Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Tomorrow, September 22, is World CarFree Day and Flagstaff is participating.

A few weeks ago Julie and I took the CarFree pledge which may seem a little strange given that we don't live in the city. We decided to drive to the first bus stop on the east side of the city, park and ride the bus to work. To make this happen we have to leave for work 45 minutes early, park, walk to the bus stop, take the 20 minute ride to the center of town and walk about a mile south to my office and a mile and a half to Julie's office. Julie has a meeting on north campus at 8 AM so her walk will shortened. We could transfer to another bus that stops about 100 yards from my building but walking is more appealing.

I don't enjoy cities. Whenever we see someone wearing a shirt printed with "Allergic to Cities" Julie always comments "there's your shirt". About a year ago I realized why I don't like cities -- traffic, cars, noise, speed, inconsiderate drivers. Limit cities to mass transit, bicycles, skateboards and pedestrians and I think cities would be fine places.

I'm looking forward to this small CarFree adventure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Faulty Memory

The experience wasn't like I remembered.

Yesterday we rode the motorcycle to town, had coffee and a scone and rode out Lake Mary road to Mormon Lake. It was a beautiful ride - good road, yellow wild flowers, a calm lake, blue skies, bobbing ducks, circling vultures, pleasant temperatures, dare-devil squirrels racing across the road -- a perfect ride.

I was riding with my face mask up. We were near the end of Upper Lake Mary when an insect narrowly missed the windshield, barely missed the corner of my glasses and smacked into the tight opening between the side of my face and the helmet. I smiled when it happened because it's happened before. Normally there's just a mass of bug remains to wash from my face and the helmet. This time was different.

I felt a tickle as the bug struggled to move. I held the throttle with my right hand, took off my glasses with my left hand and attempted to scrape the insect out of my helmet by inserting the left ear piece of my glasses into the opening above my right ear. It didn't work. I tried a second time. This pushed the insect down and into my ear where he began to struggle and buzz.

I decided it was time to stop and remove my helmet. Once I had the helmet off I put a finger into my ear to remove the insect. That was a mistake. The first attempt resulted in a sting, the second in the eviction of the bee and the third in the removal of the stinger.

Here's the part that wasn't like what I remembered. I've been stung several times but it's been many years since the last time. A bee sting is a minor thing, a slight pain, a little irritation that lasts for a few minutes. That's what I remembered but that's not what I experienced yesterday. It was more than a slight pain. It lasted for hours before it began to subside. Today my ear is swollen and itches.

There was a curious side effect last night. I put ear buds in both ears to listen to music so Julie could read in silence. I could hear much better out of my right ear. Strange! I switched the ear buds to see if that made a difference. It didn't. I don't think bee venom improves hearing. I think my swollen ear caused the ear bud to fit more snugly and improve the volume.

In the end I have no complaints. It could have been worse. Over the years I've ridden without a windshield and made the mistake of yawning at fifty-plus miles per hour. The impact of a large bug in the back of the throat is memorable. About this my memory isn't faulty.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Three experiences occurred in quick succession. They were neither earth shaking nor unusual but they were pleasant.

I want to take a back packing trip in October. Given our work schedules three days and two nights will be all of the time I can allocate. I'd like the trip to be to a part of the Grand Canyon that I haven't explored. Julie has logged enough miles in the canyon to cause her to opt out of the trip. I've been looking for someone to join me on the trip.

The first of the triplet. Last week in a local natural foods store I ran into Todd who was part of the trip last March. He said he was going to call me this week to suggest lunch so we could discuss another trip. He suggested a spring trip in addition to an October trip. Sounds great to me! Lunch is scheduled for tomorrow.

The second. My son phoned yesterday morning. I hadn't talked with him for three weeks. When I answered the phone his first question was "Have you checked on the Grand Canyon trip for the winter?" We have tossed around the idea of a trip in December, January or February when his work is slow. Our trip together last March was the best time we've had in 20 years. I'm looking forward to more good times with him.

Third. This afternoon I turned on PBS and saw a program about water that focused on the Colorado River. The program included some wonderful video of rafters and kayakers in the canyon. Julie and I have discussed a river trip for the last few years. When the program ended she suggested we invite family to join us on a trip.

I learned a long time ago that life is better with things to anticipate. I have several but these three top my list.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Record Keeping

I've updated my reading list on the right sidebar.

