Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday morning. Almost live. "Border-ness."

Ahhh.....Saturday morning. Coffee on the patio...
Minutiae, courtesy of cell-phone photo:

(think of it as an 'ad,' trying to convince our friends to come visit Tucson in January/February, rather than just a gratuitous use of cell-phone-camera capabilities...Venez nous voir! Vengan!)
My wife works, several Fridays a month, at the hospital down in Nogales, on the border.
The border-ness of it gets reconfirmed each time, in little ways.

For example,
well, first of all--my wife speaks in Spanish to almost all of the patients.
Even the Chinese nurse speaks Spanish.
Virgen de Guadalupe images abound. (It's a Catholic Hospital.)
Ladies come around to sell home-made tortillas, and even 'sheescake.'
A co-worker has told her about acquaintances and family-of-friends who have been victim to the increasing drug-cartel-related violence on the Mexican side.
The older female patients call my wife, not 'Miss' or even 'Señorita,' but rather "mija." ('mija' is a shortened form of 'mi hija,' Spanish for 'my daughter.')

And that's it for this Saturday morning, typing here--the first time I've sat
on the patio with the laptop...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday hike: Bridal Wreath Falls

An 8-mile hike today: first (minor) sunburn of the year under a perfect January sky.

By coincidence, the hike that a friend and I did today included the same trail that was featured in today's Tucson paper.
As we hiked back down to the car in the early afternoon, there was quite a bit of foot traffic; fortunately our morning ascent was less crowded.

The "waterfall" was more of a trickle today, but still--any flowing water in the desert is a welcome diversion...

Yeah, yeah, so maybe a bit 'underwhelming.' Perhaps, with some more snowmelt later in the winter, the trickle will increase to a more photogenic "falls."

As to be expected within a section of Saguaro National Park, there are the occasional whimsical cactus deformities:

After stopping at the falls, we decided to continue for another mile or so, up past the cactus zone, (saguaros stop growing at about 4000 feet above sea level), into the grassland/juniper zone of the Rincon Mountains. From there, you can get an excellent view over the entire city of Tucson, with its straight avenues converging on the Tucson mountains to the west:
Back at the trailhead parking lot, this bumper sticker caught our eye:
This afternoon, my wife was running an errand at Costco--braving the weekend crowds. While in one of the checkout lines, she was slightly disturbed by the remark the guy behind her made. They were waiting to pay, and the lady in front of my wife was paying with a check. A bit anachronistic, yes, but not ridiculously time-consuming...but just enough to annoy the guy behind Sara, to inspire him to say "People who still write checks at the checkout should be shot."
Really? Are we that in a hurry that an extra thirty to forty seconds spent waiting to pay is worth pulling out a gun--even if it's just 'kidding'? The guy's son then asked, "what'd you say, Dad?" "Oh, nothing..."
we just watched the 1953 Hitchcock film "I Confess," filmed in Quebec city...
Anyone seen it? It's one of his 'minor classics'...but one of the most interesting films we'd seen in a while...
And just wondering--
who out there has read the novel "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel?
I just finished re-reading it. (I'm using it with an 'independent study' student of mine--I'm having him read the novel in French...)
Lifeboat. Boy. Tiger. Allegory. Won the Booker prize a few years ago...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Geographical Word-fun. Courtesy of the UK...(and today's

(this is a "reprint" from an article that I found during today's lunch-break.
I couldn't resist...)

A church at Pratts Bottom, a village in Kent, England. Britain is dotted with ancient place names that, with the passage of time, have become fodder for the snickering classes. ( Hazel Thompson for The New York Times)

Britain's snigger-worthy place names
By Sarah Lyall
Friday, January 23, 2009

CRAPSTONE, England: When ordering things by telephone, Stewart Pearce tends to take a proactive approach to the inevitable question: "What is your address?"

He lays it out straight, so there is no room for unpleasant confusion. "I say, 'It's spelled 'crap,' as in crap,"' said Pearce, 61, who has lived in Crapstone, a one-shop country village in Dartmoor, for decades.
Disappointingly, Pearce has so far been unable to parlay such delicate encounters into material gain, as a neighbor once did.

