Thursday, August 27, 2009

Almost Over

Summer is almost over. In the last six months we traveled to North Carolina to visit my sister and brother-in-law and to Colorado to meet Julie's cousin, sister and spouses for an annual reunion. Julie's family visited twice and my daughter and grandsons came. Their visit included a trip to San Diego.

My son visited last week for seven days. On the first day we did some motorcycle maintenance and picked up a trailer load of materials. Later in the week we picked up a second trailer load of materials. It was work but it was enjoyable since we haven't worked together for many years.

Motorcycle Ride.
Riding near Flagstaff. (Larger version)

One of the most enjoyable things we did together was riding. As we stopped at a traffic signal he pulled up beside me and commented "It's enjoyable riding alone but it better to ride with someone." I agreed. Definitely, it was better.

The night before he left we sat on the deck in the dark talking. In many ways that was the best. No activity. No noise. No distractions. Just sitting and talking.

Summer is almost over but Julie and I are planning a four day road trip on the motorcycle through southern Utah for Labor Day weekend.

This has been the busiest summer that we've had in years but it's been good

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not Playing Nice

They're back!

I found five comments that were posted by an automated process. The computer program took one sentence from a comment on post 1 then posted it as a comment on post 2 with a signature block that contained a hyperlink to a website. Next, it took a comment from post 2 and used it to add a comment on post 3 with the same hyperlink. The text on the hyperlink didn't relate to the website so it appears this program has been used to implement other scams. Ironically, the signature was 'Julie'.

The intent -- to lure people who cannot manage manage and people who have no funds to apply for a loan at terms that would further harm their financial position while benefiting the unethical, free enterprise, capitalistic, entrepreneurs. (Hmm? Four negative adjectives/nouns in a row.)

I've deleted the comments because they are not playing nice.

automated spam comment.
An automated spam comment.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Recently I failed to respond to some questions. Forgive my slowness.

Melody asked "What is a 'cinder bug'?" in response to Garden Report.

"Cinder bug" is a local name for a species of Darkling Beetle. I attempted to identify the specie but abandoned my efforts after discovering there are over 12,000 species world wide. I learned there are over 300 species in Texas so I assume there are probably 200 or more in Arizona. I found one article published by the University of Arizona that matches our experience.

Our first summer in Flagstaff we left a door open a few inches so the cat had access to a second story balcony. I saw one fly all summer and thought Flagstaff was a paradise for escaping insects. The first summer after we moved to our current location we had a plague of beetles. The first night we vacuumed scores from the walls and ceilings.

They are a type of stink bug. Touch them and they secrete an unpleasant fluid. Julie and I have a cup of hot tea and a one inch square of chocolate on most evenings. Last summer I ate my chocolate while reading. I noticed a small crumb I had missed so I absent mindedly picked it up and bit it in half. Chocolate isn't supposed to be crunchy nor taste like a darkling beetle smells. I don't recommend them for snacks.

THE Michael left a second question on Garden Report. He asked "Just how thick ARE those timbers?" in reference to a photo of one raised bed.

I bought the timbers on Craigslist from a man who built a house and had extras. Most of the timers were 12 and 14 feet long and measured 8 inches by 12 inches. I split them length wise so the answer is 4 inches. I don't remember what I paid for them but I do remember one odd timber. He told me it was a 6 by 6 about 16 feet long. I took a trailer that is 10 feet in length and discovered the odd timber was actually 20 feet long. I paid $10 for this one beam.

Anvilcloud wrote the following on Hot! Hot! Hot!: "I am not understanding the border issue. You didn't cross in and out of Mexico did you?"

No, we never entered Mexico. Along the southern parts of the country the Border Patrol has several road blocks. Interstate 8, which we took, is close to the Mexican border and at a couple points it's possible to see the fence that separates the two countries. At one road block there was a sign that listed the number of illegal aliens detained in 2008, the quantity of drugs seized and the number of felons arrested. I did a few assumptions and a little mental arithmetic and came to the conclusion that it probably cost several hundred thousand dollars per illegal alien.

Finally, on Garden Ride I found this from MojoMan: "I hope you'll post on 'Blue Zones'."

I did consider writing a review of each book I read. Give me a few days and I'll write about Blue Zones.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekend Report

I have a sedentary job and look to the weekends for most of my physical activity and low stress activities. This past weekend was extremely healthy.

Over the weekend Julie and I made progress on converting our solar closet into a utility room. After one year of experience I realized two things. First, the solar closet wasn't needed; the sun room provides enough heat for the house. Second, the room was designed according to my research but the design wasn't the best. The idea of converting the closet into a utility room was Julie's idea. Since I'm basically lazy with low motivation I've learned from experience to listen to her suggestions. She pitched the idea a few weeks ago and we began making plans.

Last weekend we removed two pieces of siding and framed an exterior doorway, emptied the room and poured a small concrete slab to support the water pump and pressure tank. This weekend we removed one insulated wall that is no longer needed, moved the water pump and poured a concrete floor using crushed glass. Demolition of the wall took longer than I expected. When I built the wall two years ago I put too much effort into the design and construction.

I own a concrete/mortar mixer. I'm surprised by the amount of pleasure I get out of working with concrete -- planning, gathering materials, setup of a work area, layout, mixing, pouring, finishing, clean up. I move materials to the work area and Julie does the mixing and quality control. When she's ready I place a large wheelbarrow under the mixer and she dumps the batch. I pour the concrete and return for another batch. We can complete a yard in about four hours.

