Sunset Musings III and Trash Talk

A few of you may remember Sunset Musings II regarding the fall of Grandpa Pricky. Most were likely not here back then.

So Casa de bmaz has today lost yet another noble centurion. Grandma Pricky. We are devastated. People nationally keep yammering about the heat in the daytime in Phoenix. But it really is not the daytime temperature that is the real problem, it is the extent it simply does not cool down at night like it used to. Call it a heat island, call it a heat sink, whatever. But it is killing normally resistant desert plants. Grandma, at only 20 feet tall, was not quite as big as Grandpa, but is the same level of loss. These beautiful cacti were here long before the bmaz family, and we have been here a long time.

If you want to know more about saguaros, take a gander at Sunset Musings II. The same process of slicing and dicing will take place as to Grandma. Sigh.

As to trash talk, the Singapore Grand Prix from Marina Bay will go off tomorrow morning. Unlike most every other Grand Prix in history, Singapore is run in dark with lights. The surroundings at Marina Bay are spectacular, the track itself not so much. But neither Red Bull, not Verstappen and not Checo Perez, even made it out of Q2. It will be an interesting race watching them climb up for the podium.

No music today, we are singing only funeral dirges for Grandma.

77 replies
  1. Alan Charbonneau says:

    It must be sad to lose grandma. Yes, the heat Island, whatever it’s called, was brutal this summer (Austin, Tx). We left for 3 weeks and drove to Pullman, WA back in July and got a break from the heat, only to return to triple digits for the entire month of August. The heat ‘feels like’ index was often 106-109* F and my infrared thermometer registered the outside deck railing at 145* F. It finally broke last week and it’s actually nice. But this summer and last have been horrid.

    • P J Evans says:

      Heat and lack of monsoon rains – even succulents need water, and when it’s hot like that, a lot of plants shut down.

    • Purple Martin says:

      As a Puget Sound Washingtonian, “drove to Pullman, WA back in July and got a break from the heat” … makes my head explode (obligatory emoji: 🤯 ).

      But I grew up in Phoenix in the 1950s-1960s and remember sweating in bed with temps well over 90 well after midnight (in our non-air-conditioned though swamp-cooled house), so I understand the point intellectually. Still, cool Palouse summer throws me.

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        Yeah, it was in the low 90’s and that was refreshing! We also spent a few days in Yellowstone and that was cooler than Pullman.

        Back in Austin, I discovered taking out the trash should be done in the shade – in the heat of the day the concrete and asphalt are 140-145* and while walking up the driveway, I can feel the heat radiating through the soles of my feet. So, yeah, Pullman was a refreshing change.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Yes, WHEW, the Bears pulled it out. That would have been humiliating !!

      Have you heard ,that idiot Chancellor Christ has paid to put together a committee to ‘rebrand’ Cal and Cal Athletics ?!?!? Because of course the problem is only one of perception, and calling it something else will magically vaporize all the issues.

      And I can call her an idiot, because she was my faculty advisor; my useless faculty advisor.

      • AgainBrain says:

        Yeah, “rebranding” where they pay some croney millions to come up with the same but slightly different, and then collect their kickbacks under the table. Yeesh. “Cal” and anything Golden Bear-related are among the best-known “brands” in college athletics already, definitely worth throwing that away. I’m certain whatever they do will have precisely zero chance of being remotely as iconic as what they have, but hey, what does recognition matter in branding, right?

        Difficult to imagine a less-critical need for them to address, nor one less-likely to actually produce improvements for any of their general problems. I’m sure that’s the point though: Having it be something as intangible as branding means there’s no way to set real metrics for success or failure, thus they can declare success no matter what happens, and nobody can really prove otherwise.

        Sorry if cranky, having a rough time here, family stuff, won’t bore anyone. Bmaz, really sorry to hear about losing Grandma Pricky, that’s rough. There’s something amazing, noble and stoic about saguaros, their prior constancy and stability worsens their loss. At least she still has much to contribute in demise, and you had the chance to experience her for so long.

