Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Pardon the Interruption

Yes, I know that I just began publishing the photos from my Hawai`i trip, but I have to interrupt to mark the anniversary of my retirement from HP — which made this little endeavor possible. And every year I say approximately the same thing — "I cannot believe it has been EIGHT years". Do the math — 2013 minus 2005. My ever-faithful HP-12C calculator tells me it is eight years even though it really does not feel that long. And now, a quick year in review...

Last October I toured Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark or "BOB") and was able to see so much behind the scenes — places one normally cannot visit during a game. For those in Phoenix, do take the tour, perhaps with your next out-of-town guests — especially since the season is over for the Dbacks — not much going on then so very little is off-limits.

A few days before my visit, I attended a Diamondbacks game and captured this panoramic image on my iPhone. The weather was pleasant so they opened the roof. The cool air from the massive air conditioners is, of course, heavier than the hot air outside and keeps the spectators comfortable during the game. Incidentally, the Diamondbacks won the game with a two-out three-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning. Ironically, I attended two games last year and both ended in the exact same way. I thought the team should have given me free box seats — it is obvious that they need a bit of luck. Unfortunately, they did not come up with the complimentary tickets and failed to make the playoffs this season. A coincidence? I think not!

In November, I took the ninety-minute drive north of Phoenix, to a 100-acre site in Camp Verde, where sits a wild animal park called "Out of Africa". There are herbivores populating "The Serengeti" plus carnivores behind tall chain-link fences.

Herbivores do not do much but eat grass — carnivores are much more interesting. A female lion may be confined in her enclosure but she is always on the lookout for her next meal.

In this shot, she appeared to be stalking this father and daughter — the latter would have made a nice snack — walking back and forth as they strolled around the enclosure. I thought that this photo was so cute that I gave the father my email address so he could contact me for a copy of the shot — which I sent to him a few days later.

December took me just north of Tucson, on land that was formerly a ranch, upon which sits a unique Earth systems science research facility called Biosphere 2. The name is derived from Biosphere 1 — the Earth. The initial mission was to provide a completely enclosed habitat which would sustain a crew of humans with absolutely no provisions provided from outside — in a way, a simulation of what a trip to Mars would require. That mission consisted of eight members who were sealed inside for two years. There were numerous problems — among the worst were that too little food could be grown and there was a buildup of carbon dioxide. Somehow we are not as smart about what Mother Nature provides us in the real world and thus run into real challenges when we try to duplicate her bounty.

This is another iPhone panoramic shot showing the full complex.

As long-time readers of LAHP will recall, one of the delights of the Christmas holidays in Phoenix is Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden. For those who are not familiar with this Southwestern holiday tradition, luminarias are small paper bags weighted down with sand or gravel in which a candle is placed. One is cute, thousands transform the garden into a land of fantasy. And do note that this year's schedule runs from November 29 through the end of the year — do not miss it if you are anywhere near Phoenix at that time of the year. Not only can you enjoy the enchantment of the luminarias but also the live music performed all over the garden, accompanied by your favorite hot beverage (since it will be nippy that time of year).

In February I shared photos from an exhibition of model cars held in cooperation with the RM Auction whose classic car auction was held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. The models date back to the 1950's and 1960's when Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild sponsored an annual contest for young designers to create concept models of the cars of the future. In fact, General Motors actually hired some of the winners who went on to design the GM cars since then.

In March, I shared photos from the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. All the horses at this show were either full-blooded Arabians or 50% Arabian. From Wikipedia, "With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses that resemble modern Arabians dating back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade, used to improve other breeds by adding speed, refinement, endurance, and strong bone. Today, Arabian bloodlines are found in almost every modern breed of riding horse."

There were numerous events, showing these magnificent horses in various poses and roles — some with, some without a rider. However, my favorite photo was of this exhausted young rider, catching a catnap before her performance in front of the judges.

April brought spring to the desert and I shared the wildflowers in bloom at the Desert Botanical Garden.

There was so much to share that it took into May to complete the series — with photos of the butterflies in the tent-like enclosure. In the spring, they exhibit butterflies of Arizona — in the fall, they show Monarch butterflies. Both exhibitions are a delight.

In June, I published photos from the Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing Museum located at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa, AZ which maintains an exhibit of aircraft — most of them military and primarily dating to World War II. You can even sign up to ride in one of the planes, for a price. Even if you do not take a flight, you can enjoy simply viewing these magnificently restored flying machines. I loved this photo of a McDonnell F-4N "Phantom II". This was a fighter and tactical strike aircraft in service from 1961 to the late 1990s. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy (notice the folding wings for the efficient storage aboard an aircraft carrier), it was also flown by the Marines, the Air Force and several foreign countries.

There were so many aircraft photos to share, the series ran into July. One of my favorites shows this North American SNJ-5 "Texan" with the side panels of the fuselage removed for maintenance. The SJN was the standard advanced trainer used by both the Navy and Air Force from 1938 through the 1950s. More than 50,000 US Army/Air Force pilots and 40,000 Navy pilots were trained in these planes — plus the many pilots in other nations. Although retired from military service in the mid-50s, many "Texans" are still flying today as civilian sport and utility aircraft.

In August, I visited Butterfly Wonderland, which is a new attraction located in Scottsdale. It is part of a larger planned entertainment and education complex, which will eventually include a huge aquarium, IMAX theater, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Arizona Experience (interactive, multi-media show together with live actors depicting Arizona's past, present and future), MagiQuest (live-action interactive game that immerses players into a world of fantasy propelled by technology) plus the customary shops and restaurants.

This first part of the larger complex is wonderful in its own right — with thousands of butterflies from around the world flying freely in an atrium mimicking a lush, tropical landscape. I loved this image of a Doris Longwing, native to Central America and South America as far as the Amazon River. I highly recommend a visit.

In September, I toured the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, just south of my home. Here you can sign up to fulfill a lifetime dream of driving a real race car at top speed around a track. They provide the professional instruction, the cars, the track — you just provide a pile of cash to pay for the experience.

It has been quite a year. For those of you who have not reached retirement yet, I say that this is the best time of your life. And here's hoping you can get there soon.

Next week — back to Hawai`i.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com