Monday, May 30, 2016
When we lived in San Diego, this day was mostly about hot dogs, hamburgers, and the social occasion. Rarely did I run into anyone there for whom the day had deeper meaning. Most knew why we mark this day, but I met quite a few – mostly younger people at work – who had no idea why the day was set aside. For them it was strictly a day of fun and food. When I ran into that, it always made me sad.
Here in rural northern Utah, where I've lived for over two years now, I'm still startled by the difference. It's impossible to live here without knowing why Memorial Day exists – there are news stories, placards, posters, and other reminders everywhere. The hospital where Debbie is staying has a poster and display in the lobby. McDonald's has a kiosk, very nicely done. Our grocery store has a table with remembrances of fallen locals. Organizations like the scouts, schools, and 4-H all hold events designed to help the kids understand. More than a few parents take their kids to the local memorials, services, and cemeteries. I could go on and on, but the real point is the pervasiveness of the honoring of the spirit of this day – something basically completely absent in San Diego.
One other manifestation of that honoring I particularly love: the display of American flags. Every town and city has flags hanging from lampposts and buildings. Many homes have special flags planted in the front, in public view, like the one planted in front of our home in the photo above (taken just this morning). These flags are courtesy of the local Boy Scout troops, who put them up on every patriotic holiday. Those who can afford it contribute $35 a year for the service, but I know that the homes of several locals who would like to have the flags, but who cannot afford it, are similarly festooned without cost to them. The result is that our local roads have dozens and dozens of flags on them – rarely can you go even a quarter mile in rural country without seeing one. Then of course there are many, many folks who (like us) permanently display a flag on their own flagpoles.
I love this patriotic display.
But it is a bit disturbing to me in a way – the presence of it here underlines the absence of it in our cities. It's the “two Americas” notion, and my own experience tells me it's very real. The urbanization of America is leading us to a culture I find frightening and ... un-American, and that makes me very sad for a reason totally unrelated to the sadness I always feel on this special day...
Sunday, May 29, 2016
We live in Paradise...
Below are the X-rays taken of her knee immediately before surgery (left) and after (right). In the left X-ray you can easily see the largest broken fragment – it's on the bottom bone (the femur), on the right. It's displace downward from where it should be. If you enlarge it and study it carefully, you can also spot three other fragments, all much smaller. In addition to those, the surgeon found two more when he actually went in. In the right hand photo you can see the bones are back in place – and there is some rather imposing hardware in there holding it all together.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Debbie and my mom are both doing just fine, and so are the puppies and kittens.
Debbie had her surgery on Tuesday, and the results were good: the surgeon (Dr. Rowley) was happy with the way he put the pieces back together. There were six bone fragments after her break, and it took a steel plate and seven screws to hold it all back together in the right place. Dr. Rowley said she should expect full knee function back after recovery; there was no significant compromise of the socket surface. She probably did have a meniscus tear, and if it proves problematic she may need a minor arthroscopic surgery later to clean that up. Her recovery process is identical to that of two past injuries she's had to her right knee: no weight bearing at all on her left knee for the next 12 weeks.
In her past injuries, only one leg was affected. This time she also broke (cracked) her right patella (knee cap). No surgery is needed for that knee, but for the next six weeks or so she can't bend that knee. She can put weight on it, but no bending. That means that for about six weeks she can't bend either leg, and that makes almost any kind of mobility much more challenging. Because of that, they've transferred her to a transitional care unit (TCU), where the nursing staff will take care of her until she learns how (with the assistance of some physical and occupational therapists) to do some basic things safely: get in and out of bed, go to the bathroom, take a shower, etc. They're guessing she will “graduate” from this course around Tuesday or Wednesday, and then she can come home.