        BTW, not sure anyone cares, but in the Sunset Musings II article linked above there’s a link to “Ghorbanifar Meetings Timeline” which still points to ew.fdl (paraphrasing, hopefully folks get what I mean, ask if not) and thus no longer resolves. Should it? Just figured I’d ask as I noticed it.

        Thanks to everyone here for all you do!

      • punaise says:

        I’ll have to take your word for it on Chancellor Christ. Didn’t actually go to Cal – my allegiance (mild fandom?) is a) geographic and b) familial (parents were post-war grads).

  2. db_rouse says:

    I don’t think either Red Bull is going to make it onto the podium this time. The cars just weren’t working all weekend and now they’re in parc ferme and can’t change anything. This is probably making Merc and Ferrari happy indeed. I was starting to think that to break the streak, someone would have to persuade Logan to take a Red Bull up the – I mean impede Max to the max. Not unheard of, it is Singapore after all Speaking of impeding, Max was just being a dick out there today. Three incidents?

      • db_rouse says:

        I personally enjoyed the fact that it was Lawson who knocked him out of Q3. Kid has gotten off to a stellar start considering the way he got thrown into the deep end in Zandvoort. Should be interesting to see who has seats once Ricciardo is recovered.

        • farmfresh says:

          I really enjoyed seeing the way this track favored teammates. Russell consistently outperformed Hamilton, K Mag obliterated Hulk, Sainz always pipped Leclerc, and of course Lawson.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You’d think Red Bull would know by now what tires to use and how to tune a race car to perform in tropical heat and humidity.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Boebert, Greene, and Noem are the class acts of the Republican Party and exhibit the traits the party really holds dear: ignorance, arrogance, self-obsession, and freedom from accountability – plus a refusal to get a room when their itch needs scratching. At least it wasn’t Matt Gaetz.

    More than one wag wanted to know what was in the vape Boebert refused to stop smoking in front of a pregnant woman in the audience. Anyone want to bet that Boebert is both vaccinated against Covid and uses birth control?

    • RipNoLonger says:

      Back in the good ole days, there were private booths for people that wanted to engage in these acts. Curtains and libations provided.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Fortunately for her critics, the blithering Boebert has no clue about how much garden variety surveillance systems can pick up nowadays, even in the dark. It’s enough to give one the vapors.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    So sorry about Grandma. I also am old, but I get to come in when done with my work outdoors, into the A/C. Thank you, Mr. Carrier.

    On MSU, I’m confused by this statement: “MSU was caught flat footed in its response to the situation.” Is there something MSU didn’t do, fast enough? They suspended him the same day it became public, after all. Or, should they have said, “A hearing is in the works, we are giving him his due process until then”?

    Thank you both for all your work on this site, it truly is appreciated.

    • Rayne says:

      The MSU content is in the other Trash Talk post. I was called away today before I could finish it.

      MSU should NOT have been surprised by USA Today’s report. They should have called in a crisis management team as soon as Tracy filed the Title IX complaint.

      IMO, MSU should have publicly announced that an upper level MSU employee was the subject of a complaint, that all information was to be kept confidential out of fairness to the accused, accuser, students and staff, and that any contacts should have been addressed to the school’s public relations and lawyers.

      Tracy’s name should NOT have emerged in a fucking USA Today story.

  5. jdmckay8 says:

    RIP Grandma, counselor.

    I lived there entire 80’s, left in Sept. ’89. Came to love almost everything about living in the desert, including Saguaros. I saw a few articles about Saguaros dying maybe 6 weeks ago, have wondered how widespread it is. I know future water supply is coming starkly into focus for the county and beyond, I’m guessing bone dry soil has something to do with dying Saguaros.

    I just never developed taste for auto racing. Don’t watch sports a lot anymore (just other things I’d rather do), but will watch the battle of Colorado U’s tonight. Deon got my attention. That and Purdy 2 best sports stories AFAIC.

