January 08, 2005
The weather the past couple of days in Tucson has been cool, but at the same time, when compared to Minnesota weather, it has been beautiful. There have been more clouds than usual, but that has made for some spectacular sunsets. I will share pictures of a couple of them when I get to a faster connection.
Two days ago, my father’s high school roomate (Dad attended high school at the Agriculture College, the “AC” in Crookston) took Lance and I out for dinner. Elmer has traveled extensively, and he showed us just a few of his pictures from around the world. He just moved to Tucson from the midwest last spring, and seems to be enjoying the city.
Yesterday morning, I had my annual Tucson meeting with Jim, a retired man originally from North Dakota who is working on a novel. We talk about writing and exchange ideas. I think we met four years ago at the Barnes and Noble cafe, and have returned to that same cafe once per year for a visit.
Yesterday noon, Lance and I were taken to a nice lunch by Rose, a delightful woman we sat next to on the plane from Minneapolis to Tucson. She is a school psychologist, originally from Michigan, who discovered Tucson when she came to college here. She left once for a year, and came hustling back. She and her husband are now building a home.
After parting with Rose, we went for a short hike. The skies were clouding over, and it gets uncomfortably cool in a hurry without the sun, so it wasn’t long before we skedaddled to Barnes and Noble for a few hours.
Hanging out at Barnes and Noble, particularly my favorite Barnes and Noble in north Tucson, is one of my favorite pass times. I could list twenty books I found yesterday that I would like to read, and probably would read in a hurry if I had a Barnes and Noble near my home.
My dream is to have a Barnes and Noble near my house. I would go there a couple of hours every evening to read. I love the atmosphere. I like the sense of a book-reading community one gets with all the people sitting around in comfy chairs reading.
Last night, we went out to hear a jazz pianist/singer I have heard before in Tucson.
Today, we make a quick run up to Phoenix to visit a high school buddy. He and his wife adopted three babies from the former Soviet Union four years ago. Their household is never dull.
And tomorrow, we jump on the plane and head for home far too soon. Scruffy, loveable Tucson sucked me in again. I don’t want to leave.
January 06, 2005
At the Desert Museum, the zoo animals were contained in cave and canyon-like structures which looked quite real. When we got off the well-beaten path a bit, we found out that the rocks weren't exactly natural.
Below, a view from Gate's Pass, west of Tucson city, but still within the city limits. To the west is a less-populated valley.
Today, the weather got a little colder. I am at a Barnes and Noble where, for a ridiculous price, you can log on to wireless internet, which is ridiculously fast.
Here is a closeup of a saguaro cactus at the Desert Museum. Because of the recent ample moisture in Arizona, the cacti are all quite swollen. The corrugations of this saguaro are stretched to the maximum.
The cactus below showed up better on the screen than it did with the naked eye. One fun aspect of these digital cameras is that you can blow up the photo quite easily and see things in the photo that you couldn't see with the eye.
Here is Lance changing lenses on his 1972 Minolta camera. His brand new Nikon D-70 digital was left behind in the car. Lance isn't on good terms with his digital camera yet.
January 05, 2005
Despite the storms which are pummeling most of the country, including Arizona, today was a typical Tucson day. Sunny. Mid-sixties. Only gentle breezes, at least where we traveled.
We went first to Gate’s Pass, west of the city, a favorite place for locals to see the sunset. Tucson’s main drag, Speedway Drive, runs fifteen miles through the city and ends up climbing a small mountain range at the west end of town. At the stop is a viewing area with a parking lot and a place for climbing. The vista over the top of the range to the west is stunning.
After Gate’s Pass, we went to the Desert Museum. The Desert Museum is a combination zoo and botanical garden, and is ranked as one of the great attractions of its sort in the country. By the time we got there, the weather had cleared.
We saw bobcats, birds, ocelots, parrots, javelina--dozens of animals indigenous to the Sonoran desert. Lance took three rolls of film, and I took sixty shots with the digital cam. I will try to post some tomorrow if we can figure out a faster connection.
