Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End Of December Photos

Thought we'd end December with some photos we hadn't posted on the blog yet.

Just a hint of cirumzenithal and supralateral arcs

A bit of iridescents and a starry, starry sun

The best use of the satellite dish with atmospheric corona

Cooper's hawk hunting the yard
"The Dharma Bums put out delicious birdseed, and they don't mind if you eat it."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dinner Conversation

Rim Fire from NASA Earth Observatory
I read a news story in the LA Times last week about a guy named Tom Steyer. I'd never heard of him before, but it turns out he's a billionaire who is spending some of his fortune on environmental issues (which makes us very happy). One of the things that struck me in the article was this quote about climate change, "If you're not talking about it at the kitchen table, you don't really care about it."

I think the reason it struck me is that Roger and I do talk about it at the kitchen table. We always have very serious conversations at dinner. It's one of our favorite times to just sit and talk. We have a glass or two of wine and wonder about the future of the planet. We think about where we should move, where there might be adequate rainfall and enough water, where the temperatures won't be too unbearably hot for summer gardening of cruciferous vegetables. We think about what our grandchildren will have to contend with in thirty or forty years, or less depending on who or what you are reading.

Our smoky yard in August
I have to confess here. I am obsessed about climate change. I read crazy long articles about it and shorter ones that compile statistics and data. I just finished reading this article in Salon that summarized weather and climate events of 2013. I was left with trying to imagine a tornado 2.6 miles (4.2 km) wide. The author mentions the Rim Fire, but I don't have to even imagine that one. The smoke from that blaze darkened our skies and choked our air for weeks this past summer. Right now, California is about to have its driest year on record. A rainless year will only mean more fires, among other crazy big problems.

I am on a mailing list of a local grain farmer. He sent an email yesterday in which he wrote, "In what's looking like our third year of drought I have been thinking about what it will mean if this is what the future will be like. In my region it very well could be unpredictable winters of very dry or very wet as the climate changes.  I've been reading Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land by Gary Paul Nabhan, the ethnobotanist, historian, and writer about desert dwellers. It's about how people have adapted, or not, to extreme dry conditions and how we might think about the situation for ourselves. How will we feed everybody if California's salad basket or the corn belt no longer have predictable water supplies? At least, food for thought if not for our stomachs."

Roger and I believe that we are facing a dire future, and we don't think there is any will whatsoever to change anything. Sadly, we also are starting to think it might already be too late. This is what we talk about at dinner. We wonder if you talk about this too? What do other people talk about at dinner? We'd love to know. We'd also like to know if there has been any sign of climate change in your neck of the woods. Do you have a sense what the impact might be where you live? Drier? Wetter? Hotter? Colder? Just curious about your personal take on how things are going to change for you in your lifetime. Tell us your climate change story, join in our dinner conversation. Please!

And, Roger just reminded me of this interesting website about another important conversation we should be having at dinner.

More good reading to be found here and here

Sorry to end the year with such a somber post. Well, at least we can celebrate that my mom is doing well!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Thousand Mile Journey

We drove round trip a thousand miles (1609 km), south to see my mom and back home again. It's quite a journey. Heading south we drove through the Salinas valley, and partly down along the coast. It's always beautiful in every season, and we have never been disappointed with the views out the window of our zooming car. This trip down was a bit different because we saw iridescent clouds and sundogs for 50 miles.
I photographed the sundog through the open window. I photographed the iridescence through the windshield, the sun hidden by the visor. I told Roger that it was a good thing I wasn't behind the wheel at this part of the journey. I'm not sure I could have kept my eyes on the road. We had a good weary highway laugh about that.
 We spent four days with my mom, who you can see from this photo is recovering incredibly well from the stroke she had on December 9th. She has already regained all the things that had been effected: speech, smile, left hand strength. Her resilience and joie de vivre is a truly wonderful thing. We were so happy to be with her and watch her confidence grow everyday. This is why we travel all those miles. Love is such good medicine.
The drive home wasn't nearly as beautiful as the drive south. We took an inland route, Highway 99. The above photo shows you the nearly palpable air we were about to enter as we approached the San Joaquin Valley. It's an interesting thing to actually see the USG (Unsafe Air for certain Groups) spread before you. That's 300 miles of (482 km) of really BAD AIR.
This is a screen shot the Air Quality Map in California. We're home now in the slightly better air of the Sierra foothills. I can't help but think it is pretty interesting what we have come to accept about our modern world.
And here is Bonsai, our very old kitty cat, sitting in the sunlight on our first day back. He was well cared for by our neighbors, and very happy to have his favorite servants home. (Thanks to Arkansas Patti for reminding me to post this photo and a Bonsai update.)

