May 24

My eyes may now be semi-permanently crossed

It took an effort, and by effort I mean most of the weekend and Friday before it, but two-thirds of my grades are now submitted. Grading, then making sure I have all of the same grades in independent spreadsheets, the making sure the formulas comport with what’s on the syllabus. After that, I have to make sure I did the math correctly. I do this part several times because, ya know, math. Then I make sure my two spreadsheets agree with one another. With all of those potential stumbling blocks avoided, it’s time to actually upload the grades.

You can import this data from a spreadsheet, but my classes are small enough that I do it by hand. Scroll down a list, select the correct value from the drop down boxes. The problem is that my classes are large enough that all of the names won’t fit on one screen, and so I must scroll. But, also, scrolling websites is somehow a challenge in this, the 21st century.

It’s a process, and now mostly complete.

I’ll wrap up the last class in the next day or so. The good news is that most of the above has been completed for that one too. And summer is coming.

Theoretically. It’s been damp and cold for days. It’s mid-May.

Some around-the-place shots. We have some nice tables out back, and I know I need to clean this off the iron, but the moss does look nice.

Maybe next week, presuming we have a day when it isn’t raining.

The weather doesn’t seem to be hampering some of the other things growing around here. Well, hello, peaches!

I’ll be pulling all of these — and many, many more — inside in a few months.

Want some peaches? Now taking requests.

The rhododendrons are looking lovely, as well.

Let’s go back to California to see the bloody-belly comb jelly. Red looks black even just below the surface of the water, and in the deep sea, where these creatures live, you won’t find spotlights. It is very dark 1,000 feet below the surface in the North Pacific.

These jellies, then, hide in plain sight. Predators and prey never see those incredible colors of the light diffracting off the combs. Technically, these are ctenophores, meaning that they are not true jellies, but the name is sticking. This species were first collected off San Diego in 1979 and described in just 2001.


There’s one more California video, I think. I’ll try to get it here next week.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how things are shaping up with a few of the other growing things. But, for now, I have to get back to the household chores. I have to make the place look presentable; company is coming tomorrow!

Apr 24

Welcome back to the age of jive

Friday afternoon we got into the car, and the car took us to a train. On the train my lovely bride made the Lord of the Flies joke.

She thinks I don’t like mass transit. I’m not sure why she thinks that, except for my dislike of mass transit. OK, that’s not fair. It’s a dislike of buses, and an intense dislike of subways. Have you ever looked at the people on buses and subway cars? The vacant look, the hollow, sorrowful, dead eyes. They all left their souls at home that day. They all left their souls at home because they knew they had to take a bus, or catch a subway train.

But trains, that is trains trains, can be quite nice. They can only get so crowded, and they seldom seem to reach that capacity. This train, for instance, had about two people on it. And a conch shell. And look who has the conch shell.

The mostly empty train took us to New York. We visited the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, a greenway, built on a former spur of the New York Central Railroad in Manhattahn. Designed as a “living system,” Wikipedia tells us the High Line draws from multiple disciplines which include landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology. It was inspired by a similar project in Paris. And this one looks much more like New York than Paris.

For instance, instead of a tree, we have a sculpture of a tree.

What’s New Yorker for Le Sigh?

For the third High Line Plinth commission, Rosenkranz presents Old Tree, a bright red-and-pink sculpture that animates myriad historical archetypes wherein the tree of life connects heaven and earth. The tree’s sanguine color resembles the branching systems of human organs, blood vessels, and tissue, inviting viewers to consider the indivisible connection between human and plant life. Old Tree evokes metaphors for the ancient wisdom of human evolution as well as a future in which the synthetic has become nature. On the High Line—a contemporary urban park built on a relic of industry—Old Tree raises questions about what is truly “artificial” or “natural” in our world. Made of man-made materials and standing at a height of 25 feet atop the Plinth, it provides a social space, creating shade while casting an ever-changing, luminous aura amid New York’s changing seasons.

It raises questions for me, but not that one.

That sandwich board says that maintenance of the sculpture is in progress. They are repainting it. It’s only been in place for 11 months. And it will come down this fall. That’s the synthetic becoming nature, for sure.

A bit farther down we found some lovely little building art.

In between we found some ridiculous stuff that was either art or a multimedia mixture of yard sale offerings that someone spray painted at the last minute.

