Thursday

Working with Apple's iPhone SE

I've had the new iPhone SE for a couple of weeks now and I'm extremely happy with the experience so far.  I find that with the lack of radio station reception in the valley that I use the iPhone as a portable radio.  Internet streaming NPR radio is perhaps my favorite, news and interesting stories from outside of the bubble makes outdoor work a pleasure.  With a pair of Bluetooth earbuds I'm not tied to the iPhone while working and a dangling cable is not in the way.

I have also had a chance to start experimenting with the camera and I'm also generally pleased with the results, 2 example images are shown below.  The 12 megapixel camera has good color reproduction but I find that editing images still requires work on the big desk top computer screen to see the details and to make the usual changes in input and contrast levels.  To help I purchased a 128 MB wifi powered thumb drive from SanDisk.  The SanDisk Connect is an easy way to back up the photo library as well as other stuff without maxing out the iCloud backup provided by Apple.  Though I am looking at a telephoto lens for the camera for those multi image up close views of the Chiricahua Mountains that I like to make, but have yet to decide on one that will fit the OtterBox case I use.

I should point out that I'm still fairly low on the learning curve with the details of the iPhone.  Figuring out how to do things Apple's way is taking some time but is not overwhelming.  Finally, I did notice that all the gloom and doom prognostications by the Apple pundits before the release of this edition of the iPhone were incorrect and the iPhone SE's demand is currently greater than supply.

A single Ocotillo bloom (Fouquieria splendens) in the front garden at the Painted Pony Resort,
taken with the iPhone SE camera.

Penstemon splendens, planted last year, is up and blooming,
taken with the iPhone SE camera.

Friday

The Cycle of Life: Part II

Recently, I posted a short note on the Cycle of Life about an old Mule Deer who lost his fear of humans and came up to the Bungalow while guests were in residence.  He found a comfy spot under one of the pine trees to rest and eventually died.  Well, just a couple of weeks later as I was stepping out of the trailer one morning I was greeted with another aspect of the cycle of life, mothers with babies. A small herd of female Mule Deer with their young had come up to the Guest House at the Painted Pony Resort to browse on the newly leafed out Red Push trees.  Upon seeing them, I carefully backed into the trailer to grab the camera for some photographs.  Although only 10-15' away, I was not seen and did not spook the animals catching the images posted below.  It has been a hard spring this year with little rain, but colorful sunrises and sunsets indicating atmospheric moisture, and the local wildlife were consuming everything in sight on the estate.  The rabbits were climbing into the Ephedra to feed as well as eating bark of plants in the front garden and several small pines were stripped of needles by the deer.  In spite of this hardship it is nice to see physical evidence that the cycle continues and even though there was little rain the wildlife on the estate manages.


Female Mule Deer and young

Babies and the cycle of life

Browsing on newly leafed out foliage

Sunday

Desktop Computers, Tablets, and Smart Phones

Over time I have noticed a shift in devices that guests use to access the internet and search for information.  About 6 years go, guests were primarily relying on laptop computers on the estate for internet access.  But this has slowly shifted first to tablets and now to phones.  This transition presumably reflects what is happening outside the Bubble and I have adapted by first shifting to a tablet and now to an iPhone, although I still prefer the desktop for many jobs. 

One of the major initial problems when the Painted Pony Resort opened was the ability to find the estate.  Guests had problems finding the location of the estate in the rural high desert of New Mexico.  For example, the first image below shows the location of the Painted Pony Resort (red dot) on a typical street map at that time.  Notice access is from Highway 9 down something called Falcon Dr. on some maps.  The reality is this access crosses private land and is gated in 2 places.  In addition, it is just a ranch road, a 2 track, nothing a passenger car can traverse.  None of the newer roads even showed up on the maps at that time.

So way back then I began a project to update the major online maps with current information about local roads and access in the area, especially directions to the estate. Using the online desktop maps such as Google Earth, Yahoo maps, Bing maps, Open Street maps, Wikimapia, any map of the area I could find and began either adding new roads on maps where I could or submitting information about the Painted Pony Resort and the abysmal state of maps of the area.  This resulted in updated maps for these major map websites and guests could find accurate directions to the estate from their desktop, laptop, or tablet.