So, the utter joy of having my mom feeling well and our kitty cat surviving our journey over-rides any of my disappointment with the air we have to breathe these days.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where We Shouldn't Be

We were supposed to be on the road Monday, driving 450 miles (724 km) south to see my mom. She was discharged from the hospital on Saturday and is home recovering fairly well. We were going to spend a couple of days with her to be part of her care giving team.
You might be wondering why we're not there. I'm embarrassed to admit that we stayed home to look after our aging cat Bonsai whose health suddenly took a precipitous drop over the weekend. We called the vet to talk about euthanizing him, but had second thoughts when he rallied and moved about more steadily on his wobbly legs. We felt bad asking our neighbors who had already agreed to do cat care to check in on a cat that may be dying. My mom was absolutely adamant that we look after Bonsai a little while longer before we headed south. When I called her Monday morning, her first question was, "How's the cat?" I said, "No way, first question is how are you?" She sounded really well, much stronger and truly like herself.
But still, I think it is absurd that we are here and not there. It seems crazy to be taking care of a cat instead of my mom. But making the decision to end Bonsai's life now so we could leave was much too hard to do. My family was quite insistent that we stay a little while longer.
So, we stayed. It was a warm and beautiful day here. Lovely things happening in the sky. Things we would not have seen had we been on that long drive south. But as beautiful as this amazing atmospheric corona is, I'd much rather be looking into my mother's eyes.

Road trip planned for Wednesday, whether Bonsai survives or not.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Few Words on Wednesday

On top of the overwhelming stress of the broken furnace and the arctic blast, just when we thought we couldn't stress out any more, my wonderful mother had a stroke Monday morning. It came as a complete surprise because she has been in very good health. The left side of her body has been effected. She is in the hospital and will be there for a few more days. My sister lives just a few miles from her (we are 450 miles away), and has been at her side. Her grandchildren have been there as well. We skyped with her Tuesday afternoon (my thoughtful sister brought her computer to the hospital so all my mother's far-flung children could see her face). It was good for our hearts to see her, to laugh with her, to hear her talk about her experience. We are hopeful.

The furnace repair guy came and the furnace is working at the moment. If it continues for 24 hours, we'll breathe a much-needed sigh of relief over that.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Arctic Blast, Snow, and a Broken Furnace

Yes, it's beautiful, those raised garden beds blanketed in pristine snowfall. The shadows, the light, the hint of a moody sky... what's not to love? This: We woke Thursday morning to the sound of the furnace turning on and turning off, turning on and turning off. The temperature outside was a chilly 22F (-5C) and inside was 58F (14C). And there was a weather forecast of an even deeper cold and a foot of snow headed our way.
The furnace repair person came Thursday, spent an hour or so with the furnace, and declared it repaired. We were delighted with the news. We do have a very dependable wood stove, which we use everyday to heat the house, but we rely on the propane furnace to keep the house warm over night and into the morning. So, we were deeply unhappy Friday morning when the furnace did not come on again. The furnace repair person came back and spent two hours tinkering around and said that a part needed replacing, which he couldn't get until MONDAY. Uh-oh. Those deeper, colder temps were coming soon.
So, when we woke Saturday morning to find nearly seven inches of snow and our furnace actually working, we were elated. Not sure why it worked all day, but it did. We were able to let the fire burn out in the wood stove, clean all the ashes, and get it ready for a day of wood burning on Sunday. The predicted temp for Sunday morning was 8F (-13C).  Of course, the furnace stopped working again and didn't turn on Sunday morning. The temp was only 15F (-9C), but those few degrees were our only respite. Roger built the fire at 3:45 am, which we'll have to keep burning through the night until Monday.

