At the Phoenix Zoo

Ang’ and I went to the Phoenix Zoo, where she met with one of her illustrator friends and had a short visit with one of her Zoo friends.

There are a few new walk-in enclosures since we were there last. In one, these Ibis came right up to us…

Ibis' at the Phoenix Zoo

…before sparring with each other using those long beaks.

Ibis' at the Phoenix Zoo

There is also an enclosure with Squirrel Monkeys.

Phoenix Zoo Squirrel Monkey

Upon leaving the enclosure, we were cautioned to wash our hands. The monkeys like to mark everything in it, including hand-rails and door handles.

Phoenix Zoo Squirrel Monkey

But it was fun to watch them play leap-frog over each other as the climbed across the tight-rope.

Although we think we walked the whole circuit, I’m sure there are animals we missed, some because they were sleeping, some because the exhibit was closed. And even though it was a relatively cool day, the it was still rather intense in the sunlight.

We’ve decided that we’ll have to go back, probably in January.

Tarantula in the Parking Lot


Found this guy crossing my allergist’s semi-busy parking lot. I stopped and chaperoned him across the lot to ensure he didn’t get run over.


When he got to the other side of the lot, he kept going back and forth, against the curb.


I wasn’t sure if the square curbing confused him or if he was just getting his bearings, so I gave him some gentle assistance over the curb and he immediately headed into the landscaping, taking refuge in the shade of a cactus.

We don’t see many of these guys, so I always try to look after them if I can. Their days are usually numbered as it is.

Solar Eclipse 2012

I learned late Friday that there would be a Solar Eclipse today.  Although it wasn’t going to be a total eclipse, it sounded like it would be pretty close and I wanted to watch it.

Its been a while (high school!) since the last eclipse I was interested in watching, so I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it anymore.  Initially, I set up a pinhole projector using a couple of note cards, some clamps, and the handle of a garden tool and found a place out in the yard with as much western sky available as possible — the eclipse began very late in the afternoon/evening, around 6:30pm, so trees, houses, or other buildings could easily get in the way and block our ability to watch it.

The projector worked out okay — meaning we could see an image of the sun and it being eclipsed, but it was a very small and faint image and wasn’t very photogenic.  Worse, as the eclipse progressed, the amount of available light dropped off, so the image projected by the pinhole became even more faint, to the point where it could hardly be seen. 

Somewhat disappointing.

Eventually I remembered we had a small pair of binoculars, so I re-rigged my projector, replacing the pinhole with one side of the binoculars and got a much better image!

The one on the right is what it looked like at the peak of the eclipse. Not a complete cover, so no ring of fire — from what I understand, the full eclipse was visible somewhere north of Flagstaff — but close enough for me!

Landspeeder – a half-hour commute compressed to 5 minutes

This footage was taken some time last year.  It was my half-hour morning commute into town.  Mostly long, straight roads, so not particularly exciting — slightly more so since it was compressed to 5 minutes  If only it really only took that long …

This was taken with a Flip Mino, sitting on my dash on a Yellow “the POD” — a bean-bag style camera mount.  Good for vibration control, but not particularly anti-tilt proof because the Mino is so thin.  Adding a mini-CD between camera and POD helped.

Tucson Festival of Books (cont.)

After a night’s rest (amaizingly, for only $50/night, the room was surprizingly clean), we were back for the second day of the Tucson Festival of Books. As with yesterday, there were only 5 tracks, or session times, but tens of dozens of talks and panels to choose from. This is probably the hardest part: choosing which 5 to sit in on.

We started out today listening to Cynthia Leitch Smith and S. D. Nelson discuss the challenges of writing and illustrating Native American children’s literature. At the end of the session, S. D. Nelson held a drawing to give away two prints of one of his works — I won one!! I’m not sure which one it is yet — he had already packed them in shipping tubes, and I’m afraid to take it out to look at it until we’re ready to frame it.

For session two, we attended Cynthia Leitsh Smith’s talk on monsters and magic: writing Gothic fantasy novels for teenagers. She provided insights on how she works; the process of creating and breathing life into her characters and stories.

From there, it was off to listen to Temple Grandon discuss how animals make us human.

For the fourth session, we sat in on Janni Lee Simner, Laurie Brooks, and Charles de Lint discuss the challenge of writing fantasy for teens. During this session, Az-Ang kept jumping between this talk and Larry Dane Brimner’s workshop going on across the hall.

There are about 30 minutes between each session that we’ve been using to get books signed, visit with writerly (and illustratively?) friends, and to catch other friends performing short talks and activities to/for teens, such as making Haiku Holders with Marge Pellegrino.

Ironically, after all the head scratching to decide which talks to attend, the last session doesn’t seem to have any talks or discussions we are dying to see, so we’ll probably visit a variety of tents where friends are scheduled to participating in various teen’s and children’s activities.

We skipped lunch today. I suspect we’ll grab an early dinner be for heading back up to Phoenix.

The festival began winding down just before 5pm. We chatted with a number of friends, and had a wonderful dinner with Janni Lee Simner and Larry Hammer before heading back to Phoenix. For much of the way home, Son#2 talked about all the fun he had and the notes he took durring various sessions.

I think it’s safe to say that we all thoroughly enjoyed the first annual Tucson Festival of Books!