My mom made it safely to Utah, accompanied by my niece Amber G. She never needed the oxygen that gave us so much grief the prior week. The manager of the Williamsburg independent living home (Dan H.) was at the airport to pick the two of them up, and they drove the 90 minutes to Williamsburg without incident. All of her luggage arrived safely, we've got her in her room (which she seems positively giddy about), and she's regaining her strength after the rigors of travel. Her spirits seem to be soaring. The hospice folks here who will be taking care of her have been right on top of things, with care much better than I'd have expected. She even had a musical therapist visit to sing and play music for her! So far our impressions (including hers) of Williamsburg and the hospice are very positive. We're hoping it stays that way. The staff there seems to enjoy my mom, whose personality is just a tad ... different ... than that of most of the other residents. Not only is she not LDS (as most of the residents are), she's a lot more boisterous and talkative than they are. She also has a much more colorful vocabulary, which the staff seems to be quite amused by. Craig, the handyman there, turned to me when I came in yesterday and said “Your mom’s a hoot!” – and further said that he was really going to enjoy his visits to her room :)
The puppies? Well, they're puppies! So of course every time I get to play with them I have a ball! I've got a few puppy and kitten photos below. Mako and Cabo are taking to their new home very well, and Race and Miki almost instantly seemed to realize that they are new family members. The two adult dogs both play very sweetly with the puppies. Race is especially cute, as he'll bring a stick or a pine cone over to them and tease them with it. Several times he's been carrying a big stick while two puppies are attached to either end – and he very gently pulls it around while they're wrassling with it. So, so cute and endearing that is...
The kittens are all health and growing, and the mom kitty has weaned them. The mom looks good too – she had an eye infection earlier this week, but that's completely gone now. Soon they'll be getting their shots, being neutered, and finding a home...
Through out this past week, our friends and neighbors have been helping me. Without them I'd have had some real problems. Two of them especially stand out: Michelle H. has been coming over to our house several times a day to care for the animals, and Tim D. has been handling any other contingency that came up (including even mowing our lawn!). Debbie's had a steady stream of visitors, thanks to them. This attention just underlines what a wonderful community we ended up being a part of. We feel so lucky to have picked this particular spot, and so grateful for the help that we needed...
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Sunday, May 22, 2016
On Friday, Debbie entered her first agility competition in over three years. She took about 10 steps after getting Miki started, and then her other knee (the left one that's never before been injured) broke, badly, and down she went. Her left knee is broken in four places at the top of the femur, with several more small pieces. She landed on her right, previously injured knee and broke the patella (with no bone displacement), a relatively minor injury (though painful).
She's going to need surgery, and that's tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. If the swelling in her knee doesn't go down, the surgery will have to be postponed until it does. Once the surgery is complete, she's facing 12 weeks (minimum) of no weight bearing on that leg. She's been through that twice before, so she knows exactly what lies ahead. That's not a pleasant thing to know, so it's challenging for her to keep her spirits up. At the moment she's stuffed full of pain meds, a little loopy, fading in and out – but she's on her phone and email. If you know her, it would cheer her up to hear from you...
I just returned from a visit to Debbie, and there's a bit of news. First of all, her surgeon (Dr. Rowley) is positive that she has a bad bone density (and therefore strength) problem. He says she has the bones of someone 20 years old than she actually is. Given the condition of her bones, he was unsurprised that she sustained this injury. Debbie's been tested for bone density twice in the past 10 years, and passed both with flying colors. As soon as she's done with this surgery, we're going to poke into this issue with some vigor. On the other hand, the swelling in her left leg was greatly reduced, and Dr. Rowley is sure she's going to be ready for surgery on Tuesday. That's good news, indeed. Debbie looked a lot better to me than she did last night, and her spirits seemed better until she had an attack of muscle spasms (very painful) in her left knee not long before I left.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, I'm taking care of five kittens (all doing great!), their mom, and (as of yesterday) two adorable little field spaniel puppies. Some photos of this bunch are below:
Friday, May 20, 2016
Debbie is at the Field Spaniel Society of America's annual national convention today. By coincidence, this year it's being held at the fairgrounds in Logan, just 12 miles north of us. There are a lot of beautiful field spaniels up there right now! Debbie's up there this morning with Miki, and they're entered in the dog agility competition that started at 7 am this morning. I'm back home taking care of the five kittens we're fostering, and hoping that Debbie doesn't do anything silly to re-injure her knee. I'm hoping she'll find a friend to record video of her run – this is a big, big deal for her, as it's the first competition she's entered in over three years, since her bad knee injury in November 2012.