"Crapstone," the neighbor said forthrightly, whereupon the person on the other end of the telephone repeated it to his co-workers and burst out laughing. "They said, 'Oh, we thought it didn't really exist,"' Pearce related, "and then they gave him a free something."

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worchestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with the efforts of residents to appear dignified when, for example, opening bank accounts.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatorial humor, particularly if the word "bottom" is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because "prat" is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

"It's pronounced 'PENNIS-tone,"' Fiona Moran, manager of the Old Vicarage Hotel in Penistone, said over the telephone, rather sharply. When forced to spell her address for outsiders, she uses misdirection, separating the tricky section into two blameless parts: "p-e-n" - pause - "i-s-t-o-n-e."

Several months ago, Lewes District Council in East Sussex tried to address the problem of inadvertent place-name titillation by saying that "street names which could give offense" would no longer be allowed on new roads.
"Avoid esthetically unsuitable names," like Gaswork Road, the council decreed. Also, avoid "names capable of deliberate misinterpretation," like Hoare Road, Typple Avenue, Quare Street and Corfe Close.

(What is wrong with Corfe Close, you might ask? The guidelines mention the hypothetical residents of No.4, with their unfortunate hypothetical address, "4 Corfe Close.")

The council explained that it was only following guidelines set out by the national government and that it did not intend to change any existing lewd names.

Still, news of the revised policy raised an outcry.

"Sniggering at double entendres is a loved and time-honored tradition in this country," Carol Midgley wrote in The Times of London. Alluding to a slang word for "idiot," she added: "Half the reason for traveling to the Orkney Islands is to get your photo taken next to the road sign for Twatt."

Ed Hurst, a co-author, with Rob Bailey, of "Rude Britain" and "Rude UK," which list arguably offensive place names - some so arguably offensive that, unfortunately, they cannot be printed here - said that many such communities were established hundreds of years ago and that their names were not rude at the time.

"Place names and street names are full of history and culture, and it's only because language has evolved over the centuries that they've wound up sounding rude," Hurst said in an interview.

Bailey, who grew up on Tumbledown Dick Road in Oxfordshire, and Hurst got the idea for the books when they read about a couple who bought a house on Butt Hole Road, in South Yorkshire.

The name most likely has to do with the spot's historic function as a source of water, a water butt being a container for collecting water. But it proved to be prohibitively hilarious.

"If they ordered a pizza, the pizza company wouldn't deliver it, because they thought it was a made-up name," Hurst said. "People would stand in front of the sign, pull down their trousers and take pictures of each other's naked buttocks."

The couple moved away.

The people in Crapstone have not had similar problems, though their sign is periodically stolen by word-loving merrymakers. And their village became a stock joke a few years ago, when a television advertisement featuring the prone-to-swearing soccer player Vinnie Jones showed Jones's car breaking down just under the Crapstone sign.

In the commercial, Jones tries to alert the towing company to his location while covering the sign and trying not to say "crap" in front of his young daughter.

Jacqui Anderson, a doctor in Crapstone who used to live in a village called Horrabridge, which has its own issues, said that she no longer thinks about the "crap" in "Crapstone."

Still, when strangers ask where she's from, she admitted, "I just say I live near Plymouth."

Monday, January 19, 2009

tomorrow's important, but...
(comic/hiking photos/mid-20th-c. history/Hirabayashi/conscientious objectors/mountain highway)

So, tomorrow is The Inauguration. There are quasi-messianic airs about it.

I wonder, (as a high-school-teacher), how many teenagers will be following the day's events, and if so, how many of them will be multitasking as they do so: I thought the above cartoon from yesterday's paper summed up nicely the vastly different way that today's under-25-crowd takes in information...

...and how many of the over-25-crowd find it weird? or normal?
Are YOU a 'digital native,' or a 'digital immigrant?'

I had today off, so I introduced a friend to Mount Lemmon.

This friend, although having lived here for three years now, had never taken the Catalina Highway up to its 9000-ft. end. So I took him up the road...

