

A friend of mine participates in a program that places desert tortoises with families willing to foster them. These are animals that have been raised in captivity, or injured, or otherwise unable to fend for themselves in the wild. Every couple of days, they get some leafy greens in addition to the grass and other plants the grow in their enclosures. This one is munching on a hunk of kale.

Desert tortoise

Day #42 - Chisum

I'm housesitting right now and this is my main charge - a bundle of feline energy. I snapped a quick picture while he was enthalled with a bird outside. That's about the only time he holds still.

Cat reflection

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day #41 - Springtime in the desert

As my rampant allergies can attest, everything is blooming right now. The tree pollen is insane, but the stunningly vivid cactus blooms make it worth the suffering. This one is at a friend's house and is usually good for a few clusters of blossoms every year. They're about as big across as your hand, and the kind of wild red that makes you stop in your tracks and stare. When the desert blooms, it doesn't cut corners.

Cactus in bloom

Day #40 - Valley of the Moon

Ok, last Valley of the Moon post for a while. This is a large mural underneath the Wizard's tower. I'm not sure how old it is, or how long it's been exposed to the elements, but it's obviously suffering some wear. Still, it's impressive to turn a corner and suddenly see a wall of Dragon before you.

Valley of the Moon

Day #39 - Valley of the Moon

On the property, there's a small, old adobe house. It's currently being used for costume and prop storage, but seems to be mostly habited by spiders. There were some enormous webs strung up in the corners. I love the juxtaposition of webbing and costume fairy wings here.

Valley of the Moon

Day #38 - Valley of the Moon

This was such a neat tour, so I'll post quite a few more pictures from it here. Next up, the "Hobbit house". There are several of these scattered about the property, in various shapes and sizes. All are concrete and pebble, but there's a lot of variation in the extra materials. This one had a lot of bottle glass in it.

Valley of the Moon

Friday, April 11, 2008

Day #37 - Valley of the Moon

One of the perks of my job is behind the scenes access to historic sites, whether they're open to the public or not. On Wednesday, we got to take a short tour of the Valley of the Moon. The place has been mostly closed to the public for a while now due to safety issues. Some of the folks on the tour joked that we should have brought hard hats. It's a quirky slice of Tucson history, and a funky mix of imagination and folk art. One of the highlights of the site is the large "Wizard's tower" that dominates the central part of the park. It used to be the climax to the tour, and the site owner would let the kids come up into the tower after seeing the rest of the park. It's in a horrible state now, and long since closed, but you can still get a sense for how magical this must have seemed in its heyday.

Valley of the Moon

Day #36 - A peculiar sunset

I was housesitting on the far east side of town, and happened to be driving east as a big monsoon storm rolled in. The sun was setting in a blaze of color behind me, but it was nothing but grey swirling clouds to the east. Suddenly, this otherworldly spot of color flared behind the clouds. It lasted for a couple of minutes - a bizarre trick of reflection and refraction. I've never seen its like.


Day #35 - Cat & the squirrel

I was off housesitting one morning when I heard a commotion from down the hall. The cat, normally silent, was mewling and fussing at something. I found him in the master bathroom, working himself into a snit over a group of squirrels hanging out underneath the window. The squirrels were absolutely fearless, and the cat was beside himself. This went on for an hour or so. Who needs TV when you've got nature?

Chisum & the squirrel

Day #34 - for the Rush fans

I just realized that I'm less than a month from my next Rush show. Woohoo! I've caught them on every tour since Vapor Trails (yes, I know - late bloomer), and we always make a point of catching at least the "local" show in Phoenix. We always leave Tucson in the late afternoon, then stop and find dinner on the road - usually in Casa Grande. A few streets in from the highway, we stumbled upon this sign. It's only significant to Rush fans and the townsfolk who named it, but it's become one of the places we *have* to stop and take pictures on the way to a Rush show.

Casa Grande, AZ

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day #33 - Fox Tucson Theatre

In 2005, I got to take a tour of the renovations of the Fox Theatre. The place was pretty torn up, but a few parts were starting to come together. One of the most striking features in the theatre is a massive art deco (or "southwest deco") chandelier that hangs in the middle of a vividly painted ceiling mural. When we did the tour, the chandelier was lowered to ground level for repairs. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get so close to this Tucson icon.