We both were at the convention yesterday afternoon, delivering four 10 quart containers of Aggie's ice cream for an “ice cream social” they had scheduled. Much to the surprise of the organizers, these folks didn't eat so much ice cream – there was over 30 quarts left over. Those leftovers are now in our deep freeze. Since we're the only locals attending, we got all the leftovers. Debbie and I decided that it would be unduly injurious to the FSSA's finances were we to make them pay for all that ice cream, so we're going to donate the 10 or so quarts they actually ate, and keep all the rest for ourselves. Darn the bad luck! Now we'll have to suffer through vast quantities of Aggie's vanilla, chocolate, caramel cashew, and chocolate almond ice cream. Dang it! :)
We just might invite some neighborhood kids over for an ice cream Saturday sometime. Without much trouble I'm pretty sure we could rustle up 50 or 60 kids. Probably just by shouting :)
Thursday, May 19, 2016
When I went out to Virginia to visit my mom, my intent was to bring her back with me to set her up in an “independent living” retirement community near us in Logan, Utah. That didn't quite work out as planned; some logistics didn't come together, and almost at the last possible moment. Now I'm back in Utah, and scrambling to get that stuff straightened out. When I do, I'll be flying back to toss her on the plane to come out here. With any luck at all, by the middle of next week she'll be out here near both me and my brother Scott.
The retirement community let me wander around and talk with the people living there, and the staff, on two different occasions. All by itself, that was encouraging – that they're not at all afraid to let me poke around. I've now talked with a total of 10 residents, and they are uniformly happy to be there. Several of them were effusive in their praise for the staff, and none of this was in earshot of them. That seems remarkable to me for such a facility. I didn't keep count, but 7 or 8 of the residents also volunteered just how good the food was there. Today I saw the preparations for an outing that included a picnic; there were trays of carefully wrapped sandwiches on delicious looking bread, some marked with names, and lots of other home-style picnic fixing (including a giant bowl of potato salad that had me drooling). We're hoping that all these first impressions turn out to be accurate, and that my mom is just as happy there as these 10 residents appeared to be.
Debbie found out last night that we're getting two puppies from the litter Sheila M. (our breeder) just raised, though we don't know which two yet. She saw the whole litter last night, and says they're huge – and every last one is totally adorable. One of them in particular reminded her strongly of Mo'i when he was a puppy. We pick up our two little devils on Saturday. Our household will then instantly become even more chaotic than it already was! I can also confidently predict that we will have quite a few more young visitors, too: with 5 kittens and 2 puppies, we'll probably have to bar the door to keep them away...
Thursday, May 12, 2016
On the other hand, I should note that so far as I can tell there is vastly more noise than signal in studies of this nature. This particular study looked at nearly 100,000 Danes in that period. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if 100,000 Americans, Japanese, or Egyptians were studied, they'd get completely different results. Probably even a different set of 100,000 Danes would get a different result!
But I like this one :)
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
I worked in my office all day yesterday, laying out ceiling panels (the hardware for which is supposed to arrive today) and installing window shades (three of four are now up). We also waited around the house all day yesterday for the scheduled delivery of the little refrigerator I bought for my new office. The delivery service is Pilot, and right now they're on my “I don’t love you any more!” list. I'm standing by to downgrade them even further. First of all, they gave me an absurd delivery window: 9 am to 9 pm yesterday. Then they sent me messages periodically during the day to let me know it was on its way, and to make sure I was there to accept it. The driver was supposed to call 30 minutes before arriving. The tracking site said it was on the truck for delivery. But ... 9 pm rolled by and no truck. I called their number, was put on hold for 15 minutes and disconnected. Called again, same result. Called a third time and finally got connected to a helpful and sympathetic woman who told me ... my refrigerator hadn't been delivered (I knew that!), she had no idea why, the delivery had to be rescheduled, the “agent” was supposed to have called me to tell me this was happening (they didn't), and she'd “make a note” for them to call me this morning. Surprise: they haven't. Unless they do something spectacular to turn this around, I'm not going to use Pilot delivery ever again. What awful service! And what a contrast with Fedex, UPS, Yellow, OnTrac, etc...
Monday, May 9, 2016
My mom is much on my mind today. She's having a slightly risky procedure (a heart biopsy) done this morning, and she's a million miles away in Virginia. My sister Holly is with her. It was supposed to start about 3 hours before the time I'm writing this, and I haven't heard any news...