There’s a lot more miss than hit in public outdoor art.

Oh, look, here’s another tree, one evocative of modern wisdom and human evolution, backdropped by the not cold and not sterile brick wall of earlier craftsmen synthesizing nature into domesticized bits of symbolism that people live and work in. It is a grouping that resembles places every other city in the country sees regularly, inviting viewers to consider the indivisible relationship of pink parts and some other nouns we threw together.

There’s no artist or art writer in the world, however, that can summon the language to satisfactorily why we brick in windows.

The purpose of our visit, to see the conclusion of a popular concert CBS aired recently.

That’s right, the Piano Man, in his 101st sell out of Madison Square Garden, one of Billy Joel’s last performances in his residency here.

The Yankee brought her parents to a show last year. He was celebrating 50 years of music and they were celebrating 50 years of marriage and isn’t that something, here’s an act who’s been around, or part of, the entirety of their adult lives.

He’s beginning to show his age, which, hey, he turns 75 next month. He still sounds fantastic.

He played most of the hits and some deep cuts. (I was hoping for “Matter of Trust” and “Lullaby,” respectively. The Yankee was hoping for “The Downeaster Alexa.”) He did some covers and introduced a bit of opera. He played all the familiar songs he needed to play. His 30-something daughter came out to sing to him. When he did “Uptown Girl” the cameras found his ex-wife, Christie Brinkley in the crowd. She was having a ball.

I recorded a few things, just because it feels almost musically historic, I guess. I’ll back them up to an external drive, perhaps. But here’s the big finish.

It was a fine show. A lot of fun. It was me, my lovely bride, her god-sisters and her college diving coach. Everyone had a great time. Everyone that hangs out with Christie Brinkley was having fun. After that, a late train back to the car and then back home.

And that was just the beginning of the weekend!

But, for now, I have to go to campus.

Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways last class of the year for me.

Apr 24

A multisport first

And how was your weekend? Ours was just grand. Just grand, I say. But I don’t say it so that you’d think I’m trying too hard to convince you, no need to do that, for it truly was grand.

On Saturday we did a duathlon — run, bike, run. It was a local event. We soft-pedaled down to the starting line from the house. A bike warm-up for a race. They had a sprint and a super sprint. My lovely bride did the sprint. Here’s her big finish.

I did the super sprint and finished second in my age group. Clearly, there was a miscalculation.

These were home roads, though, so I thought that would be to my advantage. Part of the course, for instance, was comprised of Strava segments that I made. I figured I would do well on those parts, since I obviously cared about them and traffic was controlled, but no. I was riding about as slowly as possible.

But I got this little thing, which is now sitting on the dining room table as a very funny joke.

Also I was ninth in the men’s division. Not bad for bad running. And, also, my first ever duathlon.

So I wound up doing a 5K run and about a normal day’s bike ride, besides. Also, I had a wind jacket on, because we’re approaching the last week of April and why not?

They had a 28-mile time trial, too. I dug up the results and, one day soon I’ll go out and ride that and see how bad I would have been in comparison to that field. (Some of them looked quite fast.)

We traveled on Saturday afternoon to celebrate a 75th birthday party in the family. It was a fine day. Family, Italian, playing volleyball with kids, and so on. By the end of the day …

… we were tuckered.

Yesterday evening we sat out by the fire pit, where a fire was burning.

It was not my best fire, but they can’t all be the best, right? It warmed the hands and crackled and hissed in a satisfactory way, but it took too long to get there. And just about the time I had the fire where it needed to be, it was time to go inside.

It’s like that sometimes, and that’s OK.

I’ll smell smoke in my nose for the next two days.

The kitties, for the most part, just sit and watch us from the window. Probably they wonder why in the world we’re sitting out there, when they are waiting in here. Or maybe they wonder why we’re out their with the birds, but not trying to catch the birds. There’s probably a lot to wonder about if you’re a cat.

Or maybe not. They’re cats.

Phoebe has been enjoying some tunnel time of late. Perhaps, while she’s in there, she’s contemplating the nature of all of this, channeling her thoughts to the many cats throughout the cosmos, trying to find answers for what the tall ones do, and why. And why she isn’t getting more milk for her troubles of being so adorable all the time.

I thought I was a late sleeper, but Poseidon, when he gets a comfortable spot, you wind up checking on him a few times a day. And there’s nothing quite like being under the covers on a cool morning and contemplating the mysteries of the world, like we won’t let him go outside.

