Playing Hookey

Desert LandscapeI probably shouldn't have done it - I have a mountain of stuff to do this week that's roughly the height of K2. But Monday was just one of those gorgeous, perfect days that occasionally comes 'round to Tucson: clear skies, temps in the 70s, light breeze, and it was just too nice to be cooped up indoors.So I played hookey from my mountain of work (and one of the nice things about taking all virtual classes is that I wasn't really missing anything), and headed for one of my favorite places in Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which despite just having museum in the name is really a sort of combination of natural history museum, zoo, and botanic gardens. It also happens to be one of the very best places in the area to get out of the city for a little while and enjoy the wonderful weather. Coati I have to remember more frequently that the occasional break from school can recharge the batteries, and I think this one was needed (I may think differently during the next couple of days as deadlines loom, but probably not). It wasn't really even a total time-waster slacker activity either. I got a chance to take shiny new Canon Digital Rebel camera out for a bit of practice - something I desperately need, my last SLR camera was a 20 or so year old Minolta that didn't have such advances as auto-focus, and I haven't had a lot of time to learn all the bells and whistles on my new toy (sad thing is, it ain't all that new anymore - I got it in June, I just haven't had a lot of time to use it).

And although my primary love when it comes to digital photography is still landscapes, I also got a chance to practice photographing animals, and I think I'm getting a little better at that. Not good enough to go looking for a job at National Geographic, but better. The trick, of course, is to be patient (stop laughing, Mom, I can be patient when I want to). Of course, I think the other trick is really knowing your gear inside-out - I took a lot of really strange pics yesterday before I realized that I had somehow managed to get it set to a fairly slow shutter speed - not the best of settings for recording moving animals. But even some of the mistakes came out interesting, like this one of an ocelot:


The best of the photos are up on Flickr at: if anybody wants to take a look.

Beep Beep

Okay, this is just too cool. On my way home for the grocery store this afternoon I got to see (for only the second time since I moved to Tucson) a roadrunner crossing the road. Man, those little critters are fast.

Alas, there was no coyote tearing after it, but still way cool.

Tucson Rivers: Easy Come, Easy Go

The monsoon returned to southern Arizona with a vengance this weekend. I drove to school for the last day of the intro class I was assistant for on Saturday in a steady downpour and I encountered a couple of minor flooding issues in the streets on the way there. Many, many University buildings had flooded basements (although not, thankfully, the library's below-ground Information Commons computer area). Rain continued on and off on Sunday and Monday as well, leading to some of Tucson's normally bone dry rivers overflowing their banks and flooding local streets and buildings. By way of a visual demonstration, here's a picture of the Rillito River on Monday, July 31st:

Rillito River 07-31-2006

This is a riverbed that is usually completely dry (this is the first time I've ever seen water in the riverbed), and in this picture it is running at nearly full capacity. It actually overtopped its banks a bit further upriver, closing a couple of roads due to flooding on Monday.However, rivers in this part of the world are somewhat ephemeral things. Here's a pic of the same river taken barely more than 24 hours later:

Rillito River 08-01-2006

Quite a difference, ain't it? (Yes, that's the same view, and yes, that's the same bridge in both pics).

Unless there's another deluge this weekend, I expect the river will be dry again by Monday....

Welcome to Rainy Tucson

I think I may have to stop badmouthing the Tucson climate (at least temporarily), for it appears that we are actually going to have a Monsoon season this year (there was an official announcement that the season had started on the radio today). I think I've seen more rain here in the past week or so than in the entire previous year since I moved, and the highs have only reached the "really unpleasant, but bearable" level. This time last year the highs were already circling the 110 mark, but so far this year its been about 10 degrees cooler. Highs of 100 are still too hot in my book (heck, highs of 85 are too hot in my book), but at least they don't have me wanting to do nothing more than sit in a dark room trying to move as little as possible in the hopes not generating any more heat than necessary.

Pity. I actually kind of enjoyed complaining about the weather....