Small forest fire.
A small forest fire was burning in the hills. (Larger version)

On Friday evening after we finished for the day we drove about five miles toward town to check on a small forest fire. I had been watching the smoke for a few days and, if it's the fire I think it is, the forest service had been monitoring it and letting it burn. Late last week the weather changed. Cloudy afternoons with small breezes turned into sustained winds, cloudless skies and bright sun. The smoke from the fire increased. Fortunately, the smoke was blowing about three miles north of our house. After the winds subsided the smoke lessened and the fire seemed much smaller.

During a break on Saturday I checked Craigslist and found about 1,200 square feet of corrugated metal for sale. That evening we took the trailer, checked on the metal, decided it was what we wanted and bought it. We'll use the metal for a project that we're planning for next spring.

Garden bugs.
Bugs eating a rutabaga leaf. The have done almost no damage to the garden. (Larger version)

The change in the weather had an unexpected benefit. On Saturday morning the temperatures dropped to 36 degrees. Sunday morning was warmer at 40 degrees. As a result of the wind, cold temperatures and drying effect of the sun the population of cinder bugs in the garden plummeted. We still have thousands but only a fraction of what was there earlier in the week. On Sunday morning I checked the garden and saw several "dead" bugs on a leaf. I took three of them to the kitchen, placed them on the counter, one belly down, one belly up and one on it's side, to take a photo to help me identify them. People call them cinder bugs and band aid bugs because they have a scent similar to band aids. As I took photos one moved, then the second and suddenly the third. They were cold but not dead.

I was curious on Saturday morning at the reaction of the hummingbirds to the sudden drop in temperature. We keep six feeders filled and have about 40 resident birds. The birds didn't appear to notice the cool weather. They were just as busy as normal.

I enjoy our weekends. They are a mixture of work, relaxation and recreation.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Garden Report

The garden continues to do fairly well.

We planted white, blue and sweet Hopi corn. Julie planted one side of each bed and I planted the other. We have a good stand of white corn, a fair stand of blue corn and a poor stand of sweet corn. Much of the sweet corn didn't germinate. I can't tell a difference between what I planted and what Julie planted.

One garden bed.
This garden bed is 20 feet by 4 feet. It contains Cosmos, squash, kohlrabi, tomatoes and four varieties of peppers. (Larger version)

The germination rate for the salsify and parsnips wasn't excellent so next year I'll try a couple ideas in hopes of better rates.

I bought one cucumber plant and it struggled for a few weeks and died. I couldn't identify a cause. It had adequate water, didn't exhibit signs of sunburn and showed no obvious symptoms as to the cause. I'm not a big fan of cucumbers but I'll try one or two again next year just to accept the challenge.

This is the first time I've raised kohlrabi. It's definitely a keeper. Next year I'm going to plant three varities. (Larger version)

In June I hauled more water than usual but not an unmanageable amount nor at an unreasonable cost. Since the monsoon season has begun we're doing little watering. We haven't had a big rain but we have received several small showers. A combination of mulch, showers and cloudy afternoons has kept the soil moist.

Unfortunately, we have encountered one unexpected problem due to moisture. Each summer we have a short period when cinder bugs are an irritation. We've done a few things and manage to keep them out of the house but the garden is home to thousands upon thousands. Thus far they have done little damage.

Tomato Horn Worm.
I've found only one tomato horn worm but, there's evidence that more are hidden in the plants. Their camouflage is excellent. (Larger version)

Recently we moved a russian sage, some day lilies and some bearded irises to the garden. The sage didn't need protection but rabbits were feasting on the lilies and irises. I've been extremely happy with the garden fence. It's keeping the rabbits out. I've seen only one squirrel inside the fence.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Yet Another Memory

"A hit on my blog from Taiwan! Interesting!"

Part of the enjoyment of maintaining a blog is watching hits from around the world.

Two days later there was a second hit from the same IP address in Taiwan. That piqued my curiosity more. A few days later I checked my email and found several comments on old posts. The comments were in Chinese.

Something isn't right. Why would anyone post Chinese on an English blog?

I took a few of the Chinese symbols and entered them into a Chinese to English translation web page. The first translation was innocuous.
免费 transliterates as miǎnfèi and means free of charge
The next translation didn't fall into the innocuous category.
情 transliterates as sèqíng and means erotic or pornographic
I was not pleased. I deleted the comments.

But, this experience did bring back a memory from my childhood. My mother had a small autograph book with wooden front and back covers held together by a ribbon. It was filled with notes and autographs from people she met during World War II. One comment was written in Chinese. I asked her what it meant and she said she didn't know. If I remember correctly, it was written by a co-worker in an aircraft factory in Niagara Falls where she worked for a short period of time. It would be interesting to have it translated.

So... to my sisters. Do either of you have the book? If so, take a photo of the page and send it to me. My immediate supervisor at work is Chinese. I'll ask her to translate it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Who Is That?

I look out at the world and feel 30 and life is good. But, then I see a photo of myself and ask "who is that old man?". I don't feel as old as the photo makes me look. How did that happen?

Bald head.
Julie took a photo of a new kitten and I happened to be in the background. I cut this image from her photo.

I'm don't mind being bald; in fact,I prefer it but I never anticipated being bald. When I was a teenager I didn't see bald uncles or older cousins who were bald so I assumed I would always have a full head of hair.

My father thinned a little in the crown of his head and I have good memories of that time. More than once my older sister, Jean, would walk behind the chair in which my father was sitting and would start laughing. She would rub the crown of his head and tell him he was going bald. He always returned the teasing comment with a smile and some playful response. I'm sure his example made it easy to first accept my loss of hair.

I don't care that I'm bald. I don't have to look at myself, I don't have to comb my hair and I save money on shampoo. Most importantly, Julie doesn't mind.

I may be bald and look old but inside I still feel 30.