Fox Tucson Theatre

Day #32 - Tucson in summer

Continuing the monsoon theme, here's a shot from 2004. I was visiting a friend and we were in the back yard with the dogs. When the monsoons are here, it's typical for the skies to be absolutely clear in the morning, then a bunch of clouds roll in by the mid-afternoon, then the rains come in the late afternoon, and things clear up until the next day. Summer skies tend to be diffuse and washed out by the strong desert sun, but during monsoon season, everything takes on a rich, sharp tone. The colors pop, and there's a kind of electric undercurrent in the air. I hate the summer heat, but the monsoons are fabulous!

Tucson in summer

Day #31 - Desert tortoise

Ever seen a baby desert tortoise? I housesit for a woman who takes care of several desert tortoises, and this was one of her younger charges. The shadow lines are from a metal grate that was over his enclosure to keep an opportunistic raptor or racoon from stealing a tortoise snack. This little guy ended up crawling out of his enclosure about a year after this picture was taken, wandered around the desert for about 6 months, and finally made his way home. He's got a tracking number on his shell, so they knew it was him when he returned. He's back in his enclosure now, and the family was thrilled he returned. He's a bit bigger now (by a couple of inches), but still quite small.
He used to stretch out to greet me every time I walked by the pen and nearly flipped himself over a few times.

Baby desert tortoise

Day #30 - Sunset

One of the best parts of monsoon season is the incredible sunsets that result from all the moisture in the air. This one was taken from my old front yard (now, sadly, a vast parking lot for an LA Fitness).

Monsoon sunset

Day #29 - Summer monsoons

I just uploaded a tremendous backlog of old photos to my flickr account, so I think I'll draw heavily from those for the next few days. This first one is a shot I took in August of 2004. I had just come home from work and the rain started pouring. We had a metal awning over the carport, and the rattle of raindrops was almost deafening. Wasn't fast enough to pull in the patio chair before it got thoroughly soaked. Whoops!
I love the way all the moisture diffuses the harsh sunlight and suffuses everything with that characteristic late afternoon glow.

Summer monsoon

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day #28 - wildlife

I just walked a few blocks downtown to drop a NetFlix DVD in a mail box and had at least 5 encounters with gorgeous blooming flowers, birds, butterflies, and quite a few examples of human, um...streetlife. Would have been a fabulous time to have my camera with me (alas), but you'll have to settle for this shot from the Botanical Gardens. Can't say as I've ever considered hanging out *on* a cactus before, but this critter seems perfectly content. I miss the "alligators" from my previous house. Not enough open space at the new place to accommodate anything more than the pink geckos that hang out around doorways.

Lizard @ Tucson Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day #27 - XD

I'm not a fan of April Fool's Day, so you get the XD cake today...

XD cake

Monday, March 31, 2008

Day #26 - more blossoms

Continuing the theme, here's another photo from almost the same spot as the previous. I was shooting into a very bright, cloudy sky, so the photo is much darker than it should be, but I love the way the blossoms pop while everything else is darkly shaded.

The obelisk

Day #25 - Spring blooms

Here in Tucson, almost everything blooms in yellow. Trees, flowers, bushes - it's a riot of sneeze-inducing yellow. One of my favorite things about being in the midwest was the vast variety of flowering trees in every shade imaginable. I didn't have a camera with me back then, but I did on my last trip to New York City. Here's a quick snap of a blooming tree in Central Park. This was right behind the obelisk.

Central Park

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day #24 - Lights out

We're doing the lights out for Earth Hour (http://www13.earthhourus.org/) thing right now - yay for computing by candlelight. In light of this (heh heh), today's picture is from this past December's Winterhaven Festival of Lights. Winterhaven is an historic neighborhood in Tucson that goes all out with the holiday decorations every December. Displays run the gamut from religious to silly, and there's always at least a few University of Arizona offerings. This one features Sparky, the AZ State U mascot, on Santa's "naughty" list and Wilbur, the U of A's, on the "nice." This year, the neighborhood received a grant from Tucson Electric Power, the local utility that assists with stringing lights in the tall trees, and most of the public areas were strung with LED lights. They're much crisper and dimmer than conventional incandescent bulbs, so it was a much different Winterhaven than ever before. Still, lights are lights, and it's always a fun time.

