Apr 24

We interrupt our regular update for this special report


I was in one room, my lovely bride in the adjoining room, and there was a rumble and a rattle. I thought, at first, that a particularly noisy garbage truck had gone down the road to fast. Or maybe a helicopter was on low pass maneuvers. Maybe the helicopter ambulance service.

To the USGS!

The steady hands in the Office of the Department of Shake Studies say it was a 4.8 temblor. This, of course, was too close to the media center of the world, and so with in a matter of minutes and hours texts and calls filtered in from the family and friends, earthquake experts and structural engineers, all.

I had dutifully walked the grounds and nothing was amiss. Except for this woeful damage.

This was my first earthquake. It is possible I’ve slept through some small ones — if they could be felt where I was at that time, that is. And I’ve been in some stadiums that erupted to the point of registering on seismographs. But this was a true parts of the earth rubbing against one another first for me.

Turns out, on this side of the country, you can feel them over greater distance. Has something to do with the soil and stone composition, I’d imagine. And we don’t even know where all of the faults are in this area. Indeed, we don’t know the precise location of the one we felt this morning, which is said to be the biggest one in this region in the history of the country.

Late in the day, we felt, barely, a 3.7 aftershock. I’d thought I’d imagined it … until The Yankee asked me if I felt it too.

So that’s two for me. Earthquakes are old hat now, and we can return back to normal sunny days with the occasional storm cloud rolling by, please and thank you.

The camellia did not seemed bothered by the rumbling of the earth beneath it.

That’s a credit, I am sure, to the big, strong root system. Not too deep, not too shallow, just right.

And also the soil they are planted in. This guy is rooted firmly in the sandy mix, here, on the inner coastal plain — where the heavy land and the green sands meet.

Things are really starting to grow around here. Now … if we can only start the process earlier in the spring.

Since we’re talking about beautiful weather and beautiful places and earthquakes, let’s have a look at a few more videos from our trip to California last month.

This is just a randoms spot where you could pull off on the Pacific Coast Highway. Just a view, unique in its ubiquity, glorious in their splendor, outstanding in their anonymity. Nothing in the world has ever happened here, except for people that stop, look down and marvel at the size of it all, the beauty of it all, and just how simultaneously timeless and ephemeral it all is.


That’s a lot to put on waves, maybe, but the waves are used to it. I stood on this beach for a long time wondering how long it takes to grind the big rocks into little pebbles, and how long before those little pebbles become sand and dust. In that light, the waves are not impressed by our meager notions of time or our literature.

Mehmet Murat ildan wrote, “The greatest pleasure of the wave is to bring the stones to the beach and then try to get them back into the sea! Everyone and everything has a toy to play with!”

And that’s true.


But waves take as much as they give. It’s a good thing they give us a lot. One is mindless, and the other we think of as a kind benefactor. How interesting that we assign conflicting personas to the opposite sides of the same wave.

No, the waves, the oceans, they are not impressed by our meager notions of time or our literature. Or our silly notions of time. Slow motion, regular speed, the few hours I spent on that beach, the thousands and millions of years some of those great big rocks have been worn down, it all means nothing to the waves. It’s mindless, yet patient. It’s off-putting, but liberating.

Apr 24

Special talk done, now back to normal talks

The presentation which I have been working on, off and on, for the past two days was this morning. I made all of my points in the time allotted. The audience was helpful, their interaction plentiful. I couldn’t quite get them to thing about the subject matter at the level I’d hoped, but that was my fault.

Several people thanked me when it was over. Two stayed to chat. Someone said it was an amazing presentation. Amazingly, that person was not me. The guy in the second row who slept through most of it would have disagreed, but this did not throw me. I am, after all, a veteran somnolence distribution technician.

The first time I put someone to sleep during a speech was in 1995. It’s a tiny bit harder to keep score these days. Students will hide behind their monitors in the classroom. But this guy today? Head down, sprawled out, mouth open. He might have drooled. Happily, he did not snore.

I don’t suppose he cares much for sports in general, or perhaps baseball or gambling in particular. But the rest of the room followed along and if it was any good, they’re why. Ultimately, I was pleased with the presentation, and the rest of the day surrounding it.

Let’s check in on the fig tree. We covered it — and, thanks to the wind, recovered it three times — during the winter. We stuffed the soil surrounding the roots with leaves. And now we are waiting on it to bud and burst back to life.

So we didn’t kill it in our first winter. Hooray!

Our neighbor said that the people they bought their house from left them a great history of their place. From all of that, they believe that our fig tree came from a cutting of their own fig tree. They think their fig tree is 100 years old or so. That’s within the realm of possibility for fig trees, but doesn’t make a lot of sense given the neighborhood. Of course, that could have been millennial slang. Or perhaps their fig tree descended from another that is 100 years old. All the trees came from somewhere, right?

