We’ve had an unusually long winter here in Tucson. By this time last year, the primrose in the front of the house had been blooming for weeks; this year, it hasn’t blossomed at all yet. We’ve had plenty of water, but the temperature has been chilly. Today, we shot right up to nearly 90 degrees, and I knew that my annual “hate this place” season has unoffically begun.
Don’t get me wrong; half the country still has months to spend inside, and I can spend all afternoon out on the patio. I love that part. As much as I miss the snow that I grew up with, Tucson in the winter is a great place to be. But as Heather reminded me today, in three weeks it will be too hot. I’ll be a sweaty, hairy beast by the time I reach campus on my bike; my teaching shirt will be wrinkly; I’ll be grimy with sunscreen; there will be mosquitos, and the shade will no longer offer refuge from the heat.
Ah, the desert. If I’m lucky, however, the primrose will be blooming.
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- This article is dated 2004-03-08 14:31 and is posted to tucson
Thing number one (good): Just so you know, OpenOffice can open Word Perfect documents just fine, using libwpd and wpd2sxw. This probably doesn’t mean that Corel is coming back, however.
Thing number two (good, but complicated): I learned today that I am easy walking distance from Feast and its gingerbread cake (with cream cheese frosting) and chocolate chestnut pie (with whipped cream). All hundred and mphfy-mmmph pounds of me are a little ambivalent about this.
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- This article is dated 2004-01-27 15:18 and is posted to technology, tucson
Our property value assessment increased quite a bit this year, resulting in a pretty significant boost in our property taxes. Surprised by this rise seen in our escrow calculations for the upcoming year, I set about exploring the Pima County Assessor web site for assessment information. I’ll save the discussion of Pima County’s property tax system for later (The Weekly frequently notes the success of various board members’ efforts to lower their own taxes while raising those of others). For now I’ll simply concentrate on ease of use. The first page of the County Assessor site has a prominent link to what one assumes will be a discussion of tax appeals process.
And it’s in Powerpoint! For the love of all things holy, I’m supposed to download and install the goddamn Microsoft PowerPoint Animation Player in order to read about my property tax?!
I’m not one to overuse punctuation, but note the gratuitious ”?!” above. It’s shorthand for “WTF.”
Online Powerpoint presentation of important public information is not “open goverment.” It is not “public service.” It’s like watching my municipal services drown in feature creep.
- This article is dated 2003-12-15 15:42 and is posted to tucson, house
Good: Free coffeehouse wifi at Bentley’s in Tucson.
Bad: Burning the hell out of the roof of one’s mouth.
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- This article is dated 2003-11-18 03:48 and is posted to technology, tucson
It was hot in Tucson last month—record-breaking high temperatures were recorded more than once, and it’s a great pleasure to feel the temperature drop, at last, into the 80s and even 70s during the day. It’s nothing like autumn where Heather and I grew up, but it’s a nice change.
In a final display of seasonal calendar butchering, one of the local weathermen (one of the weekend guys, who’s just happy to be on TV) referred to the previous month as “Hottober.” Maybe that’s why they haven’t let him anywhere near the weeknight broadcast.
- This article is dated 2003-11-02 09:51 and is posted to tucson
As John notes, summer seems to be wrapping up here in Tucson. Nights are a little cooler—relatively speaking—and the sun is tracking southward again. It’s dark noticeably earlier than just a couple of weeks ago. But the monsoon still have just a bit of life left in it, and it gave us a nice little rainstorm this afternoon. I hope the storm reached my uncle, who recently moved from San Jose, CA, to the far northwest side of town, and has been waiting for a good rain.
Observant readers (well, me) will notice that weblog activity is highly correlated with Heather’s out-of-town work. Indeed, it’s true: Her job has again taken her to the far corners of the state to explore grasslands and evaluate fire policy. As a result, I am left at my desk to keep an eye on the dogs and hold down the fort. This will continue every other week for the rest of the month, and probably into October. I’m usually only good until about late Wednesday or Thursday, at which point I’m all caught up with my work (aside from this pressing dissertation that people keep telling me to write) and have read Pandagon thoroughly. At that point, I’m pretty ready to not be all by myself at home anymore. It will be a long handful of weeks.
But she’s doing good work (for which I’m enormously proud of her), and I’m doing, well, work, and life keeps moving right along here in the desert. So, so far, so good.
- This article is dated 2003-09-08 10:34 and is posted to tucson
So far this week I have gone to the dentist and seen a ridiculous amount of my own gum tissue ($cha-ching!); bought new tires ($cha-ching!); replaced yet more parts of my cooler ($cha-ching!); and taken the car in for service, again ($cha-ching!). It’s only Wednesday morning.
This city and I are just not getting along this summer.
A couple of interesting reads:
- Slacktivist takes on the lottery
- Aspen Fire deemed officially contained; heavy-duty erosion control work is in progress, and another fire is growing rapidly in the White Mountains.
- This article is dated 2003-07-16 02:16 and is posted to house, tucson
I have instructed my wife to promptly tie me to a kitchen chair the next time I suggest something like the following: “Hey, I think I’ll hop on the roof first thing in the morning, before it heats up, and fix that leak in the cooler drain.”
Later, following six hours of climbing up the ladder and then climbing down the ladder, four trips to Home Depot, absurd amounts of innovative cursing, and sunburned toes, the cooler no longer leaks.
Ah. Truly, this is the Joy of Owning a Home.