    In the first 5 or 6 years I lived there, they had 3 100-year-floods in Salt River that wiped out successive builds of the bridge to Tempe. Hope they were able to pull it all together and build one that lasted for at least 2 100 year floods, anyway. :)

    Have a good weekend.

  6. earthworm says:

    i sympathize with the loss of your friends, grandma and grandpa pricky, which had been standing with you for so long.
    where i live the beech tree woodlands are dying, the immediate cause is given as beech leaf blight and beech bark disease. it is creepy and grim, almost like a horror movie scene.
    i think we all infer — well, probably not ALL — that it is somehow disingenuous to focus on discrete, front-end “causes” of things in nature, when the 900 pound gorilla is climate, climate, climate.

    • Purple Martin says:

      Yup. Around Puget Sound (entire coastal northwest actually), the iconic Western Red Cedar—our signature tree—is in big trouble, with the same root causes. From the State of Washington Department of Natural Resources:

      The predominant theory for sudden mortality is that trees may be impacted by a changing climate, including increasing average temperatures and drought stress in the form of reduced and inconsistent precipitation.

      Even shaded sites along streams are at risk due to higher-than-usual average temperatures and reduced stream flow. Western redcedar is more sensitive to slight changes in abiotic conditions and may be crossing the lower limits of where they can thrive in some areas.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, climate. We have only desert landscaping, and none of it is on a drip system, but every thing seems to thrive just fine. Except the two giant saguaros. We have known that Grandma was in distress for a bit, but was remarkably upright and straight. So we hoped that maintained, but nope. Ah well, still have one saguaro, but one of our Joshua trees is shaky.

      • Ewan Woodsend says:

        Is the feeble Joshua tree near the driveway, like the saguaro was? Just wondering if it is the effect of the radiation from a dark surface nearby at night.

  7. dimmsdale says:

    Bmaz, condolences on the loss of Grandma. I have a couple of snake plants here in my tenement slum that originated in a little hospital get-well arrangement given to my (very) late grandmother in the 1950s, so I’m aware of the impact of a loss of that kind of elder plant companionship. Hope we can get a grip on climate change soon, but I have my doubts on that. Again, condolences.

  8. Peterr says:

    Requiescat in pace, Grandma Prickly.

    And peace as well to the rest of the Prickly family, especially the Prickly Bmaz.

  9. dcturtle says:

    sorry Bmaz. Though this will probably raise your ire, here is a funeral prayer for you: “May the loss cause reflection that temporarily makes you behave nicer to people who aren’t as wise as you.”

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. You published your last comment as “dc-turtle” which is not the same as “dcturtle.” Please pick a name and stick with it. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • theartistvvv says:

      Do you have an actual cite for that “funeral prayer” or did you just make that offensive shite up?

      I wanna be clear on why I am ignoring you in the future.

  10. Chetnolian says:

    Ever since I have been visiting in Phoenix, primarily Mesa, when I think of ArizonaI think saguaros. I wonder if when they are in an urban area, surrounded by tarmac as Gandma Prickly clearly was, they are extra vulnerable. And as the other place I visit is mentioned at the top of this thread (Austin TX) I have been very aware of how bad this summer has been. And my friend in Austin’s complaints about how high the electric bill is because of the air conditioning have caused me to recognise a vicious circle; global heating causes very hot summers, very hot summers mean more electricity used, means more fossil fuel use, means more Co2, means more hot summers. Why does not every house in Phoenix have solar panels on the roof to help create its own electricity to drive the aircon? (And yes in cool damp Blighty I have panels, though no aircon). Panels are, or were last year still very rare in Phoenix, all that sunshine going to waste.

