Apr 24

Cats and bikes and jellies

No matter the day of the week — and it should belong on Monday, but there was already a lot of material here on Monday — the weekly check with the cats is the most popular regular feature on the site. So we, the cats and I, are always pleased to bring you what you want most.

Phoebe will spend part of any afternoon in a shopping bag if you let her. That is, of course, between pets and chasing the birds just outside her windows and looking for milk.

And also her naps. This is a late afternoon nap. And I’d like you to study that face. No one relaxes more intently than this cat.

Poseidon has lately discovered the watering can. The plants on the front porch were thirsty for a few extra seconds while this took place. First, I filled the can. Something about the process got Poe’s attention. Ever helpful, he jumped up to peer into the sink and, then, into the can.

I think he could hear the water moving around in there, and so he decided to investigate, first with a look and a sniff, and then, as you see here, with his paw.

He swished it around, and realized he had water on his paw. He, being named after the god of water, put his paw back in the water, swirled it around, pulled his paw back out and then licked the water off. He did this two or three more times, like he doesn’t have multiple water bowls conveniently located around the house.

Had a nice little bike ride this evening. The weather was pleasant and the company was better. We did about 15 miles together, and then my lovely bride took a left turn into the neighborhood and I did the first big triangle shape of the year.

Just before the golden hour.

Which quickly turned into the golden hour.

You know how trees will line a road? Sometimes these are called woods, but sometimes, it’s just one thin little row of trees between the road the field behind them? Sometimes, when you’re dealing with that thin little row, a gap will appear. And, sometimes, you can see that coming up. Those narrow little spots where the tree gives way to the crops or the pasture or the yard behind them are all about timing. Even at cycling speed, I have to reach in my pocket, open the camera app and try to frame this shot before I glide by.

Sometimes you get lucky with those.

I picked these things up in those last 10 miles. If you know anyone missing these items, send them my way.

And if you don’t know anyone missing those items, send someone else my way. I just want to get this stuff off the shoulder of the roads.

Back to last month’s trip to California, here’s one more view of the purple-striped jellyfish. They are highly localized to the central California coast. They can sting you, and it would hurt, so you’d be better off staying away, though human interactions with them are rare.

The bell on these can grow to about three feet. In the wild, those frilly arms can be twice as long as a human, or more.


That’s the last of the purple-striped jellies, but not the last jellyfish. We’ll see several more beautiful specimens in the next few days. You’ll love them, of course.

Apr 24

Shakespeare on the breeze

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Or close the wall up with our weekend now behind us. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility. But when the blast of Monday blows in our ears, then remember, you are a tiger nearing the end of a semester. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; then lend the eye a terrible aspect.

And so I wrote the many messages required of my classes to begin the week.

They all started with, “Hello everyone. We’re almost there.”

And that’s a Monday. Class this evening, working work before that and after, and so on. We must close up the wall, as Henry the Vee said.

Seems to me, if you’re a king and you have a hole in your wall, you summon the stonemasons, not the peasant army from the countryside. But that’s the difference between the kings of antiquity and me. That and 5G. And a full spice cabinet. And satellite communications. And air conditioning. And dependable refrigeration.

Kings had it rough, didn’t they?

Let us wander the grounds and check on the things, perchance they have grown overnight.

We have tulips elsewhere, but this brave tulip, standing alone, captivates the attention.

The surrounding weeds have certainly noticed it. But we’ll get to those too, eventually.

I am tempted to stand next to the fig tree and give it a countdown. The suspense is just too much. Maybe tomorrow, though.

In the greenhouse we are seeing great progress. Peas are emerging. The first sprouts are coming up from some of the tomato seeds. The squash and cucumbers are stealing the show.

On another shelf, however, the onions are holding hard the breath and bending up every spirit

I promise not to misquote Shakespeare with every plant, photo or paragraph on this, or any other post.

Two little bike rides the last few days, just 40 miles trying to dodge the winds, which were brutal this weekend, but nice and mild today. This was a cornfield last summer, and it’ll soon be verdant once again.

Right through there, you had corn on either side of you, and that was usually a pretty decent wind break. Just now, however, you can feel go one way on that road and think you’re dragging a deep freezer behind you, and then set personal bests coming back from the other direction. The wind has been impressive, and is just part of this part of spring around here, we are told.

The other day my lovely bride dropped me, because she’s better in the wind than I am, usually. I missed the turn she took, which added a few miles, which was fine. Eventually I found a road that looked familiar, and I turned on it, and this barn, which I’ve never noticed before.

Hey, look. here’s that same truck and tractor as before, but from the other side. With the direction the wind has lately been traveling, this is the fast direction.

And here’s another barn I found. This one was today. I was not lost this time. I’d actually paid attention to the route map and caught the left, which saved me about four miles. This was fine for time, but a shame since I wasn’t vainly pedaling into gale force winds.