I enjoyed immensely the essays of Richard Sapolsky and went in search of something similar. I found a copy of Oliver Sack's An Anthropologist on Mars. This experience sent me in search of something similar to Sack's writing. A search of the local library led me to Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by V. S. Ramachandran. This was another fascinating book.

A co-worker suggested Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas. While in a used book store in Santa Fe in June I found a copy. The $60 price caused me to put the book back on the shelf. Last month the co-worker came to my office with gifts. She gave me two books by Thomas: The Fragile Species and A Long Line of Cells. (As we talked I learned she had paid $1 for her copy of Lives of a Cell Did I misread the $60 price or was it a rare or autographed copy?)

Recently I attended a gardening conference. Author David Wann was one of the keynote speakers. I purchased a copy of Simple Prosperity which he autographed to Julie.

While in Santa Fe I purchased one book that is out of my comfort zone. In a used item store I risked fifty cents on a book of fiction. It was on the night stand by our bed for over two months before I forced myself to begin reading it. I don't enjoy fiction for some reason. I was determined to read it and started it with misgivings in a effort to stay flexible as I age. 21 Great Stories is a compilation of short stories by Guy de Maupassant, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, Jack London, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany and others. Some of the stories (London's To Build a Fire, Stockton's The Lady or the Tiger,Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart) I read almost 50 years ago. Long ago I read a few volumes by Mark Twain and enjoyed each of them but What Stumped the Bluejays is new to me. The book has been a surprise. I'm enjoying it. Thus far Wine on the Desert by Max Brand is my favorite.

Bookmans, the Flagstaff used book store that was destroyed by the snow storm last January, is being rebuilt and is scheduled to be open later this fall. By the time I finish the four volumes that I have on hand the store will be open and I'll be off in search of new material.

After finishing graduate school I resumed reading for pleasure. Using three by five index cards I kept a bibliography of each book. In the subsequent years I would flip through the cards and briefly experience again the pleasure of each book.

After several years I began keeping a calendar. I recorded good experiences -- miles walked each day, movies enjoyed, hikes completed and other enjoyable activities.

For a few years I maintained a photo gallery on a university server. I was surprised to learn it was among the top sites for daily hits. Life got busy and I got behind on posting photos. The server was upgraded and the software that managed the gallery was broken by the upgrade and stopped functioning. I have yet to take time to find the cause and repair it.

This blog has become my main means of record keeping of pleasant experiences.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Potatoes have been dug and the results weighed. Seventy one pounds.

Last spring I bought three varieties of seed potatoes -- four Cranberry, four Mountain Rose and four Purple Majesty -- a total of twelve potatoes.

All of the potatoes were planted in the same bed and each plant was watered by similar dippers. As they grew Mountain Rose were shortest and Cranberry the tallest. The Cranberry tops looked the healthiest. Rather than heeling them with soil I mulched them with straw and added more straw as they grew taller.

Cranberry Potatoes.

Cranberry Potatoes.

Cranberry did the best. We dug 32 pounds of Cranberry and a combined total of 39 pounds of Purple Majesty and Mountain Rose. Purple Majesty produced the fewest and the smallest. Cranberry was consistently the largest.

It was more enjoyable digging Cranberry and Mountain Rose than Purple Majesty. The purples were almost black, close to the color of the damp soil. The red potatoes stood out in brilliant contrast to the soil and added a sense of excitement and wonder, a touch of the miraculous as I pulled each plant out of the ground.

Next year I'll plant Cranberry and try two new varieties.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I was behind schedule upon getting out of bed. As I walked the sun came over the eastern hill and I needed a cap and sun glasses because I was late. Breakfast felt a little rushed. Julie and I were taking separate vehicles because I have a late obligation this evening. Two days ago I picked up a load of water and left the trailer connected so I had to unhook it which required a few additional minutes. When I got into the car I smelled a faint odor of a dead mouse coming from the air conditioner vents -- a risk I took by not parking close to the house and the cats. Two and one-half miles into the drive to work I realized I had left an item at home that I will need for a meeting tonight so I had to turn back. When I got on my way again I pulled into heavier traffic than normal. The speed limit is 50 but traffic was doing 65 and 70.

About three miles from home there is spot where the road is slightly elevated above an area of several hundred acres. For several days I've enjoyed the yellow flowers covering the field. They are beginning to fade slightly but continue to be beautiful.

Garden harvest.
Later Summer Flowers.

On an impulse I pulled out of the rushing traffic, climbed a fence and took several photos. The rest of my trip was enjoyable. I arrived for work 30 minutes later than planned but the morning was good.