    As to F1 in Singapore I am growing to quite like the circuit tho obviously it is quite different to the best and most typical F1 circuits. At least it is visually preferable to all that garish paint on some. And it does seem to test the drivers and cars. It appears the Red Bull is bottoming and if the floor is on the tarmac all the tyres and aerodynamics become a bit extra! Adds some spice.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed that the states one would expect to have the most solar and wind energy sources often have pathetically little of it. Southern California, Imperial, and the Central Valley. Much of Texas and Florida. AZ and NM. Much of the Midwest could benefit from wind turbines, OK and Nebraska come to mind.

      Energy monopolies seem to consider additional sources of energy a threat rather than an opportunity, just as they consider necessary maintenance a threat to their ability to throw profits back to shareholders. They spend loads of lobbying money to keep it at bay.

      • Chetnolian says:

        On the other thread I have been told Texas is quite good for large solar farms. But I was talking about individual property solar which works well even in damp UK but which I almost never see in the USA. I have always found that strange in places such as Phoenix where the sun is up and not obscured for the majority of the year. I have to confess it works best with a battery and I dare not admit on this site what make of battery I have!

  11. ExRacerX says:

    Sorry to learn of Grandma’s demise, bmaz.

    Yeah, the Southwest has been a real oven this year, and my wife & I made the (expensive!) switch from evaporative cooler to refrigerated air because of it—15 degrees cooler inside when it’s almost 100 outside just wasn’t cutting it. Now we’re feeling a bit guilty, but a little guilt at 72 degrees doesn’t feel so bad.

  12. FrankM78 says:

    Speaking of heat, I remember reading about the town in Australia named Coober Pedy. It is an opal mining area. There are underground homes, some very comfortable looking, and cooler to live in. Will this be the status symbol of the future for those wealthy enough to build underground in Arizona?

  13. bgThenNow says:

    It’s so sad. We are losing our river and surrounds. My friends in the water authority say all the riparian area, all the trees and critters will be gone in 20 years. The cultural impact of the loss is hard to imagine.

    We are not capable of change fast enough to outrun the climate change, which has been responsible for all the prior extinctions. The fossil record of our time will contain the nuclear marker and plastic, which never go away.

    Rest in memory.

  14. Yogarhythms says:

    RIP Grandma Prickly. I was hiking at Skyline Park Buckeye AZ this past Labor Day and noticed several dead Saguaros and lots of browning Creosote. Unusual to so many plants sun burnt looking in the desert this year. Mike Tyson says “Everyone has a plan until you get hit in the face”. Deserts are hot and plan for heat but I think this year the heat punching the desert won.

  15. Lawnboy says:

    All might not be lost bmaz!!!!

    Those offshoot arms are looking good to me! Can you transplant them and force them to root in a sheltered place and thus clone those puppies?

    For many plants, like dracaena , tip rooting is in the DNA. They grow tall, can’t support themselves, fall over and come in contact with perhaps better soil to root. The mother plant feeds the offshoot as a dying gesture to live on. And is this the case further back in the AZ desert? If that fails, I have a dancing cactus (and a bottle of nair) I got in place of that Stihl carb order last year. Its yours.

    Funny thing, I was just watching Monty Don’s USA gardens on PBS Buffalo and the focus was AZ cactus gardens.

    The Lawnboy knows plants, (zone 5), and also…. farmers say never give it a name. It just makes it harder to let it go.

    Lawnboy ( Niagara Parks School of Horticulture Grad)

    • P J Evans says:

      Some cactus do that, some don’t. Usually you have to let the cut/broken end dry out a bit, before planting the segment.

    • Elvishasleftthebuilding says:

      I do find Gardner’s World on Amazon Prime very soothing, especially when Monty Don is not on vacation. or some reason, Carol irritates me, but I’m probably just a jerk.

      It would break my heart to lose a Saguaro like that – I love the drive from Sedona to Phoenix and watching the Saguaro slowly populate the land. They are one of the world’s most amazing living things.

  16. vinniegambone says:

    Was Grandpa and Grandpa Pricky named after you or you after them.

