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Very Grand

I’ve visited the Grand Canyon several times in my life so that initial “wow factor” of looking across the expanse to the North Rim or peering down at the stark cliffs is gone.

North Rim

However, views like this, from a cool Spring morning two weeks ago when I visited with my sister and her kids, never fail to thrill and bring a sense of wonder.

Face it Michael Bay… nature is always more amazing than special effects. :-)

Hypocrisy in the Desert

Following up on my previous post (from ten days ago??!), I’m recovering from a very busy two-week trip to Arizona, visiting family and friends located all over the state, and generally doing a nostalgia tour.

However, even with family and college connections, I’m not sure I could ever live there again.

For one thing, I like having four seasons, even with some snow in the winter, as opposed to the one and a half (hot and warm) in the major population areas of Phoenix and Tucson.

But another big stopper is the wide gulf between my social/political views and that of most areas in Arizona.  I’m moderate to liberal on most subjects, while the majority of people running the state are conservative to moon-bat, far right reactionary.

Some of that extremism is on public view all over the place on billboards and road signs, most critical of any sort of government, especially federal.

Which is both ironic and not a little hypocritical since much of the state and especially Phoenix, the 6th largest city in the US, would not exist in it’s current form (a textbook illustration of suburban sprawl) without at least one particular major government program.

Starting in the early 70’s, US and Arizona taxpayers spent nearly $5 billion on the Central Arizona Project, a 330 mile canal that carries water from Colorado River, plus more billions over the years for a network of distribution aqueducts.

In addition, both federal and state governments are deeply involved with water rights and allocation, not to mention price subsidies, especially when it comes to farmers, who grow far more product than the desert would normally support.

Of course, all of this is just one example in one state of the hypocrisy at the foundation of these anti-government hypocrites. Is there any reason to discuss how Arizona is full of retired teabaggers receiving Social Security, Medicare, and other government benefits?

So, there you have one aspect of Arizona that doesn’t show up in the travel brochures.

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

In Case You Were Wondering…

… why it’s been very quiet around this space for the past week or so, I’ve been off on an extended trip to Arizona.

While this is not a destination that would normally be high on my list of places to vacation, we make regular visits like this one because of family and friends living all over the state.

Sign

Arizona is a strange place of contrasts, and not only in terms of the scenery. The people running the state would like us to believe it’s a sophisticated, contemporary place but still want to wallow in all the “independent”, anti-establishment craziness that goes with a “wild west” attitude.

This is the birthplace of both Barry Goldwater and the modern version of the John Birch Society (check a good history resource, kids), as well as home to more recent right-wing nutballs like John McCain, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the corporations behind the tea baggers.

There are a few small pockets of moderate, progressive types, like the university neighborhood in Tucson, where I went to school.  So I was never infected by the crazy and, fortunately, neither were my Arizona friends and relatives, which makes visiting everyone a pleasure (mostly).

Anyway, It’s been a fun trip so far, and along the way I’ve been collecting thoughts and taking lots of pictures, both of which I’ll be sharing in this space and on Flickr next week after we return.

And soon after, the regular ranting in this space resumes, just in case anyone was missing that. :-)


This sign is in the window of a bar in Prescott. It’s a shame the owner has to specifically tell customers not to mix guns and alcohol. Some in the Arizona legislature actually want to delete that right.

Time for a Change of Scenery

Tomorrow we’re getting out of here for a little while on our every-few-years excursion to visit family and friends in Arizona.

In addition to catching up on analog relationships, my primary goals for this trip are to relax, do a little sightseeing, take some pictures, make a dent in my pile of reading materials. Did I mention relax?

And since all the usual digital tools will be going along, plus having plenty of time while waiting for everyone to figure out what to do next, expect more than a few rants in this space and especially on Twitter.

One very nice difference for this vacation is that we’re flying first class, thanks to an abundance of frequent flyer points that needed to be cleaned out of the Delta account before their next chapter 11 and/or merger.

So, we’re off to McCain country for a highly anticipated change of scenery.

Do you think John will invite us over for barbeque when we cruise through Sedona? :-)

Red Planet

Since it didn’t involve politicians trading insults, this news didn’t get a lot of play from the media this Memorial Day holiday (in the US) weekend.

But some of us find it interesting that the latest NASA rover vehicle landed on Mars yesterday and began sending back pictures almost immediately.

Very cool. Can’t wait to see the enhanced color versions.

The Phoenix mission, the first of NASA’s “Scout Program”, will explore an area of Mars’ northern hemisphere to look for signs that water, and possibly life, existed on the planet at some time.

Another goal is to help with the planning for a manned mission to Mars, in the 2020s, which is something we should NOT be spending billions on.

Although not as politically sexy, unmanned devices are much cheaper and should be able to provide more than enough information about the planet for scientists to play with.

BTW, it’s also very cool that my alma mater, the University of Arizona, is the lead institution for the Phoenix mission. They’ve built a great web site to share everything about the program.

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