Then another shift occurred outside the Bubble, now to mobile phone usage.  With the rise of mobile phone usage there was a simultaneous increase in the number of mobile navigation applications that guests were using to find the estate once they were in the area.  It was not until I used the provided iPhone map application that I found there was another problem.  Apple partnered with Tom Tom to provide navigational maps and upon looking for the estate I was only able to search and find Painted Pony Rd and not the Painted Pony Resort (that search took me to Mesa AZ).  Realizing there was a problem with visibility I began a second round of map updating but this time with mobile navigation applications.  Starting with free navigation applications for iPhones I began down loading navigation applications and searching for the Painted Pony Resort.  Below are some of the results I obtained from different navigation applications. All pretty poor results for guests trying to navigate by phone, especially at night in an area they are unfamiliar with the roads.  Updated information about roads and the location of the estate was submitted to a number of navigational application websites and hopefully, like before with desktop maps, improvements will occur. 

Sometime later

Several days after submitting corrected information to a number of navigation applications, I began to hear back and the good news is the navigation applications are updating.  One of the early respondents was Tom Tom and now a search for Painted Pony Resort on the Apples iPhone maps app returns the correct location, see final image below.


A current mobile application map showing the roads around the Painted Pony Resort.  This application is using old map data which does not show current roads in the area.
A current mobile navigation application showing no roads to the estate.

A mobile navigation application that only shows Painted Pony Rd but not the estate (the blue and white dot is from location services)

Another mobile navigation application with old map data.

A mobile navigation application showing the wrong address at this location but does show updated maps of the area and locates Painted Pony Rd.
Apples' navigation application now showing the location of the Painted Pony Resort.

Monday

A Gift from the Astronomers

The yearly visit from All-Star Telescope occurred last month and a week of Canadian Astronomers were busy imaging the sky from the Painted Pony Resort.  This was their 6th year visiting and while the men take over the hanger, setting up telescopes outside, the wives spend their time hot tubing and enjoying the amenities of the main estate.  After seeing the rock formation, the Mule Ears, on our yearly hike the owner of All-Star Telescope decided the outcrop would make a nice foreground to a star filled image of the sky.  Returning for a night of photography Ken captured the constellation Orion over the Mule Ears and was kind enough to send a copy to be posted which PPR certainly appreciates. Some past visits by All-Star Telescope are documented here and here.


Saturday

Joining the 21st Century

This little corner of North America, the San Simon Valley in both Arizona and New Mexico is a little behind the times.  I've used the term "the Bubble" to describe what it is like to live in place where time slows and even presented photographic "evidence".  The New Mexico side of the valley (south of I-10) is separated from the rest of New Mexico by the Peloncillo Mountains while the eastern half of the valley, the Arizona side, is separated from the rest of Arizona by the Chiricahua Mountains.  As a result the valley and its inhabitants are ignored by both states and are left to go it on their own.  Since moving here 8 years ago I must admit I also have fallen behind the times.  While many like the status quo there are some serious drawbacks.  Primarily it is difficult to make a living down here when the major industries are ranching and birding.  Ranching does not bring in visitors and while the Chiricahuas are home to some exceptional avian fauna, this represents only a small slice of the ecotourism pie and in order to survive the area needs other sorts of visitors.  Visitors who utilize the public lands in different ways.  But visitors expect other services and amenities to be available when they visit an area such as internet and cell service.

Internet access at the Painted Pony Resort is handled through a number of routers, repeaters, and transmitters ranging up to 0.5 miles on the estate.  But cell service, until recently, was problematic.  Cell service in the main house at PPR was handled through a Wilson repeater which was able to capture Verizon cell signal from Lordsburg NM and re-amplify it within the main house then beam it back toward Lordsburg.  Not a very elegant solution but it worked.  But Verizon finally came through and placed a repeater in Antelope Pass allowing cell signal around Portal and Rodeo which until that time relied on individual femtocells to provide cellular access at specific businesses.  Although Verizon is the only service available in the valley it was enough to convince me to join the 21st century and buy a smart phone, specifically an Apple iPhone SE.  While many may find the idea of just now purchasing a smart phone somewhat amusing, until constant reliable cell service was established it just was not worth the effort or expense.  But now I've joined the rest of planet with a new phone.

I chose for a first smartphone the iPhone SE, a new offering from Apple.  I've always been a Windows user and this is my first Apple product, but as soon as it arrived even the packaging was impressive, well designed with attention to detail.  Upon opening I was presented with a very solid product that fit in one hand, again impressive.  While setting up the phone I immediately noticed the difference in using Apple's operating system.  While Windows operating systems seemed a little loose, meaning there multiple ways of accomplishing a goal, it seems iOS is based on the Henry Ford model of "you can have any color you want as long as it's black".  This structured way of accomplishing a task is not inherently bad but just requires some adaptation on my part and isn't life all about adapting to different circumstances?