The U of A fans  :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day #23 - back to Southern Arizona

All that tromping around Northern AZ got me a little homesick for the sights and sounds around here. We're entering the long, hot, dry summer, but I'm dragging out winter a little longer through photos. This is from January. We were on the road to Bear Canyon and found our way blocked by rapidly rising floodwaters. The clouds were dropping fast onto the tips of the Catalinas and several stranded hikers had to be airlifted out of the various canyons.

Ominous clouds dropping down

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day #22 - Meteor Crater

On Monday, we visited the Meteor Crater site just west of Flagstaff, AZ. They've got a really nice visitor's center and some great museum exhibits. It's quite spectacular. Definitely one to avoid during the hot months!

Meteor Crater

Day #21 - Twin Arrows

I've got a huge soft spot for Route 66, and a particular fascination for both the preservation / revival and the decay you can find along the route. Twin Arrows is one of the most iconic Arizona Route 66 landmarks for me, so I had to hop out of the car and take a few pictures here. It's disheartening to see it in such disrepair, but I guess that's just the way of things these days.

Twin Arrows

Day #20 - Welcome to Arizona!

It doesn't matter how long I've been gone, or how far I've traveled - I always break into a huge grin when I see one of these signs.

Welcome to Arizona!

Day #19 - Easter Sunday

We drove for about 12 hours on Sunday. Started in Clinton, OK and finished in Flagstaff, AZ - stayed on the I-40 the entire way. As we were passing through New Mexico (east of Gallup), this hillside caught my eye. There's a large, whitewashed mission-style church on the hill, and a smattering of ramshackle adobe homes below. Very iconic, very southwestern. So good to be back on familiar turf!

A mission-style church

Day #18 - Everything's bigger in Texas

If you've ever come across the Texas panhandle on the Interstate 40, you've probably seen the gigantic cross between the Oklahoma border and Amarillo, TX. It's enormous and sticks right up out of the prairie. At night, it's lit with garrish neon - I think it's green. It's...um...quite the landmark.

the cross

Day #17 - traveling companions

As I mentioned, I flew up to Iowa to help my best friend move back to Tucson. We left the large pets with her dad (to be flown down later), but had 8 reptiles in the car with us. Saturday night, they all got a warm water soak in the hotel bathroom.

Bearded dragons

Day #16 - Cat vs. AT-ST

Sorry for the absence here - I'm finally getting caught up on internet stuff after being a few days without a connection. Today will be a big picture dump to get things caught up here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning out my closet and came across a shoebox that has all my Star Wars miniature toys. The bf was over and decided to taunt my cat with the toys.

Cat vs. AT-ST

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day #15 - More flowers

I've had a lot of hits on my Picacho Peak hike pictures - especially the wildflowers. Sadly, we got there just before they really started blooming. This picture shows a particularly dense patch of yellow. When things really get going, this is what the entire area looks like.

Picacho Peak hike

I'm going to be playing airplane tag most of tomorrow, and then hitting the road for 4 days, so I may or may not get a chance to update. Hoping for lots of interesting new photos from the road!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day #14 - Spring flowers

I think we're officially done with winter here. The last gasp was the freak snowstorm on Sunday - now we're slated to be in the 80s for the rest of the week. Sigh. Summer heat, here we come. I'm no fan of extreme cold, and I don't think you could pay me enough to move back to the midwest, but I do miss the changing of the seasons. There's something almost magical about trees blooming and green leaves poking through piles of snow. This shot was taken on the grounds of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ in 2005. A light, wet snow started falling as we arrived, and I found these lovely flowers while we were out on the tour. Wish I could have come back in a week to see everything in full bloom.

Spring flowers