Queen of the Night Cactus Fruit

Queen of the Night FruitNow that the hottest days of Summer are over, we find ourselves in our so-called fifth season, “Second Spring.” This is when we get another wave of cactus flowers opening, blossoms on our rosemary shrubs and ripening fruit from summer blooms.

Last summer, several of our cactus flowers opened. Among them the Queen of the Night (peniocereus greggii) rescue cactus in our courtyard which had two flowers open. Now, those two flower stalks have become cactus fruit as shown at the right. After pollination overnight, the flowers wither and eventually fall off, leaving the flower stems which enlarge to become the cactus fruit.

More about P- Gregii from The University of Arizona - namely cultivation of the cactii:

Peniocereus greggii can be propagated from either seed or short stem cuttings. Once established this species is known to have large tuberous roots that are similar to potatoes. Generally this plant species likes to grow around or under desert ironwood, creosote bushes, and other desert shrubs that can provide shade, support and concealment. This cacti species only flowers once a year at night (usually in June or July) and for the rest of the year it appears to be dead. The following morning at sunrise, the flower dies. Unlike other cacti, P. greggii is not self-fertile and has widely separated individuals as a result. These flowers are cross-pollinated by hawk moths. P. greggi also typically has a slow growth rate, uses little water and does well in full sun, or partially shady environments. These cacti are also hardy plants, suffering damage at temperatures below 10° F.

Be sure to click on the links in the first paragraph above to see a couple of the Damsel’s excellent photos in the Cap’n Bob Image Viewer.

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Waxing Gibbous Moon

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I had a notion this evening to grab my camera and take a photo of the waxing gibbous moon shining overhead at 85% illumination. Again, as I did taking the photo of the emerging crescent moon last week, I did not use a tripod and remote shutter release, but rather I propped myself and the camera up against one of the porch pillars out in the courtyard. I used the automatic program shutter priority along with some post-processing to get the result seen above.

The Camera Settings were:

  • Camera - Canon Rebel EOS SL1
  • Program - Shutter Priority
  • Shutter Speed Set To 1/4000 sec
  • F Stop - 5.6
  • ISO 6400
  • Lens - Canon EF 75-300 set to 300mm Focal Length

Other than shutter speed, the camera automatically picked the other settings. In the post processing, I used my IRFANVIEW utility to crop the image, to enhance the gamma setting and eliminate the chromatic aberration caused by the cheap Telephoto lens. I would really like to get a better lens, but they are somewhat cost-prohibitive for as often as I have a need for one. I do have a camera adapter for my little Matsutov-Cassegrain telescope, but that, like a bunch of other things only comes out when I am highly motivated. Maybe the motivation will come one of these nights.

After I took the photo, Damsel and I stepped out to the courtyard to enjoy a nearly overhead pass of the International Space Station. The weather is starting to cool off a bit and we wore outer garments for the first time since early spring. This evening, the temperature plummeted to the low 70s which we consider quite cool. I know, I know, it’s snowing up north, and lots of snowbirds are already in town because of it.

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Milestone - One Decade of Retirement!

block-10.pngToday marks the tenth year milestone since I began my retirement from the Aerospace Mill for which I worked many years. I must say that those daily routines of getting up out of bed, commuting to the office, participating in whatever the plan of the day might have been, finishing up for the day, commuting back home and attending to home matters were comfortable for me right up until the last day. Now, however, at a decade down the road, I must also state that I don’t miss the old ways a bit.

During the last decade before retirement (starting 20 years ago), Damsel and I spent a lot of time planning for the retirement we were to have. It turned out that by the grace of God and our own foresight, we managed to get our basic plan together. Thankfully, my employer had good a retirement plan and an incentivized 401(k) savings plan, both of which we participated in. Upon retirement, we exercised our choice to roll the 401(k) into a managed payout mutual fund designed just for retirees. We opted for the retirement pension payout as well. Bottom line: we’re doing OK.

Sure, there were still some unknowns and other events post-retirement that would shape our destiny, but the foundation for our sustenance was set by the time we were out of there. We weren’t prepared to lose our California house to flooding, for example, but our insurance payout and a fortunate find of a “flipper” to take that property off of our hands made it a sweet departure from home ownership in California. Otherwise, we would have had to do the fixing up and “flipping” ourselves for which we weren’t exactly prepared. Between that example and a couple of other post-retirement glitches, we have managed to stay afloat.

Pardon all the metaphors, but it seems that we’re set for smooth sailing for the next decade of our retirement, God willing.