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- This article is dated 2003-06-23 14:50 and is posted to house, tucson
Firefighting efforts continue, but the fire grew from around 7,000 acres this morning to 11,000 by tonight. From town, it’s really dramatic; while last year’s Bullock fire sent a haze over the valley, the prevailing wind currently is from the south, so the view from Tucson is of a plume of smoke billowing from the ridge. It’s a big fire; tonight at least two active ends of the fire are visible from town, spread far apart on the spurs of the Catalinas (I had a good view from my roof at dusk, where I fought with a leaky swamp cooler). Heather (with her degrees in biology and range management, her current work in fire science, and her viselike memory of just about everything) and I have talked a lot lately about what this fire ultimately may mean for the Catalinas.
Ponderosa pine communities have a natural fire return interval of around ten years. That is, absent fire suppression, fires tend to burn in these kind of areas every ten years or so, killing saplings that overcrowd the forest and eliminating lots of tinder that, in a context of strict fire suppression, ends up contributing to huge fires like Aspen. In the context of regular fires, native grasses thrive (because they don’t have to compete with thick stands of trees) and produce strong stocks of seeds, and big ponderosas are healthy and spread far apart.
A big, hot fire like the Aspen fire is already taking place in a significantly non-natural context: It has a ton of fuel and burns like crazy because the forest is packed with medium-sized pines and an enormous amount of dry litter. When so much burns, erosion is a serious problem, and some discussion of erosion is already taking place. (After the fire last summer, the monsoon-fed rivers in the mountains ran black (jpg) with muddy ash.) Further, big fires like this disturb plenty of wildlife, but usually at the individual, not species level—that is, while some will be killed by the fire (one commentator on the news this week actually referred to birds parboiling in the trees), many more will flee and survive.
So what happens after the fire? From a purely biological point of view, it’s really interesting that the fire has so far burned somewhat spottily. In Summerhaven, charred foundations sit next to homes that look untouched by flame. In places where ground litter burned and smaller trees were killed, but where soil was not sterilized, grass and herby growth will reappear within a year, healthier than before the fire because competition (for sun, water, and nutrients) with tightly-packed trees will be so greatly reduced. Surviving big trees will similarly be rejuvinated, and aspen stands, previously crowded out by pine saplings, will be resored. New tree growth will be visible in another year or so.
The undeniably positive effects of regular fire are somewhat diminished by the intensity of a great big fire; effects on soils, seed stocks, and wildlife are more up in the air, especially in the short term. In the long term, as has been demonstrated in places like Yellowstone, even huge fires can yield important biological health improvements.
From the human-community-oriented point of view, rebuilding on the mountain may be hard. Lots of houses and cabins there were built on land leased from the Forest Service, and rebuilding loans cannot be taken out against the value of property the occupants don’t own. New construction will have to abide with modern building codes, which may further limit rebuilding because new construction cannot be grandfathered past the current codes. Summerhaven’s infrastructure is said to be pretty old—limited municipal services like water, sewer, and utilities—implicating large-scale facilities re-development as part of the rebuilding.
Finally, when the fire has passed, the results of some homeowners’ efforts to build fire buffers can be assessed, and that will prove really interesting.
- This article is dated 2003-06-22 15:42 and is posted to tucson
Has autumn finally come to Tucson?
It may be almost time to clean out and pack up the Mastercool for the winter.
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- This article is dated 2002-10-03 00:32 and is posted to tucson, house
Tuesday is election day here in Tucson. If you’re like me, and own neither extensive holdings in auto dealerships nor land speculation, your vote on the propositions should be “NO.” Early polls suggest that the race is close; revealingly, those people who live closest to the proposed construction have expressed strong opposition, while the greatest support comes from those who live on the other side of town. Not in my backyard is right. But this is bigger: This is one non-solution to Tucson’s transportation problem that shouldn’t be in anybody’s yard.
Are you registered to vote? Good. Forgot where to go vote? find it Your vote matters.
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- This article is dated 2002-05-20 15:23 and is posted to tucson, politics
Last night may have been the first night of a summer that came a little too early to Tucson. Even with the windows open and the fan on, it never quite cooled down; indeed, it stayed warm outside all night, and was over 70 F when we woke up this morning. Perhaps that explains why we’re both a little grumpy and out-of-sorts today.
Fortunately, our new little house has a sleek, quiet, superhero-style swamp cooler, the MasterCool II. If summer is really here, we’re ready.
Still, I hope it’s not summer already.
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- This article is dated 2002-04-25 04:18 and is posted to house, tucson
I will undoubtedly complain about life here from June through September, but right now, there is nothing bad to be said about opening up all the windows in the house, sitting in the shade on the porch, and listening to the birds in the trees. Spring in Tucson is great. Look out for summer!
- This article is dated 2002-02-26 05:07 and is posted to house, tucson
We have been in the house now for about a week. This time last Saturday, we were just about finishing the last of the loads of big furniture. A friend lent a hand and a truck, and in three truck loads we moved all the big stuff. With our car, we hauled the rest. Last Saturday was exhausting; up at seven, we moved all day, and when we were finished moving we spent the evening at the old house, cleaning every inch of it. Back at home, nourished by take-out burritos, we had the energy to put our bed back together and unpack a few things before crashing. That was the first night in a couple of weeks that I had slept well; we had resolved things with our landlord (mostly), closed on the house, and actually moved in. Now, a week later, we’re still getting settled (I keep looking for oil and pepper in the wrong cabinet) but it sure is nice to have a place we really can call our own. We even got paid yesterday, making our financial horizon just a bit brighter.
The window next to the desk looks right out onto the backyard, through the lemon tree. I can sit here and type while keeping and eye on the dogs (sunning themselves in the yard), feeling quite content—except for the huge amount of reading I need to get working on.
Always more to do! But at least now we can do it in our very own home.
- This article is dated 2002-01-26 06:41 and is posted to house, tucson
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