The inexpensive CD player and $50 speaker system I sent out here in advance of my visit have really been a comfort; I have them playing almost all the time when I'm in Gertie. Gary was most gratifyingly "blown away" (in his words) when he first heard it; he couldn't believe all that sound was coming from such a small set of speakers. The system consists of two tiny cubes—less than 3" on a side!--and a woofer about half the size of a shoebox that also contains the dual amplifiers. Work like a charm!
Although I only brought eleven CDs with me, there's enough variety (jazz, classical, swing and a little rock) that I can listen to whatever my mood fancies without getting bored with repetition. (Right now it's a Mozart divertimento, good quiet background music for writing.) So I have music whenever I'm "at home," which makes me feel very comfortable.
I had a little trouble with the cheap CD player's sensitivity to vibration until I placed it on a slab of polyurethane foam, but that cured the problem. (Judie keeps lots of pieces of foam in the kitchen cupboards to keep things from banging together and breaking while traveling. I bought all plasticware to avoid this problem and save weight.) The whole system sounds quite astonishingly good considering that I paid $95 altogether for it. Most of the credit goes to Henry Kloss and his company Cambridge SoundWorks, who built the $50 (!) amplified subwoofer/satellite speaker systems.
Judie and Gary's neighbor Pauline, a lively woman in her seventies, came with us to this nature preserve, reputedly one of the world's best bird-watching spots. Although the afternoon was a bit overcast—not the usual crystal-clear blue southwestern skies—the place was beautiful. I bought a small canvas carrying bag and a cute bat finger puppet at the store. The bag was overpriced at $22, but I figured it was for a good cause. Then we wandered around for an hour or more. We saw lots of birds, most of which I couldn't identify from my extremely limited knowledge, though Gary and Pauline knew some of them.
The San Pedro River that flows through the wildlife area was about ten feet wide with a couple of larger ponds, eliciting amazement over how much water there was (the result of last week's snows in the nearby mountains). The parts of the San Pedro River that we saw were a bit smaller than the stream that runs through the woods on my employer's property.
Watching these Arizonans enthuse over a ten-foot-wide "river" was like hearing New Jerseyans talk about our state's Sourland "mountains"—which would be considered mere hills in many parts of the country. To be fair, the debris in the trees along the shore showed that at some time in the recent past the San Pedro had been much larger. I assume that during the rainy season it probably doubles or triples in size. But then, the same can be said of the stream at my workplace.
I managed to get good photos of Gary (who is reportedly hard to photograph) and Pauline. Judie was especially happy to get the picture of Gary, as she has very few that she likes. I don't do much people photography, so I was surprised and pleased at my success. She printed copies of the picture of Pauline on her Epson Stylus Photo 700 and gave them to Pauline for her children and her friend Allen, who has been in the hospital for two weeks following a heart attack, quintuple (!) bypass surgery and subsequent internal bleeding that nearly killed him.
Judie's SP 700 performs impressively enough that I'm thinking of changing my plans to buy a portable printer for Gertie. Heck, the 700 is small enough...and I know I can buy one for a hundred and change, while the portable printer would cost hundreds more. Besides, the 700 is a real photo printer—the output looks as good as "real" photos. It would be nice to be able to print photos while I'm on the road.