So, yes, the snow is beautiful, especially on Sunday morning with the sun shining through the pine and cedars, and the glint of light that has sparked poetry forever. But, on a morning without a working furnace, it is more of a hassle than anything else. Bah humbug.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Archiving The Blog

Screenshot of Table of Contents
Roger and I have been blogging since late 2004. It's been nine years, although our archives only go back to January 2005. Not sure what blogger did with our posts from late 2004, when we were lamenting George W Bush's win over John Kerry, and just settling into our first winter in Port Townsend, WA. They are simply gone.

Screenshot of a post from 2009
Back in October we thought about archiving Dharma Bums just to have a complete record of it, and just in case something crazy happened like blogger deciding on a whim to pull the plug on the whole endeavor. So, we did a bit of online sleuthing and found this wonderful and easy website BlogBooker that converts several different kinds of blog domains into pdf files. We had to export the entire blog to an xml file (that's done under blogger settings). That took some time. Once the file has been completely downloaded, it can be uploaded onto BlogBooker. That also takes quite a bit of time (well our upload speed is embarrassingly slow). BlogBooker then converts the xml file into a pretty fine book of the entire blog.

Screenshot just because I love this guy!
We have plans to eventually print the whole thing. It's a huge file and would probably take five or six reams of paper and a lot of ink. At this time, blogger doesn't have a way of setting date parameters. So, we think we'll probably create a new pdf of the entire blog once a year. If you're thinking at all of keeping an archived file of your blog, we highly recommend checking out BlogBooker. It's free, but they will also take donations. We gladly donated some EUROs through PayPal for this excellent project.

PS-- If anyone out there knows how to convert old Haloscan comments into something readable, we have 20 files of ridiculously unreadable xml stuff that we would love to actually read again. All of the comments from the beginning of our blogging days until 2009 are archived in this absurd format. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Last Bit of Color in No-Horse Meadow

When we first moved here in 2010, one of our neighbors showed us a few good walking trails. One of those trails took us through the woods and then up to Three-Horse Meadow. The three horses were almost always there, unless we found them gathered in the woods on the way to meadow. They were the friendliest and sweetest horses we'd ever met. They would come to us just for a little tender scratching and soft talking. We never remembered to bring carrots or apples with us, although we always promised them that we would.
Maybe it's been two years already that we noticed the pretty light-colored horse was gone. She was a big, beautiful horse. We thought she looked old. The hair around her soft brown eyes was already quite silvery. We are not sure whatever became of her, so, we started to call the place Two-Horse Meadow.
Roger has had some lovely interactions with these two over the years. They always come to him like he's an old friend, and then follow us up the trail, or stand there just watching us leave. Their gentleness was lovely thing to encounter in the woods.

The last time we saw them was when they took a little walk with us back in August. I videoed them with Roger. We have not seen them since, and we have no idea what became of them. We truly miss their friendly presence out there.
These days the meadow is rich with the last of the fall colors. It is so warm and lovely, but there are no horses. Now we sadly call the place No-Horse Meadow.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

End of November Favorite Photos

Thought we'd end the month with some of our favorite photos that hadn't been posted on the blog yet. Ah November, you were beautiful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Deerly Beloved

