Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fascinating Tucson, Part Two

For the other three parts of this (one in Musings, two at the Outpost, click below:

Intro, Climate

In Musings: The Desert

Outpost: History and Culture

This is going to be a "fast and dirty" entry so that I can go to bed. Tucson is surrounded by four sets of mountains:

North: The Catalinas.

After lunch, the clouds start to vanish.

This is where Mount Lemmon is, with Summerhaven at the top. My very first
Round Robin Photo Challenges entry was a series on a trip up Mount Lemmon. (Speaking of which, the next Round Robin topic is "Nostalgia." Click the link for details.)

Molino Basin

Here is a shot at Molino Basin, about a quarter of the way up Mt. Lemmon Highway. The habitats at different elevations are called "sky islands," because they represent distinct ecosystems that are separate from surrounding areas. You'll find different species of birds among the aspen pines beyond Summerhaven than what you'll see in the trees at Molino.

More on Mount Lemmon:

Diary of a Day Trip, Part One

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Two

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Three

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Four

East: The Rincons

The Rincons are similar to the Catalinas, but shorter and undeveloped (i.e., no roads or houses on them). They are part of Saguaro National Park East. Colossal Cave is at the Rincon end of town.

South: The Santa Ritas.

These are a bit farther away than the others, down below the airport and Davis-Monthan AFB, toward Green Valley and including Madera Canyon. There was a fire in the Santa Ritas in 2005.

West: The Tucson Mountains

The Tucsons are very different from the other three ranges, looking like a bunch of piled rocks more than anything else. (Southern California has many mountains like these.) We used to live in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. The range separates Tucson from the Avra Valley, where the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Old Tucson are, and where Saguaro National Park West is. The most spectacular way from the city to Old Tucson is across Gates Pass, a steep, scary, winding road with a great scenic lookout at the top. The photo is of my dad in Gates Pass in 2005.


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Friday, August 25, 2006

Fascinating Tucson, Part One

Your Weekend Assignment #126: What is the most interesting thing about where you live? "Thing" in this case would be a famous landmark, a famous current celebrity or historical personage from your home town or county, a notable celebration or sports event -- basically, anything that makes where you're from interesting and unique.

Extra Credit: Are there any books that feature your home town (or someplace nearby) in any way?

THE most interesting thing about Tucson?  I don't think I can pick one thing. (Big surprise, huh?)  I will tell you right off the bat that it's not Flandrau Planetarium, the Diamondback bridge or the statue of Padre Kino. Nor is it the fact that Lee Marvin lived here, John Dillinger was once captured here and Linda McCartney died here.  Some Tucsonans might point to the University of Arizona basketball team, but I don't watch basketball. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the largest in the country, but I don't care. No, no.  None of the suggested ways for a place to be interesting are even in the running as reasons I find Tucson interesting.

As far as I'm concerned, Tucson is most notable for the following:

  • The desert, including the critters, the cacti, the washes, etc.
  • The mountains that surround the city
  • The climate, so different from the Syracuse weather I grew up with
  • The history and culture of the place

As an experiment, I'm going to write about two of these at the Outpost, and the other two in Musings. Each of the bullet points above will have its own entry, one per blog per night.

The Desert

When we first came to Tucson in 1986, we fell in love with the desert here. It was full of interesting new birds like pyrrhuloxias and phainopeplas, curve-billed thrashers (like the one shown here) and brown towhees, and fun mammals such as coyotes and javalinas. We learned about rivers that only have visible water when it rains, and riparian habitats where water supports trees and certain kinds of birds.  We found out that a palo verde is a tree with green bark and yellow blossoms, and how an ocotillo looks very different during a rainy season (such as the monsoon) than the rest of the year. And we learned that when it starts to rain at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, getting under a ramada may not protect you much. A ramada is basically a roof for providing shade, and sometimes it's made of saguaro ribs (the sticks inside a saguaro cactus that hold it up) laid side by side.  That's good for shade, but it doesn't do much to block precipitation, when there is any.

A very green patch of desert in March 2004, across from the Target on Grant Rd.

Yeah, we liked the desert a lot. About two weeks after we got here, we bought a house in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, where the desert was in our back yard.  We had saguaros and sagebrush and palo verde trees, coyotes and tortoises and javalinas and over 50 species of birds.  I like the house we're in now, but I really miss having the desert out my door.

Toward the bottom of Mount Lemmon, March 2005

On the Outpost: Climate

Tomorrow night: Mountains.


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Silly Self Portraits

In honor of AOL-J Land's three-year Anniversary (and yes, I know I'm late), I'm going to revive this journal, the first blog I ever had, and post the Monday Photo Shoot here, seeing as how I never did actually leave AOL.  I'm still paying for it, and will continue to do so until we get the computers networked to the cable modem.  Despite my angry words of nine months ago, I may as well get some use out of poor old Musings.  So:  here we go! This week it's from Joe instead of John:

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a photo that shows you with your camera. A mirror or other reflective surface would probably help here.

Also, tell us a little about your camera, and how you use it.

Self Portrait, Take One

Same photo, crayon effect, color boosted and midtones lightened.

Color saturated, high contrast

Spiral effect

Whirlpool effect

Take Two: no flash

Ghoul effect. A moldy oldie from 2004.

Captured by aliens!

Dalek effect. August 2005.

Since you ask, Joe, I'm pretty hard on my camera, and use it almost daily.  The lens cover doesn't close well and I have no case for it, but I put it in my pocket or my purse anyway.  I'm sure the motor on the lens and whatever is supposed to open the iris have been messed up since I got the camera in early March, but it's been getting worse.  A good cleaning might help - a little.  It's a Nikon Coolpix P1, with 8.0 megapixels, a 3.5x zoom (which didn't work as of yesterday), and WiFi, which is more than my computer has.  I researched this camera when my Canon broke.  It would have been a great deal, had it not been defective.  I didn't want to believe there was something wrong with the camera until it was too late to return it.  Darn it.

The ghoul shot shows the Sony Mavica, which was our first digital camera.  One of the reasons it's so big, aside from the fact that it's a fairly early digital, is that it stores its photos on - wait for it - floppy disks!  If I send off the Nikon for servicing, that's what I'll be stuck with for a camera until I get the Nikon back.

The Dalek shot (the Dalek covers up the camera) was taken with the Canon, the one that doesat the end of February.  It was a good camera while it lasted, but then it started freezing up, and suddenly it was gone.


See also: My Year In and Out of J-Land
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