After I got lost on the weekend ride I went up a road I know I have done in the mid-20s, but was struggling and straining to stay upright at 8.5 mph in the wind. Same road today? I wasn’t even thinking about it, my mind was anywhere but on the road or Henry the Vee, and I glanced down on that same stretch and my Garmin said I was doing 21 while soft pedaling. That’s the difference in no wind and Shakespeare urging it on. Blow, blow, thou spring wind.

The wind has been impressive, I think because we are close to the ocean and a river besides. We’ve been told it’s just part of spring around here in the open farmland.

I’ll take it.

Over on the other coast, things are nice and peaceful for this jelly, which lives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This creature is definitely enjoying itself, and you should too. No reason necessary.

Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.

Happy Monday!

Apr 24

I’m short on time, here’s five photos and a gorgeous video

You should be looking at photos from an ancient yearbook right now, but you’re not. Let me explain.

Two weeks ago I finished up our look at the 1946 Glomerata, the yearbook of my undergraduate alma mater. I said that, the next week, we’d go back 100 years to see the 1924 Glom. And then I realized I needed to actually update the section of the site that includes those 1946 photos. It seemed like I should finish that before starting a new one. So last week I spent a substantial part of Friday wrapping that up.

So now, you can see 40 of the best photographs from the 1946 yearbook, and read about the stories that go with some of those photos. Click here for the 1946 Glomerata. Or, if you’d like to see all of the covers, you can find those here.

And next week we’ll start in on that 1924 yearbook. But I’m seemingly behind on everything today, and while building out the Glom section is great fun, it is time intensive.

So, instead, you’re just getting five photos and a video today.

When I went out to get the mail this evening, the clouds were looking rather ominous. They’re telling us of the gray skies we’ll have for quite some time. Because no one has told the weatherman that it is mid-April and we should have warmth and sun and breezes and a pleasant entry into the middle of spring, here in the late spring.

In the backyard, I just liked the color of the leaves in the gathered little puddle, all of it brought on from last night’s wind and rain.

All of those flowers we’ve been admiring? All of those flowers I’ve been showing you? They’re going to wind up in that spot sooner or later. Such is the cycle of things. The next part will be lovely too, though, so that makes it easier to accept this flowery little puddle.

Good news! We didn’t kill the fig tree.

As I think I mentioned last week, we covered it to keep out the harsh elements of a mild winter. We covered it three times, in fact, because the wind kept blowing the cover away. But finally I figured out a technique to make the canvas stay in place, which was good. Because after a fourth time I was just going to tell the fig tree it was time to grow up and weather the weather on its own.

The tree might be fairly old. Our neighbors have reason to believe that this one came from their fig, and they believe theirs is ancient. Is it possible we could have figs that came from a cutting of a century-old tree? Probably not. But we could have figs from a decades-old tree, and I bet they’re just as tasty.

One of the apple trees looks lovely.

It’ll be nice to watch that continue to bloom up and out. The tree sits there, quietly, in the side yard, and is easy to forget about.

If only trees made more upsetting noises that reminded you to check on them, right?

Because it doesn’t yell randomly throughout the quiet evenings, we’ll have to remember, on our own, to go get the apples later this year.

I can’t decide what this one is.

But what it is, is pretty.

Everyone liked the jellyfish yesterday. Here’s another shot of the same species. It’ll be a good way to wind down your week. Take a moment for yourself and enjoy this view of a purple-striped jellyfish that lives at the Monterey Aquarium. We saw them last month and I’m happy to share it with you now.


This jellyfish’s diet is zooplankton, larval fish, other jellies and fish eggs. Turtles like the purple-striped jellyfish because those fancy arms are rich in nitrogen and carbon.

I bet you’ve never thought of jellyfish that way.

Have a great weekend!

Apr 24

There are only 632 words between you and an incredible video

Did you notice that I didn’t write about a historical marker yesterday? I didn’t either! At least not until it was much later in the evening. Sometimes extra things get added to the site; sometimes things disappear. Sometimes thing wander off, never to return. The marker feature will return next week, though. There’s a plan and everything.

No really.

And now that we can get outside to ride again, I can finish photographing the markers in the county. I’m a bit more than halfway through them now, so it can’t just disappear as a feature. We have to see them all, and only then can we decide what will fill the feature space on Wednesdays.

It was incredibly windy today. We set out to try a little course for an upcoming event we’ll take part in. Home roads and all that. Except much of it was in the face of 30 mph gusts. It made for a 9 mile per hour difference in splits, headwind to tailwind. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but what it really seemed like was the difference in wondering if your legs were telling you that your legs have done the best that they could do, that you’re done, and your best days are behind you, and, coming back with a tailwind, freewheeling to speeds that don’t seem quite natural, that you might still have a shot at being some kind of rider someday.

Your chest is an anchor, your back is a sail. That’s the dichotomy of the human torso.