Whatever the real story, I’m glad to see it starting to come back to life now that we’ve taken the canvas wrap off the thing. Now make a lot of leafs and an overwhelming amount of fruit, fig tree.

This is maybe an arrowwood, or Korean spice viburnum, Viburnum carlesii. A deciduous bush, it will yield some small fruit, too. Mostly for the birds. The smells are for everyone, though. That’s a fragrant flowering scent, and you can tell why this was planted in such a way to be near our delightful little garden path — or vice versa.

I didn’t notice this bush at all last summer. It was a bit … overgrown. But, it too, is doing well in the early spring.

These are, I assure you, different videos from what I shared yesterday. I figure that if you needed a little mental vacation from Wednesday, I could offer you a similar one from a Thursday. Plus, who’s getting tired of this incredible vista view anytime soon?


And this is the penultimate slow motion video from the California collection.


Not to worry, there’s still something like a dozen or so videos I plan to share here in the coming days.

I’m taking to heart the Cambria, California-inspired mantra, Relax Enjoy Repeat.

Apr 24

Mediated transference

There is a time in preparing every good presentation when you have the thing well in hand. You’ve practiced it and studied the timing. You’ve considered every angle worth considering, and discard a few that were, honestly, not worth the neurological effort. And so you put it aside.

That’s where I was earlier today, and then some other ideas came to mind.

And those other ideas? When they come in, they are the worst, especially if they’re the best. This is surely why some people throw slide decks together. Better to mumble and stumble through these things, reading text as you go, than be burdened by ideas late in the cycle.

But the presentation I am presenting tomorrow must be presented with some clarity and efficiency and interest. So there is practice and re-practice and new ideas. Always the new ideas. And somewhere in the third or fourth round of practice you get the best version of the presentation.

No one but the cat and my office walls heard that version.

If there was a hall of fame for rhetorical flourish and pithy points uttered to an empty room, I would be a shoo-in candidate.

But enough about my day.

We quickly turn again to We Learn Wednesdays, and this, the 31st installment and the 52nd marker in the effort. You remember this one. I ride my bike around the county seeking out historical markers. I shot this last December in a stockpiling effort to keep the feature active during the indoor season — and I think I’m now out of that stockpile.

This is … well, you can read the signs.

Near the end of the 18th century three men, Col. Robert G. Johnson and Dr. James Van Meter and Dr. Robert Hunter Van Meter, brothers, decided the area needed a Presbyterian church. Johnson was raised Episcopal in a nearby town, but found the style of the church to be too ritualistic and ornate for his tastes. In that same town were the Van Meters, men held in high regard.

In the early years, the Episcopals had no clergy, so they invited Presbyterian ministers to preach for them. That was the arrangement between 1809 until 1820, but they were predestined to go separate ways. The 17th Article of the Church of England, the one about predestination, was at the root of it. The Presbies wanted their own church building. So, on a Tuesday morning, March 6th, 1821, the morning after James Monroe was inaugurated for his second administration down in Washington, they laid the cornerstone to their first building.

Johnson donated the land and he and the brothers Van Meter covered much of the cost of the building. The congregation expanded in 1835, and then started work on this building in July of 1854, just a few days after George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak camera, was born in New York.

After about three years of work, including moving the bell from the old church to the new, the building was opened.

(Eventually, the bell went to the fire department.)

The church has a Hook and Hasting two manual, fifteen rank pipe organ. It was built in 1878 and installed in 1879 by the Boston firm. Air for the organ was supplied by hand pumping until 1902, when a water-driven motor was installed. They upgraded the organ again, to electricity, in 1912.

As for the men, we’ve met Robert Johnson before. He was the slave owner, historian, horticulturalist, judge and soldier, the guy with the apocryphal story about tomatoes. He died four years before this building went up. Neither of the Van Meters saw it, either.

Scottish immigrant John McArthur Jr. was the architect, a prominent figure from Philadelphia. He would later design the landmark Philadelphia City Hall, then the tallest occupied building in the world. While many of his works have been demolished, at least a dozen or so still exist.

McArthur learned his craft from a man named Thomas Ustick Walter, the fourth architect of the U.S. Capitol, who redesigned the dome and created the office wings. He would have been there the day Monroe was inaugurated, when the first cornerstone of this congregation’s first church was laid. And while his student was overseeing the construction design of this church, he was also working on his own church in Philadelphia.

Architects must keep busy. Shame so many of them don’t see the fruits of their labors. McArthur could have seen this church, but he did not live to see his masterpiece, the Philadelphia City Hall completed. He died, at 66, in 1890. The city hall was finally finished in 1910.

Now the only thing I have to do to tie this up is to find a photo from Eastman of any of these buildings. Or a letter from the Van Meter family to the Kodak people.

Wouldn’t that be a neat solution?

Failing that, how about this. Robert Van Meter and Robert Johnson, two of the founders of this church are each buried not far away, but I only just discovered that. I’ve seen the church where James Van Meter is buried. I showed it to you last September.

