Saturday, July 27, 2019

Veit Springs Trail, near Flagstaff

Aspen on the Veit Springs Trail near Flagstaff, on the way up to Snowbowl 
(park at the small parking lot at one of the nearly hairpin turns)

Wild irises, mid June:

An old building to protect and/or steal the spring from wildlife:

After exploring the Veit Springs area, I took a not-very-well-marked connector trail across the road to the famous Arizona Trail.  

There weren't a lot of views, but they were pretty:

And I met this guy:

More pretty trail, nearing Aspen Corner:

The views opened up:

My ride picked me up at Aspen Corner.

A great little hike.  I really enjoyed the Veit Springs area.  So green and pretty.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Eclectic Reading List, 2019

 I was looking something up on my blog and found this old post from 2012 about my then-recent reading list, quite a random collection:

I'd just been thinking that my reading list so far this year is also pretty varied.  That's what you get from working at a library!  So here are some of my reads from the first half of 2019:

1)  Tales from the Inner City, by Shaun Tan.  A book of surreal short stories, poems, philosophy, and beautiful art.   

2)  City of Ghosts, a middle grade novel by Victoria Schwab about a girl who sees ghosts and who visits the rather haunted city of Edinburgh with her paranormal investigator parents.    

3)  Alaskan Holiday, by Debbie Macomber.  A badly written romance I read for the Alaska setting, but which didn't really give a good picture of said Alaska setting or the rigors of life in the bush.        
4)  Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language  by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, a fascinating, depressing...and not entirely spin-free dictionary of business and political obfuscation, PC terms, etc.  

5)  The Other Side of Lost, by Jessi Kirby, a YA novel about a girl who takes a day hike to honor her dead cousin and ends up thru-hiking the John Muir trail.  Made me simultaneously want to try and not want to try a long-distance backpacking trip.

6)  Impeaching the President; Past, Present, and Future, by Alan Hirsch.  A fairly impartial explanation of the law and the precedents.   

7)  Dancing Home, by Alma Flor Ada, a middle grade novel about a US-born Mexican-American girl and her cousin, a recent immigrant, struggling with multicultural identity.  \

8)  Her Stories, by Virginia Hamilton, a beautifully illustrated collection of African-American folktales, fairy tales, and biographies.         

9)   The Simple Art of Flying, by Cory Leonardo, an absolutely beautiful story about an unhappy anthromorphic parrot trying to protect his sister.  Probably my favorite book of the year.  Another middle grade novel (yes, I've been reading a lot of them), but totally appropriate for adults.  

10)   Timmy Failure:  Mistakes were Made, by Stephan Pastis, a funny middle grade novel about a hilariously inept neighborhood detective kid.  I read this in my quest for other books to recommend to my library kids who love Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It really fit the bill.

11) Vordak the Incomprehensible:  How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Vordak the Incomprehensible (and Scott Seegert).  A very funny middle grade primer on how to be the bad guy and deal with pesky superheroes.  Very tongue-in-cheek.

12) The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 , Ed Rich Horton, a massive collection of some fantastic stories, some really good stories, and some stories too experimental, pretentious, or complex for their own good.

13)  Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  No real plot arc, but absolutely engrossing.  I loved learning about how they did daily tasks back then.

14)  The Surrogate, by Louise Jensen, a twisty thriller about a former best friend who volunteers to be a surrogate for our baby-obsessed main character and who may or may not be plotting something dark.  

15)  The Prophet Calls, by Melanie Sumrow, a middle grade novel about a girl in a strict, isolationist polygamist compound.

16)  The Ingenious Judge Dee, a play by Hock G Tjoa about an ancient Chinese judge and detective.

17)  The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah, a darkly beautiful character-driven novel that takes place in Alaska and REALLY takes place there...unlike the Alaskan Holiday fiasco. 

18)  Cloven, by Kady Monroe, a horror novella with some seriously creepy bits in the middle, all set on a tiny little island.  

19)  Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfař, a literary sci-fi story set both on a solitary near-future space journey and in small-town Bohemia around the Velvet Revolution.  A really great book for someone interested in Czechia, as I am.  

20)  Denali's Howl, by Andy Hall, about the worst climbing disaster on America's highest peak.  I don't know if this really counts, since I listened to it as an audio book, but it's set off a quest for more mountaineering books/ audio books / documentaries.   

I've read others this year, but this is a good sampling (though it is rather heavy on Alaska...and I didn't even mention a fourth book set there).  I've been reading a lot of juvi fiction, both in the search for books to recommend to my young library customers and simply because I see all these beautiful new middle grade novels coming into the library, and I just have to have them  :)    

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař

This is the story of Jakub, a Czech astronaut in the near future who goes on a solo mission to investigate a strange new and possibly threatening spacial phenomena.  But it's not just the story of his space journey and the effects of isolation in space.  It's also the story of his youth and a slice of the history of Czechia (the Czech Republic). 
I liked it a lot. 

The part in space was interesting, and I really loved Hanuš (read the book to find out who he is).

The part about Jakub's Czech childhood before and after (mostly after) the Velvet Revolution was fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking.  I admit I’m a bit biased because I have lived in and love Czechia (aka the Czech Republic, aka the former Czechoslovakia), but I thought the story was very moving.  The Czech history I know took on the faces of people I really cared about.  Very well done.  I also loved the references to bits of culture, foods, habits etc. that I remember from Czechia. 

The book sometimes waxed too poetic, abstract, and philosophical for my personal tastes, but some people will love the book even more for these aspects.

I would rather have had a bit more happy resolution at the end, but I think it was well done…and not what I expected. 

Overall, a great read.  I will certainly try more by Jaroslav Kalfař, especially if it takes place in Czechia.

4.5 stars

WARNING:  strong profanity and short but explicit sexual scenes and references.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Walnut Canyon National Monument, Flagstaff

Walnut Canyon National Monument just out of Flagstaff, Arizona, is a very cool complex of Native American cliff dwellings you can hike down to or view from the rim of the canyon.  The interpretive signs are particularly good, focusing on the daily life of the people who lived here.

Not everyone is prepared for the stairs that go down 185 vertical feet into the canyon.  Well...most people are okay with the going down.  Just remember you'll have to go up.  It's at nearly 7000 feet of elevation, so the air may be a little thinner than you're used to.  Take water.

From partway down the stairs of the Island Trail.  Observe some of the many dwelling scattered along the canyon walls:

From the Island Trail:

How it might have looked back in the day:

One of the things I found very interesting was the difference between the vegetation on the north-facing side of the "island" and the south-facing side.

Up on the rim of the canyon, you can take the easy and pretty Rim Trail.  And if you go at the right time, you might see something like this prickly pear flower (picture taken June 22):

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Brush Fire in Arizona

This brush fire closed the freeway near Sunset Point between Flagstaff and Phoenix the night before our planned trip a a couple of weekends ago.  They opened the freeway late that night.  These pictures are from mid-morning the next day.

Smoke (and look for the helicopter hauling a bucket):

The not-burned area meets the burned area:

The burn zone:

And here's some actual flame, not very threatening, but was really close.  I can't imagine how scared those people must have been last year in California, driving through the raging heart of some of those wildfires, walls of flame on every side, like some Hollywood movie.