I'm working on my office again today. Yesterday I finished hanging all the acoustic panels on my walls – that leaves just four flat panels to go on the ceiling. I'm going to lay out all the measurements today, but I can't actually hang them until the hardware comes in. That was supposed to be today, but the shipment was delayed by weather; now they won't be here until tomorrow. My little refrigerator should get here sometime today, and the blinds for my windows are coming in Fedex this morning. I have plenty to do :)
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Called my mom this morning, for Mother's Day. Even though she wasn't feeling well, it was still nice even just to say “Hi!” on Mother's Day. Debbie is kind of blue today, because she can't call her mom – between her failing hearing and her dementia, there would be no point. She and her mom used to talk almost every day...
Something I forgot to mention yesterday: the Hyrum Canal folks “started up” the canal. By “start up”, I mean that they started running water through it again. It's been dry since late last fall. All the irrigation systems that run from Porcupine Reservoir shut down for all the months where no irrigation is needed, to let the reservoir fill up again. Starting up the canal is more involved than one might think; it takes several weeks of hard work by a crew of 6 to 10 people. First a crew comes through clearing any visible debris from the canal bottom – fallen branches, trash thrown in by someone inconsiderate, dead animals, etc. Then they cut encroaching brush and branches, or even take out entire trees – whatever it takes to keep the canal clear. The resulting brush piles are burned. All that takes a couple of weeks. Then they start the water up, which causes more debris – and a surprising amount of it! – to float up and threaten to clog up under bridges, in culverts, or where the canal takes a sharp bend. A crew sloshes around in the rising water, using pitchforks to toss this floating debris up onto the shores, gather it into piles – to be burned the next week. This is the step completed yesterday, so now the canal running down the east side of our property is flowing. Shortly, when the rain stops, we'll see irrigation systems running up in Hyrum. I expect the Paradise Irrigation company water that we use to be pressurized sometime this coming week...
For some reason the default camera orientation is to the rear of the car, but the tornado is in front of it. That means you need to adjust the camera orientation (using the four arrows visible in the upper left hand corner of the screen once you run it) before you'll see anything at all. Once you get the camera looking forward, you'll see the funnel form, touch down, cross the road in front of them, and then pass by on their right. Very impressive, and these guys are totally nuts!
Question for anyone with tornado experience: the funnel, near the ground, is distinctly brown. Why is that? Is it just dirt and dust being thrown around? Or is their something else going on?
Saturday, May 7, 2016
After Abby S. left this morning, I spent a few hours installing some more acoustic panels in my new office. The series below shows what's involved. In the first photo, you see the aluminum Z-clips I installed on the back of a corner panel. Those Z-clips are a clever mounting device – they're quite strong for the vertical component of the load (roughly 100 pounds per Z-clip), and plenty strong enough (roughly 15 pounds per Z-clip) for the horizontal component of the load. The eight Z-clip pairs I used on these corner panels are gross overkill for a 40 lb. panel – those things aren't going anywhere :)
The next photo shows how I laid out and mounted the mating Z-clip halves on the wall. While it's important to get these reasonably close to the right place, the Z-clip design is reasonably forgiving for positioning errors – you can be off by about a half inch in any direction and it will still work just fine. It's harder than you might think, at least for the corner panels, as they aren't built precisely square.
The third photo just shows half a Z-clip pair, mounted on the wall. The mating Z-clip on the acoustic panel is pointing down and engages the up-pointing one on the wall. To hang the panel, I just lifted it up higher than where it belongs, and let it fall into the clips. The last photo shows the finished result for one corner.
Debbie and I are going to finish off this evening by watching a movie (at home!). Earlier we had a lupper at Angie's, which we expected to be peaceful and quiet at 2 pm. Instead it was absolute chaos, and crowded. Why? Our waitress told us it was this way every year for a few days, centered around the Utah State University (nearby in Logan) graduation time. We had no idea! The lupper was great, though: we had their very nice vegetable beef soup and a couple of “melts” – a patty melt on rye for me, and a southwestern chicken melt on sourdough for Debbie. Yum!
A few days ago Debbie started working the dogs (Race and Miki) in the agility ring again. It is so nice to see her recovery progressing to the point where she can do this! She can't run yet, but she can do everything else – and without pain. Wonderful...
Friday, May 6, 2016
yellow-bellied marmot (aka “rock chuck”), even though they're not normally found this low (we were at about 5,500' altitude, and they're normally above 6,500'). I drove right past it without ever seeing it, even though he was in the middle of the other (uphill) lane. Yikes! I backed up next to him, got my four-way flashers on, and jumped out to scoot him off the road. Shortly after I got out, another car approached, headed uphill, but fortunately saw me and the flashers and proceeded with caution – and smiles when they saw what I was doing.