Along the way we found this barn, and I found myself wondering what all it has stood for the people that have lived next to it all of the years.

Those old buildings embody a lot, even when they need a fresh coat. Maybe especially then.

I didn’t see it then, but can’t escape it now: there are three different roofs on that barn. Says to me that this barn is still important. Maybe all of that wood out front has some important use in the future, too. Don’t discount anything sitting out front on a small farm.

But over here, in our backyard, things are growing into importance. I went out for the nightly chore of watering things in the greenhouse, and saw something new, on the wire shelves to the right, in the onion tray.

And straight ahead, in one of the squash trays.

We just planted those on Saturday. At this rate we might be eating fresh garden salads in another eight or 10 days.

Also, the honeysuckle looks nice.

We should all spend more time with honeysuckle. The sight, the smell, the taste, just do something evocative to us, I think. No matter where you are, they can take you somewhere else. And that place isn’t always to some childhood day, which is surprising, but sometimes it is, which is delightful.

I can’t enjoy honeysuckle without the memory of learning, as a little boy, about those sweet little drops inside. And swiftly following that one is a more distinctive memory of smelling fresh white honeysuckle on a particular crisp spring day as an adult. Then I remember we had a yellow and white honeysuckle that grew along the old clothesline in the backyard of my childhood home. Then, sometimes, I have a little flash of moments when I’ve enjoyed honeysuckle in the woods here, on a trail there, and I think of those same moments. I am recalling moments where I remembered moments. And, now, we have this great big plant, there in the backyard. Near the door. They turn into a deep, red flower. It looks like a dried wine. And they’re all mine.

You deserve a little moment. Here’s a beautiful jellyfish we saw at the Monterey Aquarium last month.

Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.


The purple-striped jelly (Chrysaora colorata) makes the waters of central and southern California home. Much of these creatures is still mysterious, but still learning things about them all the time. The bell, the body, can grow to more than two feet in diameter. Usually, you’ll see them with those long dark arms and four of the big frilly arms. At least one 15-footer has been seen in the wild.

If you like that, I’ll show you another jellyfish soon. Until then, just play that video on a loop!

Apr 24

I must be running to something

We started a community-driven 5k series this evening. This required running a 5K. Just right out of the gate, first night of the series, they expect you to run.

Well I’ve got news for them. This was my fifth run of the entire calendar year (and one of those other four was with a suitcase and backpack in tow) and it looked like it. Critically, it felt like it.

The good news is that there are three or four more events in the series during which I can redeem myself and shave a good, solid, 15 seconds off the incredible slow time I offered tonight. But, hey, at least it hurt a lot!

The problem — as ever with running — is that I don’t enjoy it to the degree that I want to do it enough to get back to aging-guy-average. But that’s what it will take to challenge the guy who’s 20 years my junior and making it look easy. This problem isn’t going to solve itself, I suppose.

These sorts of problems often don’t.

It occurs to me that the easiest way to solve that problem is to simply steal that guy’s sneakers.

Here’s another look at the blooms on the lovely purple-leaf sand cherry (prunus x cistena). Enjoy them before they are going.

We really should be engineering a bush or tree that flowers throughout the growing season. Do we have those already? A lab should make them if not. I would have them installed as borders surrounding the property, so that they could be admired from every vantage point.

More signs of life. This is going to go from a pile of sticks to a hydrangea in about the same amount of time it took for me to run 5 kilometers.

Those things really are remarkable. Hard rains and heat and then more hard rains got to them last year. But they just keep growing merrily along. This year we may even prune them on time.

This is our last video from California.

I’m just kidding, there’s still at least a week of nice stuff to work through. But this is the last of the big views.

This is the Bixby Bridge, built in 1932, and the northernmost part of our trip.

Before this bridge was built, Big Sur residents were particularly isolated in the winter. The Old Coast Road a dozen miles away was often closed. This bridge, the longest concrete arch span in the state and, at the time, the highest single-span in the world, came in under budget.


How did they build this bridge in the 1930s? Aliens. But how did those 1930s aliens do it?

Construction took 15 months, beating the two-lane highway, itself an 18-year project, by a half decade. More than 300,000 board feet of Douglas fir timber was used to support the arch during construction. It took two months to construct the falsework alone.

They excavated 4,700 cubic yards of earth and rock and more than 300 tons of reinforcing steel were shipped in by train and narrow one-lane roads. They chose cement because it looked better and was more durable in the elements. That decision required 45,000 sacks of cement, zipped across the river canyon on cable and slings.

The arch ribs are five feet thick at the deck and nine feet thick where they join the towers at their base. The arches are four and one-half feet wide.

In our next videos, we’ll see some more aquatic creatures. It’ll be beautiful, great fun. Come back tomorrow to check it out.

And if anybody complains about their running sneakers disappearing, I have a perfectly sound alibi.