Then we went back down the valley. When the sunset promised to be spectacular, we drove the pumpkin-mobile up to the base of the Catalina range to a trailhead in a ritzy residential area. It was quiet, and the sunset didn’t disappoint. I took another 40 pictures, and would be happy if one turns out.
We ended up at a sushi bar for supper. I have had only tame versions of sushi in the past. This time, what arrived was a plate full of slabs of raw fish, undisguised by veggies and rice. Raw fish.
You were supposed to mix soy sauce in a little bowl with wasabi, a green horseradish paste, use your chopsticks to pick up the slippery raw fish, dip it in the soy/wasabi mix, and eat it. The waitress was kind enough to inform us in her broken Engrish that it didn’t matter how we looked while doing it.
It was pretty good, and now, one hour later, I am still standing. Or sitting, as the case may be. I suspect if sushi were truly hazardous, we would hear in the news about some bad sushi going around. So far, it feels much less filling than the average Mexican meal.
Speaking of which, the other day, the two of us had a breakfast at a fast-food Mexican place for under $5. Each huge breakfast burrito was $1.95, and it came with free coffee. Inside the burrito were enough eggs, ham and cheese to make a good sized omelette.
Today, we exercised enough to feel like we worked for the big meals.
So how is the weather back there then?
January 04, 2005
Brrr. People in fur coats with collars up. The temperature is 54 degrees, plus there is a windchill resulting from the 35 mph winds.
Several storms are passing through. Rainstorms, though, nothing too serious. It still is better to be in Tucson than in Minnesota, where I heard it was 18 degrees below zero this morning.
Lance and I met with Ron, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and a regular reader of this weblog, as well as his wife and baby girl last night for supper. Today, he showed us around his lab at the U of A.
Ron is involved with a satellite project. He is helping to build a satellite which will be launched in the next year. We saw a model today. It is barely six inches square.
Last year, I reported on a project which sent a spacecraft to collect some specks of comet dust which would be brought back to earth to be analyzed. I had talked to one of the scientists who was preparing a lab to receive approximately 10 specks of said comet dust.
It was apparently on the news, but I missed it until Ron informed me of it last evening: the spacecraft carrying the comet dust crashed. One of the chutes didn't open. They are still trying to recover some of the samples, but it is unlikely that any of them will be uncompromised by the trauma of the accident.
The University of Arizona landed a $350 million project to explore the polar regions of Mars. Of course, some of the money is spent elsewhere, but a good chunk is spent right here in Arizona.
For political reasons, it is good to have part of each grant spent in each state of the Union. Makes it easier to get through Congress.
WITH THE rain in Tucson, we have been hanging out at bookstores and furniture stores. I think I found a chair that I must have for a specific place in the house. It is a good deal, but would cost $75 to ship to MN. Not bad. I will think on it over night.
Now I am sitting at the University of Arizona library, surfing the net. It was sort of a surprise to see my picture of the Mitey Mac incident displayed on Ron's computer. Such are the wonders of the web.
January 03, 2005
Greetings from Tucson. Our plane was delayed from 6 pm to 6 am, and we got into Tucson an hour late, but who cares. It is beautiful here. Tucson is as ever, and it is a relief--almost a guilty pleasure--to arrive here after only a few hours of travel, instead of the usual three days of driving.
It rained in Tucson this afternoon. It looks like possible rain for much of the week. However, that isn't a big deal. It is in the sixties. People are wearing scarves, and we sat next to a lady at the restaurant this afternoon who was wearing a fur coat.
Tucson has the trappings of urban life: Sirens, traffic, people with very concerned looks on their faces over something or other. It also has hundreds of coffee shops and nooks and crannies and artsy places and restaurants.
I have only the slowest of internet connections, so I won't be able to upload pictures until we find a fast connection. The first picture I would like to include is the pumpkin-mobile, a pumpkin-orange Pontiac Gran Prix we were given as a rental car. I have never seen a color like it. It will help in the parking lots. When I drive an unfamiliar vehicle, I often find myself wandering parking lots looking for my Ford Ranger--until I finally remember that it is back in Minnesota. With the pumpkin-mobile, that shouldn't be a problem. I will run across it and say, "who in the world would drive a car like that?" and then realize it is me.