We had a bit of work getting him off the road, as he was feisty and uninterested in being told what to do. His front teeth are already about 3/4" long, and sharp as scalpels (which they resemble!). I didn't dare try to pick him up, as every time I got near him he made angry noises and attacked. When I tried to scoot him sideways with my (nice, thick, strong) boots, he immediately attacked my boot – and sunk his front teeth so far into my sole that he had trouble removing them! Finally Debbie came up with the lid of a cardboard box, and I managed to get him into that so that I could take him off to a safer place. As soon as I lifted him in the box lid, he started making very loud alarm whistles, clearly distressed.
As we left him alone, hoping he would calm down, I could see him right himself and very slowly amble downhill – and away from the road. Here's hoping he stays off the road! More photos from the intertubes...
After living here for a couple years, I feel pretty safe in saying that this would not be the experience of managers in northern Utah. That may well be a big part of the reason why we have so many companies moving here: an educated, hard-working population.
For years my dad would occasionally send me a box of stuff – very random stuff, including photos, letters, notes, and mementos of various kinds. The first of these boxes arrived in the early '90s, then intermittently over the next 15 years or so. Usually my dad would call me to talk about the potential contents of the boxes; he wanted to be sure I'd be interested in them. Nearly all of these boxes, along with their contents, I taped back up and stored after receiving them – simply because in previous homes we had no room to display the items.
Well, that's a tad different now that we have a house that seems big enough to house the entire state of Utah, with room left over for some Idahoans. Also different, much more recently: I now have a 600 sq. ft. office, with lots of room. As I was moving into my new office, I had occasion for the first time in many years to open and look into those boxes my dad had sent me over the years. In one of those boxes, which dates back to the mid-90s, I found the four slide rules I had purchased as a youth. I know for sure that they're mine, because the cases have my name, phone numbers, etc. My dad must have had them squirreled away somewhere, together with a few other youthful possessions of mine, and sent them in that box. I had opened that box, probably when I received it, then taped it up and left it unopened ever since.
How could I not know I had those slide rules?
Most likely it was because I didn't start collecting slide rules until about 2002 – which would have been about 8 years after my dad sent that box. Those slide rules, in the '90s, apparently did not make a big impression on me. I have no memory of having received them. I was totally shocked when I opened that box and saw them a few days ago!
All of those slide rules were common, ordinary types; none of them have any particular value. They're all in great shape, even though I used them every day for years – I took good care of them. They aren't valuable, but they were mine, and that counts for something in my book :)
Thursday, May 5, 2016
One stupid screw. This would be a great test of customer service.
I called their number, easily found on documentation that came with the product. A very pleasant woman picked up on the second ring. Not “Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish...” or “Press 1 for new orders, 2 for payments...”. Nope. A real person, and nice to boot. She asked what I needed – and proceeded right then and there to work with me to identify the right part and take my shipping information. She assured me that the part would go out in that day's mail (that was Monday). Well, yesterday the part showed up as promised. The right part.
Awesome customer service, Enclume! Thank you, from a happy customer...
One thing that's going to take me a while to get used to is walking outside to go to my office. For over two years now, going to the office has meant a short walk upstairs. Now it means getting my shoes on, walking 150' or so outside, and then up a long flight of stairs (the second floor is 14' above ground level) to my office. It felt pretty weird making that walk this morning. Debbie's having mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, she's got me and my mess out of the house. On the other hand, now she can't just holler at me when she needs something :)
First thing I did this morning was to refill the bird feeders. Yesterday afternoon I watched a woodpecker open the suet feeder (which was nearly empty) and dump the remaining contents on the ground. Between the woodpecker and the magpies, that remainder didn't last long :) I filled that this morning with my patented mixture of lard and peanut butter; the woodpecker will be back soon. Every other feeder was also empty, or nearly so. The birds were hungry yesterday :) I suspect many bird parents are feeding many bird babies...
And now I stagger off to work...