Despite the temperatures being in the mid-40's, a bit of snow remains on top...

...including enough for the ski resort to be in operation, even though the high just down the road in Tucson today was 80 (!) degrees...

Speaking of the weather, incidentally--my recent small thrill this past week was that I had a photo "published" on one of the local TV stations' evening news ( ; I didn't even see it, but a friend alerted my wife that she had seen a 'weather photo' with my name on TV! I'm not sure exactly which photo it was, but it was one of the ones I posted in the previous blog entry, showing San Xavier Mission in the afternoon sun...

Back to today, then...

Said friend also hadn't a chance to go on a hike in a while, so we thought we'd do a relatively easy trail--about 5 miles at a lower elevation, below the forest-level, in the grassland/juniper/oak zone that is just too hot to hike during the summer months. The trail we took ended up being a segment of the Arizona trail, a system of marked paths that goes from Mexico to Utah.

...a bit hard to make out the map on this trail sign, but take a look at the color of the sky;
a true balm for January-eyes...(even though it's my second winter in Tucson, I'm still amazed at the climate...)

So, hilly grassland with the occasional dead oak...
...leading finally to this riparian area with a man-made waterfall. The dam was built to form a reservoir to supply water to a (minimum-security) prison camp in the early-20th century, which is today the site of a
Hmm...I forgot to take a photo of the remains of the prison, even though our hiking trail began there, before we stopped to have lunch at a spot overlooking this peaceful, well-watered canyon...

Today, only the foundations of the prison camp remain. It was built just before World War II...and then during the war, it served as an internment camp for some of the Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses all over the United States, including Gordon Hirabayashi, for whom today's campground is named. (click here for a link from the University of Washington with more information.)

Also imprisoned at this site during the war were conscientious objectors, such as Hopi Indians and Jehovah's Witnesses.

In 1947, President Truman pardoned the conscientious objectors, but it wouldn't be until 1988 that the U.S. government would officially apologize to the Japanese-Americans for their internment...

During eleven of the years that the prison camp operated, 8000 prisoners worked for eleven years to construct the 25-mile highway that leads from Tucson up to the cool forested peaks of Mt. Lemmon. (It was completed in 1951.)

And that's today's history-factoid, all found out from our five-mile hike.
Who knew that Tucson's 'back-yard-mountain'-access was made possible, in part, by the U.S. Justice System's less-than-ideal handling of Japanese-Americans, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Hopi, among others?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Afternoon light. Hint of the Aegean?

I've never been to the Greek islands--but the scenes of domed buildings hanging onto the cliffs of Santorini, blindingly whitewashed, against the impossibly blue Aegean, have become so well-known...

...and today, here in Tucson, I was reminded of those stark, vibrant images:

After work today, I decided to drive down to the Mission San Xavier del Bac for an afternoon walk with the camera. (just 9 miles south of Tucson) For the past few years, the West Tower of the Baroque façade had been hidden behind scaffolding, and then just a few weeks ago, the restoration finished, the scaffolding came down--and I wanted to see 'the white dove of the desert' unencumbered.

A serendipitous puddle...not often, in the desert, that you can see a bit of the mission in a reflection.

These shade ramadas are built in the traditional Tohono O'odham method: of saguaro ribs, mesquite limbs, and ocotillo branches...

It's interesting to compare the west tower, restored to its simple, 1790's look...

...with the central portal--undeniably baroque...

...and then the as-of-yet unrestored East tower, whose cupola on top was never completed.

(In March, restoration will begin on this tower, which means that there are only a few more weeks that the Mission will be visible in its 1790's appearance, before the scaffolding goes up again for several years.)

A few more of the façade's details:

Driving away, I noticed a partially-flooded field--a few more, rare, desert reflections:
I pulled off the road to park, by a water-containment/pumping facility.
One of the workers was leaving, and he asked me, before he got out his camera himself to shoot the scene, "is the water making it better?"

He then informed me, "You're looking at C.A.P. water," that is--Central Arizona Project water--piped uphill from the Colorado River hundreds of miles away...

