Sunday, August 31, 2008

Joshua tree

Named by Mormon pioneers, it is a symbol of the Mojave desert; also a small California town which serves as the gateway for a national park of the same name, and the title of an immensely popular album - the 5th studio album by U2 released in 1987 - inspired by the open spaces of the western United States; Yucca brevifolia is only pollinated by a specific species of yucca moth. It is not found in the Sonoran desert, but can be seen occasionally in a random neighborhood in Tempe, like this one near College Avenue and Southern.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Trees down and standing water

We have officially made it into the top 10 wettest monsoons in recorded history. There's still much to clean up after Thursday night's big storm cut power to 80,000 homes, including several thousand in Tempe. That night, more than 1,500 lightning strikes were recorded in a single hour. Wind gusts up to 100 mph blew out windows, blew over power poles, uprooted hundred year old trees and demolished an 8 million dollar indoor athletic building at Arizona State University. As is typical with the hit and miss pathway of the monsoons, my neighborhood got heavy rain but was spared the devastating winds, although I'm less than 3 miles from some of the hardest hit areas. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Public Transportation

The Orbit is a free shuttle circulating through Tempe neighborhoods every 15 minutes. Orbit shuttles are named "Earth," "Mars," "Jupiter," and "Venus" and each has its own circular route to provide residents with a means to travel to ASU, Tempe Marketplace, downtown and otherwise.  

Thursday, August 28, 2008


At the Tempe Lake Marina, among other things the railings are designed to enhance the atmosphere of wave and shore. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Prickly Pear

The bright red fruits of the Englemann prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) are eaten by a wide variety of animals - javelina, deer, birds, desert tortoises, packrats, and rabbits. They ripen in July and August and are especially plump and numerous this summer after all the monsoon rains. We've had a lot of storms - nearly twice the rainfall of our typical monsoon. Less than an inch more and our total rainfall will fall into the top 10 rainfalls of recorded history. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tempe has several sushi restaurants. Ra has great sushi and super happy hour prices. Salmon nigiri and shrimp tempura are two of my favorites. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

atop paradise

A beautiful black butterfly sits atop the bright crimson and yellow flowers of a Mexican bird of paradise plant.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

the monsoon continues, but not for long...

Outside, the evenings are still alive with a cicada buzz, but each day the drone is less pressing. Last night the clouds gathered in various areas of the valley, including western Phoenix where I watched the Dave Matthews Band perform outdoors. Just enough raindrops fell to cool the thousands packed on the lawn, and quickly dissipated. Perhaps we will find that that was the monsoon's farewell for the season. Soon, cicada exoskeletons will be all that remain to remind us of all that summer rain, as each day gets a little drier and bit by bit a little cooler. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

foreclosure tortoise

How is it that something like the mortgage foreclosure crisis could impact desert tortoises?

Unfortunately, desert tortoises, dogs, and many other varieties of pets have been impacted by the housing slump as people walk away from their homes and their animals, leaving them stranded in back yards. I don't really understand that; to me, leaving a pet behind is not an option. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brain Power

ASU's Interdisciplinary Science and Technology building #1 has labs and work space for various bio engineering disciplines. Behind the soothing lines of the window louvers, scientists are working to develop artificial organs and smart implants - like ones to find and stimulate specific areas of the brain to power robotic arms or alleviate seizures.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

gotta love having a tortoise in the yard

                                   One thing I really like about life in Tempe is that the climate is just right for a desert tortoise. Sonoran desert tortoise are native to Arizona - this guy is adopted, born in captivity - not from the wild. Unfortunately a lot of tortoises get taken from their desert homes - either because well meaning people find them lumbering along and think they need help, or because they are such fabulous creatures that when found people just can't resist taking them home. The result - lots of tortoises available to be adopted. Once in captivity it's not appropriate to take them back to the wild, since they can spread diseases to wild tortoises. They're great pets though. This guy is all business. My other tortoise, Charles Barkley (named before we realized it's a female), is like a dog - she follows us around the yard and loves to have her shell scratched. 

A note about my inconsistent posting this month - since August is a tough month to get out and take photos (hot AND humid!), I am giving myself a bit of a break. Photos will be sporadic for the rest of the month then effective September 1 I will post every single day again. That will also give me an opportunity to get some practice with my new camera (canon 40d, yippee!) and make the switch from pc to a mac. Big changes, looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Don't Get Caught...

...running a red light or speeding in Tempe. Throughout the city and the greater Phoenix area, photo radar "robots" are poised holding radar guns, waiting at intersections to catch light runners. They are also positioned along several streets with posted speed limits of 45 or less. Get flashed by the camera and expect a $165 ticket to arrive in the mail. Although Phoenix ranks as the 2nd safest city in the country to live in as far as natural disasters go, the metro area is the worst in the country for red light running fatalities.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Green Shoes

Teens and their shoes - these green ones really stood out as they crossed the road. The back of the shoes say "Kool - Aid" - hope that means they provide some heat relief...August is not the most flattering month for the Phoenix area.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Browsing

Borders at 7th Street and Mill was my bookstore of choice today. This store has robust travel and literature sections and had just the photography instruction book I was looking for.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A mountain - convenient inspiration

I still remember my first time in Arizona, visiting a friend just after graduating from high school. As I began to think about moving to Phoenix, it was the view of the city from Camelback Mountain that helped seal the deal for me. Only a couple months after, I was driving cross country in my little brown pontiac sunbird with my ferret Charlie.

I'm still inspired by mountain vantages. Here's a view of the Phoenix skyline backlit with a gorgeous sunset (double inspiration!) from Tempe's A mountain.

Friday, August 1, 2008