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
After we finished moving all this stuff, Scott and I worked together to get Debbie's exercise bicycle out of our first floor living room, and placed next to her treadmill upstairs. She was quite happy about that :)
After that we had a magnificent “lupper” made from scratch by Debbie: angel's hair pasta with a veggie-rich tomato sauce and shrimp. Scott ate enough for several people, but unfortunately something about it (probably the acidic tomatoes) didn't agree with him. His digestive system was complaining loudly. That's the bad news. The good news is that we kept all the leftovers, instead of sending a truckload home with him. Yum!
We finished off our day with a lovely drive down to Porcupine Reservoir, which Scott had never seen before. We all enjoyed that drive, which is very pretty this time of year. We took Miki and Race with us, and Race got to swim in the reservoir – boy was he happy!
I'm going to do something a bit less strenuous tomorrow, assuming I don't sleep through the day...
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Even better, from my point of view, is that now my new office sounds good, too. Previously there were major resonances and echo effects, basically because all four walls, the floor, and the ceiling are all nearly perfect acoustic reflectors. I got some acoustic absorption panels (the wine-colored panels) and two quadratic-residue diffusers (the wooden panels with vertical slats), and the difference it makes in the sound quality of the room is dramatic. As I write this, I'm listening to an Eagles album, and it sounds great! Earlier today when I lit off my music, it was painful to listen – I had to shut it off, because I was reacting the same way one does to fingernails on a chalkboard.
For starters, the weather was just about perfect. We had wall-to-wall blue sky, and the temperatures were in the high 50s or low 60s all day long. I worked inside most of the day (on my new office), but every time I went outside I reveled in the beautiful weather. A fine day in Paradise!
The last thing I did on the office last night was to move our Mac Mini server from the house to the shed. I set it up, reassigned its IP address (it's on a new range out in the shed), and fired it up – and it all just worked. First try. At that point it was late afternoon, and I was tired – so I figured I'd better quite while I was ahead :) This was also the last thing I had been hoping to get done yesterday, so I was on my self-imposed schedule.
Today I am moving my MacBook Pro and its associated paraphernalia. That will take a while, just because there are a lot of pieces – but it should go easily. Just a lot of walking and carrying :) Tomorrow my brother Scott will be here to help me with the heavy bits – most especially the monster of a printer I have (an HP CP4025).
I walked between the house and the shed many times yesterday, and each time I got to enjoy the yard in springtime. Toward the front of our house, the air was full of bird song. The birds feeding on our feeders are starting to get used to my presence. They used to all fly away simultaneously if they spotted me 100 feet away. Now they fly away only when individual birds get alarmed, and some of them will let me get quite close. The boldest of all is a (yet unidentified) woodpecker, who will feed on the suet feeder until I'm within about 6 feet. Second boldest are the American goldfinches, some of which will keep feeding until I get about 10 feet away. The pines above our feeders are full of perching birds waiting for their turn on the feeders, and those birds are singing their hearts out all day long. A lovely serenade on my transits between house and shed, it is.
Then there are the flowers. I'm not sure what the tree in the first photo is, but we have a row of five of them along the south side of the shed. The biggest of them is close to 30' tall. Right at the moment they are in full bloom, and their perfume fills the air near them, as sweet as any lilac. Just like the lilacs, their scent is so powerful that if you inhale through your mouth, you can taste the smell. This and the lilacs are the only two flowers I've ever been able to do that with. The second photo is a few of our red tulips, then there's a columbine (that won't bloom for a while yet), and finally the lilac that we inherited with the house. It looks much happier this spring than it did last spring. The seven lilacs that I planted last fall are out in leaf now, but I don't see any hint of flower buds on them.
Late yesterday afternoon we took a drive up the road that leads to Liberty. This is a dirt road, parts of it rough enough to warrant using a 4WD vehicle, so we took the FJ Cruiser. Of course we also took Miki and Race with us. When we let them out the front door to “load up” in the FJ, their excitement was fun to watch :)
It was a relaxing and beautiful drive. It's hard to beat springtime in the mountains. The second and third photos I took from the FJ's window – look closely and you'll see a nice, fat skunk waddling around. Just prior to this spotting we had been talking about letting Race out to swim in the stream. You would have heard no such talk after this sighting :) The three photos of the little blue flowers were all taken in the same tiny patch. For about a mile in the lower elevations, these flowers were scattered amongst other stuff on a north-facing road bank. I have no idea what they are. The last photo was my poor attempt to capture something that was very striking looking in person: a valley completely in shadow except for one solitary tree that was brightly lit up.