(map from this page)

...and then the sun set.


...and now, neither here nor there:
a fascinating article from today's IHT, about the unlikely modern revival of Calvinism, led by a distressed-jean-wearing, Bruce Springsteen-listening pastor, in decidedly secular Seattle: Who would Jesus smack down?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

food. film. photos.

An 'urban' weekend for us.
After living here for a year and a half, we finally tried a restaurant,
not too far from us, for DIM SUM. (Yes. In Tucson.)

And we were pleasantly surprised--
it was delicious and dépaysant;
We felt transported back to downtown Vancouver, or Chinatown in San Francisco:
the tables of Asian families chatting over lazy susans laden with a dozen dishes;
the carts; the fun-to-decipher accents as we point to various steaming dumplings;
the little handle-less cups of jasmine tea; the perils of using chopsticks to pick up Chinese broccoli coated in oyster sauce...

All very authentic.
Here in Cactusland!

And then--just down the road,
a French film at a little independent movie-house.
(Thank goodness the University of Arizona is in this town...)
"Il y a longtemps que je t'aime," multiple-award-winner in Europe
and nominated for the Golden Globe for Best actress/drama & Best foreign film.
I agree with most of the L.A. Times review; click here to read it.
I don't often recommend movies; go see this one if it comes to your town...

Afterwards, we went downtown.
As with most mid-sized US cities, Tucson's downtown is a combination of city-council-optimism, flight-to-the-suburbs-induced-decay, and inferiority-complex-fueled pretentiousness.

A bit harsh, perhaps?
(ay ay ay--this comes across, perhaps, as the usual erstwhile bigger-city resident bemoaning smaller-city realities...
Not completely, I hope...
But, to be honest, to enjoy Tucson, you have to look more at what surrounds it--the climate, the landscape, the proximity to open spaces and pre-Columbian history, the mix of Spanish and Native influences--rather than what's in it--inadequate public transport, drug-violence, low-wages, lack of pedestrian life...)

But in all fairness--downtown Tucson has lots of potential, and there are bright spots...

A friend of ours, a photographer, was hosting a reception for a temporary exhibition that she and another artist friend are having, and we were invited.
Here's a link to her website and some of her photography.

Come on down...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Architecture. Digesting.

Thursday. Lunch-break...
...reading the International Herald Tribune on-line,
I come across two great articles with NYTimes slide-shows.

One is "Under a vast, blue sky" about a modern custom-built home in the high-desert of Idaho.
The other is expensive, well-crafted quirky kitsch in Atlanta: "Hard Times find replica of White House for sale."

I hope you enjoy.

To see the neo-LeCorbusier 'zen'-like architecture in Idaho,
click here.

To see the Iranian-American-White-House-fantasy in
a posh Atlanta neighborhood, click here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

MMIX. Back to work. Winter break photos. Banished Word List.

Five days into 2009...

Back to work today--the kids not unreasonably squirrely as they begin second semester.

Not much time to blog over the break; after the last entry, we had out-of-town company of the staying kind, both family and friends...much refreshment for hosts and visitors...

And then it even snowed down here in the Tucson basin--only for about 10 minutes, back on the 26th, but still--my first Tucson snowfall! Then back into the upper-70's, (jogging in the shorts, spotting vermillion flycatchers in the park), and then back to cold grey today. Seattle weather. Without the all-black-wearing-NPR-listening-hemp-bag-toting-pedestrians.

So, a few photos.

Looking south over Tucson, toward the Santa Rita mountains, from where Sabino creek exits Sabino canyon. The sycamores and cottonwoods on December 24th were at their 'autumnal peak' amidst the cacti:

We took my mother on the "tram" four miles and a thousand feet up into the canyon--a nice way to show visitors some wilderness if they don't have the time/ability to hike all the way in and out. I'm a sucker for mountain-reflection photos. So what if it's a visual cliché--it's arresting every time.