We tell him, “No no, blanket boy. It’s too cold out there for you, you cover cat.” He is not dissuaded. Especially not now. Now that it is (finally) getting warmer he’s becoming more aggressive about trying to get outside to find a bit of dirt to roll around in. Just not at that moment. It was 50 degrees, and he’s smarter than that.

The cats, then, are doing just fine.

Sometimes Poseidon sits with me while I’m at the computer and lately he’s discovered the cursor and pointer on the screen. Just wait until he notices these jellyfish moving around. Here’s another sequence from the Monterey Aquarium, which we visited last month. They’re beautiful, but seeing them all together like this felt a little off putting.


A sea nettle hunts by trailing those long tentacles, covered with stinging cells. When the tentacles touch tiny plankton, the stinging cells stick tight and paralyze prey. From there, the prey is moved to the frilly mouth-arms and finally to the mouth, where the jelly eats its meal.

And if you’re wondering how long I can stretch out these videos, me too! At least two or three more days.

You’re welcome for the peaceful videos.

Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.

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

The clouds eclipsed the eclipse

We did not check in on the cats last week, and don’t think I haven’t heard about it. They know they’re the most popular weekly feature. And they know, somehow, when I’ve written about them here.

They pester me incessantly when they aren’t here in their regular place.

Perhaps you’ve seen a demanding cat, but unless you’ve seen a demanding cat quite certain of their celebrity, you can’t appreciate what I’m dealing with here. Not really.

Phoebe will doze off on your knee, and it’s adorable, except for that moment you need to shift, move or get up.

But sleeping between layers of a fuzzy quilt is even better.

Not pictured, above, that guilt is folded over multiple times for maximum fluffiness, and is sitting on the back of the sofa.

These cats aren’t spoiled at all. Take it from Poseidon.

You’ll notice he’s not sitting on the sofa cushion, but on two different pillows on top of the sofa cushion.

He will, from time-to-time, sit up and watch a good police chase, however.

The person in that white truck evaded police, left the car and snuck into the woods, trying to mingle with a little encampment there. The police figured it out pretty quickly, though. Poe was there for the whole thing, though. I don’t know why he likes car chases so much, but they do captivate him.

At any rate, we remind them of their many comforts whenever they try to be sneaky, themselves, and bolt for the door.

I snuck outside to look at today’s eclipse. We were not in the totality, which every celestial mechanic expert on the web can tell you about today. But we were due something like an 81 percent endarkening. Except there was the little matter of the forecast. Clouds.

Except that, this afternoon, the clouds did not gather in their masses. There were some low, fluffy white clouds and so we were confident that we would see the thing we aren’t supposed to look at. And then, at precisely the appointed time (have you noticed everyone in the media kept saying “scheduled,” as if our people had talked to the sun’s people and we found a time that worked for everyone?) the clouds moved in. All of the clouds.

So I saw nothing of the eclipse, even though I broke out the eclipse-protecting eye wear.

After which I went to class, because you might as well see if anyone else saw the thing. One student, I know, drove to Ohio to see the big event. I guess I’ll find out, from him, how it was next week.

The purple-leaf sand cherry (prunus x cistena) is coming into its own. It’s a shrub you can’t miss; it’s right by the garage and easy to admire.

Saturday we went to the local Tractor Supply to buy a bunch of seeds.

In the parking lot there we met this guy. Chipper fellow. Quick with a joke, said he was from another town up the highway, but was very complimentary of the people he’d met today. Said they were real neighborly. Small town vibes around here. We made a nice little donation to ChildHelp and felt good about all of the seeds and soil we got, besides.

The Yankee put the seeds in the soil while I returned to grading things. Now we’re just waiting on the vegetables to appear. Maybe tomorrow.

After that, we made a fire in the fire pit. I mention it only to point out the way the smoke was escaping through this one piece of wood.

But don’t take my word for it. There’s video.


If we’re not careful we’ll develop a slow motion video habit, but I’m pretty sure my audience has moved beyond such basic tricks.

Besides, you’re here for the peaceful videos, right? Here’s another minute of the Pacific Coast Highway you can enjoy from our recent trip to central California.


Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.

And have a great start to your week. Much more interesting stuff to come here every day, including more California videos, so do be sure to stop back by.