You can learn so much on a bike ride.

We’ll see another great marker next week. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Today’s dose of relaxation is right here. Enjoy the zen of the California coastline. This place is so remarkable, and so ubiquitious, that there weren’t even signs offering a name. There are road signs on the Pacific Coast Highway that offer you a spot to pull over and soak in the beauty. The signs say Vista Views. And so that’s the name of this place. But, man, it needs a real name. This was majestic.


Elsewhere, a little slow motion of the water coming right up to your toes. If you feel the water in your socks it is likely because I felt the water in my socks and that’s called mediated transference, which, is not a thing, not in this way, not until just now, because I made it up.

Makes sense, I am a media professional steeped in the study of media effects. But look at all of that water sliding on in!


How long do you figure those rocks have sat there, waiting out time and wind and the water for their fate?

I have, I think, two more slow motion videos from this trip. But there are plenty of other Relax Enjoy Repeat videos still to come, not to worry.

We’re getting pretty good at dragging things out around here, aren’t we?

Apr 24

A day doing prep work

This is another busy week. I am today working on a presentation for Thursday. I am creating a contemporary case study for a classroom exercise. The whole thing came to me, almost fully formed, last weekend. One of those ideas that was so complete it had to be perfect. Only today did I realize that the entire exercise requires on-the-spot participation from a group of strangers.

Much depends on their willingness to play along. And there’s not really coming back from it if the idea doesn’t land, or if they aren’t interested in playing along.

It’d be better not to have that realization, but once you have it there’s no escaping it.

No matter what happens, the graphics will look passably good. No matter how many of these presentations you make, it is amazing the time sink a good set of graphics can become.

Since it is the first of the month I have to also do the routine computer cleaning. It takes just a few minutes to delete a bunch of stuff from the desktop. Some of it I’ll probably need later. New directories must be made for the website. Statistics for the site need to be updated. I haven’t done that in two months. March was a good month! But the site has been done this year compared to last. I suppose people have found better distractions. But this humble little site attracted 137,000+ visits in the first three months of the year. We’re at 5.75 million views all time. No idea why that number is so high, but I’m grateful.

Also, I updated my cycling spreadsheet. And the chart still looks pretty good, despite the long lulls of March.

The green line plots a steady 10 miles per day average. The red line shows where I was at this time in 2023. The blue line charts the mileage of this year.

All of those blue line miles have been indoors. I’m ready to take a bike ride outside. Maybe next week.

Maybe next week, he sighed.

It’s gray and cool and April and I’m over it, quite frankly. The flowers don’t seem to mind.

That’s a brilliant camellia shrub and it’s just full of great, big, beautiful blooms. Spring hasn’t come, but spring is here. It should stay for a long time, at least until mid-summer, don’t you think?

We could then push the summer late into fall and just wipe out the next winter. What with all the leaping days and the stumbling seconds and springing and falling, would anyone really miss it?

No one would miss it.

What everyone misses is the beach. So let’s go there now! Here’s one last video from the big rock in the middle of Spooner’s Cove.

Not to worry, though, I still have … quite a few peaceful videos from California. And there are still a few more slow motion videos, too. Three, I think. After this one, that is.

And the slow motion views will change with the next video, so we’ll have that going for us, too.

Anyway, back to this presentation I’m working on.

I now hate the graphics.

Mar 24

Papers and sticks and videos

The grading continues. I am currently reading about four dozen feature profiles. Some have some nice potential, a few are already there. Many of the students writing these pieces have found interesting people to write about. That’s the first step.

After that, well, you have to spend time with them, spend time on them. Learn all about them. And then write it. Feature profiles aren’t hard. They take a lot of time. And then they get difficult. There’s a great craft to writing a profile about a stranger, and having your audience wants to read more. And because of all of that, it’s interesting to see how people take their first attempt at trying to write such a thing.

At my current pace I should get everything done at just about midnight, tomorrow night.

I try to give everyone some useful and specific feedback, you see. So it’s time intensive for me, too. For some, I am encouraging them to continue to work on this story. A few aren’t far away from being published. Hopefully one or two will take that advice.

For one of my breaks away from the computer today I went outside to … pick up sticks. The yard is littered with them from a storm here and wind there. Initially, I despaired at what I would do with all of these sticks and small limbs. And then I remembered: we have a fire pit.

So now we have a growing stack of kindling.

It sits near this pear tree, which still looks lovely.

Also nearby is a nice little growing stand. A good place for herbs and other things that have a shallow root system. In a week or two, perhaps, we’ll get to this in earnest. But, for now, I am enjoying seeing the things that pop up all on their own.

I’m cheering for you guys, and I’ll put a version of that picture will eventually make its way into becoming another banner here on the site.

Let’s head back to California for another peaceful little beach video.


Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.

And if you, like me, are a fan of the slow motion crashing of waves, here’s another one of those.


Not to worry. There are plenty more videos where those came from.