It's hard to find a 'bluer' sky than on a clear winter day in southern Arizona...
...and a bit more arboreal color in the upper canyon:A week later, after the city's flirtation with winter, we drove my mother up to the top of Mount Lemmon to see some of the remaining snow. The ski resort up at 9000 feet had just opened a few days before, but this day was warm even up on top--around 50 degrees. Here's a view looking from about 8000 feet off to the Northeast, past the snowy northern side of the Santa Catalinas to the lower San Pedro valley:
About midway down the Catalina Highway are some "hoodoos" popular with rock climbers:
...and a good spot for gazing across the entire Tucson basin, down across the Rincon mountains:


And, for all word-nerds: here is the official 2009 List of Banished Words.
How many are you guilty of using? Alas, we are all cliché-prone...

"It's that time of year again!"
Lake Superior State University "maverick" word-watchers, fresh from the holiday "staycation" but without an economic "bailout" even after a "desperate search," have issued their 34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. This year's list may be more "green" than any of the previous lists and includes words and phrases that people from "Wall Street to Main Street" say they love "not so much" and wish to have erased from their "carbon footprint."
Environmental buzzwords are getting the axe this year. "Green" and "going green" received the most nominations.

GREEN – The ubiquitous 'Green' and all of its variables, such as 'going green,' 'building green,' 'greening,' 'green technology,' 'green solutions' and more, drew the most attention from those who sent in nominations this year.
"This phrase makes me go green every time I hear it." Danielle Brunin, Lawrence, Kansas.
"I'm all for being environmentally responsible, but this 'green' needs to be nipped in the bud." Valerie Gilson, Gales Ferry, Conn.
"Companies are less 'green' than ever, advertising the fact they are 'green.' Is anyone buying this nonsense?" Mark Etchason, Denver, Colo.
"If something is good for the environment, just say so. As Kermit would say, 'It isn't easy being green.'" Kevin Sherlock, Hiawatha, Iowa.
"If I see one more corporation declare itself 'green,' I'm going to start burning tires in my backyard." Ed Hardiman, Bristow, Va.
"This spawned 'green solutions,' 'green technology,' and the horrible use of the word as a verb, as in, 'We really need to think about greening our office.'" Mike McDermott, Philadelphia, Penn.

CARBON FOOTPRINT or CARBON OFFSETTING – "It is now considered fashionable for everyone, tree hugger or lumberjack alike, to pay money to questionable companies to 'offset' their own 'carbon footprint.' What a scam! Get rid of it immediately!" Ginger Hunt, London, England.
Mike of Chicago says that when he hears the phrase 'carbon footprint,' "I envision microscopic impressions on the surface of the earth where an atom of carbon forgot to wear its shoes."
Christy Loop of Woodbridge, Va., says that 'leaving a carbon footprint' has become the new 'politically incorrect.' "How can we not, in one way or another, affect our natural environment?"
Presidential election years are always ripe for language abuse. This year, the electorate grew weary of 'mavericks' and 'super delegates.' As Michael W. Casby of Haslett, Mich. said, when he suggested banning all of the candidates' names, "Come on, it's been another too-long campaign season."

MAVERICK – "The constant repetition of this word for months before the US election diluted whatever meaning it previously had. Even the comic offshoot 'mavericky' was terribly overused. A minimum five-year banishment of both words is suggested so they will not be available during the next federal election." Matthew Mattila, Green Bay, Wisc.
"You know it's time to banish this word when even the Maverick family, who descended from the rancher who inspired the term, says it's being mis-used." Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Mich.
"I'm a maverick, he's a maverick, wouldn't you like to be a maverick, too?" Michael Burke, Silver Spring, Md.

FIRST DUDE – "Skateboard English is not an appropriate way to refer to the spouse of a high-ranking public official." Paul Ruschmann, Canton, Mich.

Of course, the economy couldn't escape the list this year.