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Emergence of the Waxing Crescent

Waxing Crescent at 3%

After yesterday’s lunar new moon phase, we knew that a pencil thin crescent moon might be visible after sunset and before moonset today. Damsel and I went out to the courtyard to witness the thin crescent just at the end of civil twilight this evening. We could see it just above the hill to the west of us which obscures the western horizon from our view, so the timing was important.

After viewing the moon with Damsel, I went back into the house and got my camera to see if I could capture the image posted above. My Canon SL1, like other cameras of it’s class, has a programmed setting which automatically chooses most of the camera settings. To get the photo, it chose F 5.6, 1/400 sec. exposure and ISO 6400. I used a 300 mm telephoto lens. I didn’t have time to get the tripod and set it and the camera up before the moon would set, so I propped myself and the camera up against one of the posts holding up the porch roof.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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A New Tax Season Is Almost Upon Us

irs_logo.pngDue to an upcoming change in income status, we started to review our 2019 and 2020 Income Tax situation. It seems that Damsel will now begin getting back some of her hard-earned money that the .gov stole from her while she was working. I know, there are laws that congress passed that made the removal of money from our earnings “legal” under the Social Security Act or whatever. Still, we as individuals would be better off if we had access to those funds to properly invest and not have them deferred for some of the ridiculous spending by congress. It is tantamount to theft in our opinion.

</rant>

OK - now that I have that out of my system, I can expound on the tax prep thing. It seems that if we have Damsel’s SSA distributions coming into the household, I have to make adjustments to some things, like withholding and IRA distribution rate. This is to be done in order to attempt to keep us in the current tax brackets and such.

Since the new income will start later this year, I had to analyze whether it would be prudent to make adjustments to those things I mentioned above. Fortunately, for this tax year, that won’t be necessary. It may cause us to owe a little more for 2019, but, as I have said before, we would rather owe a bit than loan the .gov interest free money.

Because of our retirement lifestyle, we set our income rate to accommodate our established needs. Now, because of the increase in available funds, I can reduce the IRA withdrawal rate to the RMD (required minimum distribution) as set by the IRS for retirement accounts. This is a good thing thus preserving those funds for the future while they multiply in our IRA investment pool.

So, until I see some of the exact numbers forthcoming, I have set up a spreadsheet with preliminary numbers to analyze our 2020 income and withholding situation. At first glance, it looks like we’re going to be getting our 2020 tax situation under control. We will fine tune things as soon as the actual numbers can be seen.

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Fourteenth Blogaversary

fourteen.jpgThe Cap’n Bob & the Damsel blog is actually a little older than fourteen years; we had it on an earlier platform (BBLOG, I think) for a few months prior to converting to our self-hosted WordPress platform. The first post on the new blog was on September 22, 2005 regarding Feinstein’s NO vote on John Roberts’ confirmation to Chief Justice.

Since that first WordPress entry, we have blogged about politics from time to time, but not so much anymore. We’ve become mostly a diary of our travels and activities with the occasional politiblog thrown in for good measure. We still like to point out the idiocy of the climate changers and Democrats in general, not that it does any good (it keeps getting worse) but it gives us a chance to vent our disgust with the political system in the US and elsewhere.

So, here we are, fourteen plus years down the road, enjoying retirement (coming up on ten years now) in our little desert cottage and occasionally writing about “things,” Perhaps we may still be here fourteen years hence, doing just about the same thing, The Good Lord willing.

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From Ancestors to Descendants

alex.jpgToday is the fifth anniversary of the birth of our eldest Great Grandchild and the first Great Grandson, Alex. Happy Fifth Birthday to Alex and many happy returns.

That’s a recent photo of Alex at the right, nearing his fifth birthday and like all boys that age showing some maturity (his pose) and some less mature dirt on his face, typical of most normal five year old boys. Alex, his cousin Maci and brother Mikey were on a park outing when this photo was taken.

The three kids I mentioned are our three great grandchildren aged 5, 3 and 2, respectively. The kids live in the Santa Rosa area of California with their mothers, our eldest two granddaughters.

Our eldest granddaughter is the mother of the two boys aged 5 and 2. The second eldest granddaughter is the mom to our only great granddaughter (at this time).

As we watch these kids grow up at a seemingly accelerated pace, we realize that we are growing older at the same rate. We further realize that our youngest descendants are rapidly maturing to become parents themselves in years to come. We can only hope that we might still be around to see the beginning of that next generation.

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