The decision to purchase a smartphone and specifically an Apple product was the result of several factors:
1.  Consistent cell service.  The availability of consistent Verizon service was a deciding factor.  I spend a lot of time on the square mile of estate and most of the time I'm by my self working.  I've had several accidents working out on the landscape and the ability to now call for help in an emergency is a plus.  "Find my phone" may come in handy when I'm out on the landscape all alone and have a serious problem.  Of course this idea relies on a highly trusted emergency contact.
2.  A smartphone is a small tool with which I can easily check internet problems around the estate and for guests without dragging a laptop around with me.
3.  The smaller form factor was also an important consideration.  Since this is a working tool bigger phones are not better phones.
4.  Having computer access on my hip when I'm working and need some information is also a big plus.
5.  A built in quality camera.  I photograph a lot, the landscape, my work (for the owner) and instead of always going back to get the camera  or forgetting the charge the batteries it is a nice option to always have the camera handy and ready to go.
6.  I need some place to keep stuff i.e. important personal information.  The security and encryption system on the iPhone impressed me.  Not to mention the inability of the FBI to break into a specific earlier model iPhone was a big plus in my mind.  While no hardware/software encryption system is perfect, Apple appears to be ahead of the game.  As a brain tumor survivor with seizures and lost mental skills (memory for example) who lives a couple of miles from the nearest neighbor, a secure device with important stuff would help keep me organized and keep everything in one place a big plus that adds to my peace of mind.  No more little scrapes of paper with things written down which are constantly lost. For me it's a safety thing on multiple levels.  The goal is to create an adjunct to my mind and electronically replace the bits I lost and bits I continue to lose.  I used an old Palm Pilot (remember those) for this function for many years but the iPhone and associated technology made that tool obsolete.
7.  Finally, the ability to coordinate multiple tasks from a single device.  Instead of heading back to the desk top or one of the other larger computers everything can be done with one hand and a few thumb swipes from the phone on my hip.

iPhone SE with a rugged OtterBox case and belt clip for outdoor work.

The second photograph taken with and edited on the iPhone

Monday

The 2016 Bicycle Tours - Migrating Cyclists

The Painted Pony Resort hosted 2 bicycle tours again this year, both returning for another stay while they were cycling in the area.  The first group through was Bubba's Pampered Peddlers on their yearly coast to coast tour, while the second group was from Lizard Head Cycling Guides.  The group from Bubba's Pampered Peddlers comprised of about 50 riders with a support staff of about a dozen while the Lizard Head cycling tour was a smaller group of 13.  While the coast to coast group was in and out, the Lizard Head group did a ride into the canyon and hiked the Silver Peak trail.  With the designation of Highway 80 as part of US bike route 90 perhaps more bicyclists will take advantage and visit the area.

Just another sign of spring - when the migrating cyclists start showing up.

Morning preparations.

Support vehicles

Support vehicles and riders

Traveling kitchen for riders

Friday

My April Fools Contribution

My contribution to this years April Fools internet collection is based on a photograph I took the other day.  Living alone out in the desert you see some funny things at times, things that initially just don't make sense.  While some thought and research usually brings an explanation it is sometimes more fun to create the story to go with observation.

Below is an image of the rare and elusive San Simon Climbing Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus scandens).  These animals can be found perched in woody shrubs throughout the valley but are rarely seen because of the obscuring foliage.  Closely related to the desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii) they differ primarily in behavior.  While the desert cottontail is ground dwelling, its aboreal cousin can be found climbing or perched in woody shrubs on the landscape.  This behavioral difference and accompanying dietary shift to the leaves of shrubs and trees led to its reproductive isolation, ground dwelling versus tree dwelling, and the eventual speciation event which gave rise to the new species. 

In reality this image is a result of the weak winter rains and the slow spring which reduced the amount of cool season grasses and plants which in turn forced the wildlife to rely on less than palatable plants for sustenance.  But I like my story better.  Like the Chiricahua Mountains flying trees this is just another story, a way to explain the world in an entertaining manner.



Click to enlarge and use the arrows to locate the cottontail rabbit climbing up the Ephedra woody shrub for a meal.
Addendum:
Here is the same photograph with the rabbit climbing but outlined and some anatomical features labeled.