I take the birdseed feeders in every night so the bears can't get them. I go out early every morning to rehang them and scatter seed on the ground for the doves (and the opportunistic squirrels and band-tailed pigeons). I go shortly after sunrise, so there's enough light for me to see if there are bears, mountain lions, or a pack of coyotes out there. I always open the blinds first and look around before I open the front door. It's not fear, but thoughtful self-preservation.
Monday morning when I pulled that blind up this beautiful buck was not more than ten feet from the window. Yes, I startled him, but he didn't go very far at all. Mmmm... I wondered why he stayed around close enough for me to see him. I didn't want to go out and scare him any more than I already had, so I put off hanging the feeders for a little while. When I checked again, he was still out there, and so was his little sweetheart doe, resting in one of the flower beds as calm as could be.

Ah yes, it is rutting season for black-tailed deer, and these two were as cute as lovebirds on a date. I think this female is one we've known over the years. She likes to come by and eat the bird seed too. I opened the door. She didn't move. She just watched me scatter the seed. I always talk to her. I know I'm not supposed to, and I know it's wrong to feed the deer, but I am feeding birds. She just likes to get in on the action. I told my neighbors once, after they complained that the deer were eating all their flowers and plants out in front of their house, that the deer must think they had planted it all for them. Why else would those scrumptious morsels be so attractive and delicious and easy to get to?

The buck hung around and watched the doe eat. It surprised me that he let her eat as much as she wanted before he came by for a nibble. (It reminded Roger of the male mallard's behavior in their season.) Then, she went back to lying down and waiting, and he went to eat something green.

Yes, I went out and scattered more seed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Mighty Wind

Roger and I went for a walk on Friday. The weather forecast had called for heavy winds (sustained 25-35 mph with gusts of 60-80 mph) both Thursday and Friday, but Friday started out clear and calm. So, we headed up the hill and along one of the irrigation ditches. This particular ditch walk takes us through thick pine and oak forests. We are often serenaded by the crazy calls of the Acorn Woodpecker there. We walk about a mile and a half and then turn around to head back. It's one of those walks that requires backtracking.
On the way back the wind picked up considerably. The roaring sound was disconcerting, and the air was literally filled with pine cones, leaves, pine needles, and little branches EVERYWHERE. It was a swirl of windblown debris. We had a mile and half walk ahead us of during the most intense part of the windstorm. I covered my head with my arms, thinking if a branch came down, it wouldn't completely split my head open, merely break both of my arms. We trudged on. The trail was strewn with broken branches and tree limbs that would have hurt considerably had they come down on us. I told Roger taking a walk at this time was like heading out for a little swim in the ocean during a freak high tide and high wave event. Roger said, he would have felt safer in that ocean than he did in these trees. We trudged on. The wind continued to roar.

When we arrived home the power was out. We still had our internet connection because our dsl is plugged into a backup power supply unit. I checked online to see how long the power might be out. Of course, there was no time estimate. We set out getting the house ready for the long haul, just in case the outage went on for days, and we needed to use the generator. Extension cords everywhere and lanterns. We were ready. Fortunately, the power was restored in just a few hours, but there was extensive damage to PGE flumes that had an impact on water supplies for our neighbors (we're on a well, so we're okay).
On Sunday we took our rakes out to the road and driveway to clean up the pine needles that were everywhere. The pine needles make the road and driveway pretty slick, so it has to be done. Luckily, it's fun to rake the pine needles, way more fun than shoveling snow.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Personal Remembrance of That Day (with an OMG update!)

While I was waiting for my appointment at the dentist office yesterday morning, I picked up the latest issue of Time Magazine to read. The cover story was the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I only had time to read this first paragraph before they called my name:

"Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as the rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president." (I would have added 9/11 to that horrifying list.)