    Try naming one RICO, and see how long that prick last.

    • vinniegambone says:

      Please forgive my joking about your loss.

      There’s no worse pain than work done in vain. ” He jest at scars that never felt a wound. ” I am quite sure it is wounding to lose something you cared for and hoped for it to make it. So hard to say goodbye.
      I know you can take it, but still, it was an unkind crack, and I am sorry.

  17. pdaly says:

    Bmaz, sorry to hear that Grandma Pricky has fallen. Had she shown any signs of ill health leading up to the fall? If saguaro cacti are the rugged canaries of the desert, then this does not bode well, as you mentioned, for the safety of all life there.

    I did not realize 16 years have passed since Grandpa Pricky fell over. From re-looking at that thread, did the attempt to transplant Grandpa Pricky’s surviving arm meet with any success?

  18. ifthethunder says:

    My condolences, bmaz.

    I live on a small mountain in W.V. My parents bought this house in the 1990s because my mom wanted a place in the woods. (She grew up in Wisconsin.) In the last 5 years, so many trees have died and are dying. 10 years, 20 years, 40 years old. It’s primarily an oak forest, but other large trees are dying too. The cold snaps in the winter haven’t been severe enough to kill off enough of the bark beetle larva. (Other pests are adding to the problem.) But it’s a state full of people who vote for out of state billionaires, aka the GOP. And they believe what FAUX tell them, e.g. global warming is a hoax.

    It’s very sad, and hard to find much to be optimistic about.

    • P J Evans says:

      I’ve seen a lot of dying pines and other trees around L.A. in the last few years – drought and heat. These are trees that were fine before, but they can’t take the changing climate. (I had to give up on garden lilies back around 2000. Daffodils and tulips are annuals here. Geraniums are perennials.)

  19. Ray Harwick says:

    I love that your family gave the plants a name and that you’ve known them you entire life. But I also swoon to consider that your family has occupied the same house for virtually every day of your life. I had attended 13 elementary schools by the time I finished 5th grade, and completed high school in No. 14, and I once did a sentimental journey via Google satellite images of all the places we lived (about 20 homes). There’s only one of the houses standing today. Some familiar vegetation remains at some of the sites, but at others it’s just a bare spot where a house used to be, or an industrial complex where our five-acre farm stood. Your connection with those ancient giants makes me contemplate what my life would have been like had I been similarly rooted and connected, or at least that I could see evidence of the life that used to be there. So glad you shared it.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, we have only been here 20 years or so. Will probably stay for many more years since while our house has really gone up in value everybody else’s has too. And interest rates have skyrocketed too. Can’t afford to go anywhere else, nor the hassle of moving all our stuff. And man have we accumulated a LOT of stuff. Plus we love our neighborhood, and it is central to everything we do. 15 minute drive to work for Mrs. bmaz and I can get downtown to both Superior Court and Federal court in about the same time. So, we will stay.

  20. Molly Pitcher says:

    bmaz, sSaw something about the repaving going on in Vegas in anticipation of the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix. they said the city was spending $75M to repave ?!

  21. Eschscholzia says:

    My sympathy for BMAZ’s loss. For easterners: think of losing a centuries old oak or elm tree in your yard, except saguaros are much cooler plants in a much starker landscape.

    BMAZ is right about increasing nighttime temperatures mattering more than daytime temperatures. Explaining that and a bit about how saguaros are so cool are finally something I can contribute here. All of the biochemistry of plants runs faster at warmer temperatures. But respiration at night (burning energy) increases more than photosynthesis during the day, which is limited by water or light. For cacti it is even worse: they increase water use efficiency by opening stomates at night to take up CO2 while losing less water vapor, then run the light reactions during the day (CAM photosynthesis). So night temperatures control how much water they lose per mole of CO2 fixed, higher temperatures lose more water.