BAILOUT – "Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks' balance sheets is not a bailout. When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout." Ben Green, State College, Penn.
"Is it a loan? Is it a purchase of assets by the government? Is it a gift made by the taxpayers?" Dave Gill, Traverse City, Mich.
"Now it seems as though every sector of the economy wants a bailout. Unfortunately, ordinary workers can't qualify." Tony, McLeansville, NC.
"Don't we love how Capitol Hill will bailout Wall Street, but not Main Street"? Derrick Chamberlain, Midland, Mich.
Speaking of Wall Street and Main Street…

WALL STREET/MAIN STREET – "When this little dyad first came into use at the start of the financial crisis, I thought it was a clever use of parallelism. But it's simply over-used. No 'serious' discussion of the crisis can take place without some political figure lamenting the fact that the trouble on Wall Street is affecting 'folks' on Main Street." Charles Harrison, Aiken, SC.
"The recent and continuing financial failings are not limited to 'Wall Street,' nor should one paint business, consumers, and small investors as ' Main Street .' Topeka (where I work), and Lawrence (where I live), Kansas, have no named ' Main Street .' How tiresome." Kent McAnally, Topeka, KS. "I am so tired of hearing about everything affecting ' Main Street .' I know that with the 'Wall Street' collapse, the comparison is convenient, but really, let's find another way to talk about everyman or the middle class, or even, heaven forbid, 'Joe the Plumber.'" Stacey, Knoxville, Tenn.

Internet and texting blues
MONKEY – "Especially on the Internet, many people seem to think they can make any boring name sound more attractive just by adding the word 'monkey' to it. Do a search to find the latest. It is no longer funny." Rogier Landman, Somerville, Mass.

<3 – Supposed to resemble a heart, or stand for the word 'love.' Used when sending those important text messages to loved ones. "Just say the word instead of making me turn my head sideways and wondering what 'less than three' means." Andrea Estrada, Chicago.

Overuse in news and entertainment

ICON or ICONIC – Overused, especially among entertainers and in entertainment news, according to Robyn Yates of Dallas, who says that "every actor, actress and entertainment magazine show overuses this." One of the most-nominated words of the year. "Everyone and everything cannot be 'iconic.' Can't we switch to 'legendary' or 'famous for'? In our entertainment-driven culture, it seems everyone in show business is 'iconic' for some reason or another. "John Flood, Bray, Wicklow, Ireland. "It's becoming the new 'awesome' - overused to the point where everything from a fast-food restaurant chain to celebrities is 'iconic.'" Jodi Gill, New Berlin, Wisc. "Just because a writer recognizes something does not make it an icon (a visual symbol or representation which inspires worship or veneration) or iconic. It just means that the writer has seen it before." Brian Murphy, Fairfield, Conn.

GAME CHANGER – "It's game OVER for this cliché, which gets overused in the news media, political arenas and in business." Cynthia, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

STAYCATION – "Occurrences of this word are going up with gas prices.'Vacation' does not mean 'travel,' nor does travel always involve vacation. Let's send this word on a slow boat to nowhere." Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Neb. "The cost of petrol forces many families to curtail their summer voyages and a new word has sprung, idiotic and rootless..." Michele Mooney, Los Angeles, Calif.

DESPERATE SEARCH – "Every time the news can't find something intelligent to report, they start on a 'desperate search' for someone, somewhere." Rick A. Hyatt, Saratoga, Wyo.

NOT SO MUCH – "I wish that the phrase was used not so much," says Tom Benson of Milwaukee, who notes that it is used widely in news media, especially in sports, i.e. 'The Gophers have a shot at the playoffs; the Chipmunks, not so much.' "Casual language usage is acceptable. 'Not so much?' Not so much." David Hollis, Hubbardsville, NY. "Do I like concise writing? Yes. Do I like verbose clichés? Not so much." David W. Downing, St. Paul, Minn. "A favorite of snarky critics and bloggers." Jeff Baenen, Minneapolis, Minn.

WINNER OF FIVE NOMINATIONS – "It hasn't won an Academy Award yet. It has only been NOMINATED!" John Bohenek, Abilene, Tex.

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN – Nominated by Kathleen Brosemer of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for "general overuse and meaninglessness. When is it not 'that time of year again?' From Valentine's sales to year-end charity letters, invitations to summer picnics and Christmas parties, it's 'that time' of year again. Just get to the point of the solicitation, invitation, and newsletter and cut out six useless and annoying words."