My 6th grade photo

Because this anniversary was coming, I wrote three of my elementary school classmates on Facebook and asked them what they remembered of that Friday, when we were 6th graders at PS 25 in Fords, NJ. I was glad to see that they remembered the afternoon the way I did. We had been in our classrooms, when suddenly the teachers informed us that we were going to the school auditorium. Such a spontaneous gathering had not happened before. My class had to walk outside to get to the next building where the auditorium was. On the way, I walked next to my teacher Mr. Newberger. He told me that the President had been shot. I felt that news in the pit of my stomach. That was the craziest thing I had ever heard. It made me feel sick. When we arrived, students were seated and teachers were walking around, some with transistor radios to their ears. Everyone was quiet. Teachers were listening. We were all waiting. I remember a teacher started to cry. Then another. Finally, Mrs. Schwarick, a large woman with intense presence spoke out. She told us that the President had been killed. She told us that school was canceled for the rest of the day. She told us to go home. So we filed out of that room and took the walk home. There was a crossing guard at the major intersection at Ford Avenue. She held up her white-gloved hand, and the traffic stopped to let us cross. She fumbled with the whistle around her neck and said, "Pray for our country. Go home and pray for our country."

I didn't do that. I never pray.

I did watch the crowds go to the Rotunda to pay homage and say their farewells to the flag-draped coffin.

I did watch Lee Harvey Oswald get shot.

I did watch that horse-drawn caisson and that riderless horse.

I did cry a thousand tears.

OMG UPDATE:  At dinner Friday night Roger asked me in what year 9/11 happened. I said it was 2001. OMG, that's right, 2001, not the second half of the 20th century at all. A whole new MILLENIUM! No wonder the Times writer left it out. It didn't belong there. Holy shit, my lifetime isn't the parameters of history at all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Whilst Doing The Chores

I went out Monday afternoon to take our old kitty cat Bonsai for a walk around the yard. He likes to sniff around and stare beyond the gate to the bird and squirrel drama out front. I took a glance up at the sky and saw this:
Ah, a beautifully formed circumzenithal arc (CZA) right over the backyard. I was so delighted to see it, I ran for the camera and took eighteen photographs as it faded. It was gone in literally five minutes. I was so glad that Bonsai wanted to go for a little walk.

About a half hour later, I went out front to toss the compost into the outside bin. I took another glance up and saw this:
Another CZA, just slightly southwest of where I had seen the first one. I ran inside to get Roger to come out and take a look. That's when we noticed that there was another arc.
I ran inside and called the neighbors and told them to go take a look. This is a beautiful atmospheric optic, a CZA with a supralateral arc. I ran back outside to take 22 more photos. It changed quickly.
And then disappeared.
Check out the post I did on Parry Arcs. It was almost exactly two years ago to the day, at exactly the same time of the day (2:57 pm), in that same part of the sky where there was another magnificent show.

PS: It has occurred to us that the sky has been doing these things all of our lives. How is that we didn't look up and see it for all these years?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Reliable Wilderness

We can walk in the woods day after day and not see a single thing that takes our breath away. The ocean, however, is a reliable wilderness that fuels our spirits with sights and sounds almost every time we take a look.

The week we spent at the coast coincided with the end of a month-long feeding frenzy that was absolutely stunning. We did see whales (after I wrote the first post) and more birds and sea mammals than we had ever seen gathered at one time.

I did take a few videos. One of a harbor seal slapping its flippers on the water in a communication display (so I've read) and one of some dolphins making their way to more food.

I tried to photograph a scene that would give the perspective of how many pelicans were amassed in this part of the bay and came up with the above pic that almost does it.

We drove home Saturday and are awaiting the first rains of the season. California is in a drought at the moment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle the bay area has received the least amount of rain for the year in recorded history. Pretty scary stuff. Then, of course, there's always the Fukushima radiation disaster making its way toward us. Yeah, I know, I'm a bit of a bummer but I can't help worrying about this beautiful reliable wilderness.

PS-- I had to make the video resolution low in order to upload it on our slow internet speed. Sorry about that. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Coastal Iridescence

Proof of concept moments:

I wondered if I would see iridescent clouds and sun-dogs at the beach. The answer is definitely yes.