Rabbit climbing into the shrub, outlined and labeled for reference.
Another day and out on a limb.

El Nino was a Bust

As fall approached the weather forecasts were all talking about the probability of wet winter.  Pacific ocean temps were up and the expectation for a strong El Nino and wet winter were high.  But the reality turned out to be very different.  December rains at the Painted Pony Resort totaled 0.39" while January rains totaled 0.88", then it stopped.  The fall and winter were characterized by morning and evening displays of brilliantly colored cloud cover but these did not bring the promised rains.  The 30 year average rainfall on the estate for December is 1.25" while for January the average is 0.83".  February's 30 year average is 0.64" yet the estate saw only 0.08" which fell on the first day of the month and since then no rain.  So we received a total of 1.35" for the period of December through February, while the 30 year average for the same period is 2.72", a 50% reduction.  The results of this dry winter was reflected in both plants and animals on the estate.  Plants in the front garden are just now beginning to put up new growth, even with irrigation and additional watering.  Stems on one front garden plant were stripped by hungry wildlife and I observed several rabbits dining on Ephedra another woody shrub.  The lack of winter cool season grasses and water may also explain why the mule deer which recently died on the estate came up to the buildings even when guests were in residence.  Hunger and lack of water may have outweighed the animals desire to avoid humans.  Although we are moving into a traditionally dry period hopefully some moisture will come out way before the monsoons.

Colorful October sunrise clouds over the Peloncillo mountains.
Rabbit chewed stems in the front garden.

Cottontail rabbits are dining on Ephedra, a woody shrub

The lack of cool season winter grasses has left the rabbits foraging for woody shrubs

Saturday

The Cycle of Life

I watch the cycle of life play out everyday at the Painted Pony Resort.  From the yearly arrival of the monsoons with new grasses and the greening of the desert, the yearly appearance of certain insect species, the birds nesting and raising young, and yes, to the loss of animals on the estate.  Most evidence of animals that have become part of the food chain are birds, frequently the Collared Eurasian Doves that inhabit the estate.  Large predators such as hawks often catch unwary doves and the remnants of their meals can be found in the form of piles of feathers.  Small mammals such as rabbits are also frequent meals, but on occasion something larger dies on the estate.  A guest recently found a Mule Deer that had found a comfortable spot under one of the pines next to the Bungalow for its' final resting place.  The animal appeared thin with grey/white head and ears suggesting an older animal.  It was unable to stand and only made feeble movements when I approached.  There were no signs of injury so I set some water out for it in hopes it lack of vigor was the result of dehydration but soon realized that the animal was probably not going to survive.  I decided to give the animal 24 hours to recover before getting out the rifle since I'm not a hunter and don't enjoy dispatching animals, though it has to be done sometimes.  Upon returning the next morning the I found the deer has passed on and removed and buried the carcass out in the desert to recycle.

An old Mule Deer resting in the shade of a pine tree.

Thursday

Free Association in the Chiricahuas

Hiking in the Chiricahua Mountains can be magical experience, a time to unwind, a time to think, and most importantly a time to free associate.  Frequently while hiking I will look at a scene and see a possible photographic opportunity something that might make an interesting image.  Frequently at the same time a description or image title also pops into my mind.  It often is completely unrelated to the physicality of the scene and sometimes takes some thought before I understand all the details of the scene that prompted the free association description or title.

Yesterday while hiking with guests from All-Star Telescope I came across one of those scenes in Cave Creek Canyon which was accompanied, mentally, by a title and description.  I grabbed some images and then moved on.  It was only when I got home and reviewed the images that I was able to comprehend the complete picture and understood the scene I had captured.  We had been discussing the floods in the canyon as a result of hurricane Odile from several years back and this discussion must have been percolating around, bouncing between neurons, when I saw this old log sitting out in the forest.  The shot below entitle "The Perfect Wave" is the result of a found object (the old log) and discussions about flooding mixing around in my head.  Note the curl of the wave as well as the splash (the green stems) in the foreground and compare with the ocean images below it.  It us strange how the mind works and even stranger how we respond.

The search for the perfect wave.

Catching a wave from Wikipedia

A curl from PublicDomainPictures.net
I've included a couple of other shots of the log from different angles just to show the complete picture.

A view the other direction.

Some interesting textured knobs (burls) on the old log.