    Because that CO2 is temporarily stored as malic acid, the pH of the saguaro pulp is quite acidic in the morning and basic by sunset. When a saguaro dies, the malic acid breaks down much faster than the alkali that helps buffer the acidity while alive, leaving a corpse with very high pH (and eventually a cool skeleton). While the community of species dependent on the saguaro gets the attention,1000_QL80_.jpg , there’s another community of fungi and fruit flies specialized on high pH resources of dead saguaros.

    Saguaro demography is complicated. Maximum lifespan is estimated as 150-200 years, but without tree rings, they only way to know is revisiting long-term monitoring plots, which has gone on for a bit over 100 years. New seedlings survive and establish only once every decade or two, and even then need a nurse plant like Palo Verde both for shade and for hydraulic lift (bringing water deeper in the soil up toward the surface). While scattered established individuals succumb to drought or fungi each year, mortality of large individuals tends to be episodic: ~1-4 times per century 10-50% die in a year. Freezes that don’t thaw out during the day and not droughts were thought to trigger most diebacks, but now fires carried by non-native grasses and prolonged heat during droughts cause them.

    • bmaz says:

      Thank you. And both of ours lost were seriously tall, so they had been around a long time. We know the prior owners of the house, and they said the cacti were all pretty big when they moved in, and they were here about thirty years. So that’s at least 50 years right there, and they were already big. It really is sad though they were so tall and majestic, one on each side of our driveways. It is not the same without them.

        • bmaz says:

          Thank you. Heh, one of the few benefits of being a criminal defense atty is that you meet a lot of interesting clients. One has a landscaping crew who are coming tomorrow or Tuesday. Professional services to do it are off the charts ridiculously expensive.

  22. JohnJJSchmidt says:

    I read a month ago that the saguaros in Az were having problems and the first thing I thought of was you.
    Sorry for your loss.

    In the race, I was interested in how well everyone at Red Bull was taking it. It seems like the whole team just chalked it up to a bad weekend. Refreshingly mature.

  23. posaune says:

    I’m so sorry about the loss of Grandma Prickly, bmaz.
    Trees or cacti like that become almost like people who make your house a home.

    We had a huge, healthy American Elm back in my middle childhood. That tree, located on the back corner of
    our lot at the highest topo point, held the tree house and the swings, including my sister’s baby swing. Kept the whole flat lawn area in afternoon shade in St. Louis summer heat. It was surrounded, with abundant lilacs extending along the full lot lines. Swinging on those swings in the spring was heavenly — cool air and wonderful scent. It was heart-breaking when it succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. Such a huge hole in our domestic environment. I feel for you bmaz, in the loss of Grandma Prickly, such a big part of your home.

    • Elvishasleftthebuilding says:

      One of the things I am proud of is that I planted an elm that was entirely against our subdivision’s code since they grow to 90 feet tall – I did this around 2003. Now this elm is huge (my ex wife lives in the house now), probably a little too big for the lot, but it’s really cool and it’s my opportunity to extend my impact in this world beyond my lifespan.

      • Rayne says:

        This is the kind of rebellion we need more of. Only concern is making sure any tree planted is situated appropriately assuming it can reach its maximum height and width.

        I thoroughly enjoy the ThickTrunk posts on Mastodon, but so many of the glorious thick-trunked trees which have survived +40 years in urban and suburban settings, making neighborhoods cool and lush, were too often placed too close to the house (bad during storms) and too close to sidewalks/streets (bad for disabled and for snow maintenance).

        • posaune says:

          Good comment, Rayne on the critical placement of the tree when planting . . . including its future root zone.

  24. Peacerme says:

    I remember the fall of grandpa Pricky. I had no knowledge of cactus as a Nebraska/Minnesota girl at the time of his passing. Your story was an introduction that was interesting and personal. New found respect for amazing cactus.

    So sorry for your loss. Especially sad for the fact that extreme weather is responsible. I think it’s safe to say that I will never forget them. Thanks for sharing them with us!

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