May 24

First you make it, then bake it, then you eat it, and do it again

I decided to go for a run today. It was, I figured, too gray and chilled and wet to ride my bike for the first time in forever. So I may as well try my first run in forever.

Just at the bottom of the driveway I received a text from my lovely bride. She was trying to figure out dinner, and did I have any ideas. I thought and I thought, standing there by the road feeling quite silly about the whole thing, and then said, “What about a ziti? And then we can have several dinners planned out.”

We run a menu calendar for dinners at home, and that’s my job. Every so often, I take all of our regular meals, there are about 90 of them, put them in a randomized order and then load them to the calendar. I might be behind on it just now. That would mean we have to make up ideas, and that means I get that question a lot, and I don’t always have great answers. But ziti, I figured, gives us leftovers, and that means I won’t get that question tomorrow.

You’re playing checkers, I’m playing Parisses squares.

That answer was agreeable, so I set off on my run. Four-tenths of a mile later, I got another text. Could I check on the supply of ricotta at home, and also the sauce. So I turned around and ran back. No ricotta, no sauce. And then I set off on my run again.

I was sure to run extra fast, so that I could get in the run, such as it was, before any more requests came in.

It was a short run, I still beat her home.

The rose bushes, we have about nine of them, are all flourishing. Well, eight of them. One is potted, and I have given up on that quitter. But just look at these others.

And they smell soft and delightful, like a nice tea bathed in an old perfume. Whatever that means.

It’s funny, all of these just stayed outside, in the ground, all winter and we did nothing at all to them and now they’re in full bloom. The potted one I brought inside, put under a grow light and watered and misted all winter. It’s barely hanging on.

Maybe it’s the soil, or the pot, or me.

Let’s now return to the Re-Listening project. This has become an irregular feature, which explains why I am behind just now. The Re-Listening project, though, takes place in the car. I am playing all of my old CDs, in the order that I acquired them. I am writing about them here, sporadically, to add a little content. Also, we can play some music. And, sometimes, there are some memories. These aren’t reviews, because none of us care about that, but it might otherwise be fun.

And so we go back to 2004, so that we can revisit 2003’s “Some Devil” by Dave Matthews. I think I got this from a library sale, or someone burned it for me. It was a solo release, and the tone is a bit different than DMB’s signature style. I don’t remember this, but Wikipedia tells me fans were skeptical of the solo release, but it nevertheless debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts. It took Outkast’s diamond-certified Speakerboxxx/The Love Below to keep it from the top spot.

“Gravedigger” hit 35 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 and on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Not bad for an almost “Eleanor Rigby” story. The album went platinum. It is, to me, a mostly forgettable record? Which is to say I never really attached any meaning to it.

I like this one.

And here’s the title track, which does indeed sound different from what you’d expect of 1990s DMB.

The incomparable Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastasio, and a host of other talented people are on the album. And the whole thing is just the sort of thing I can put on and ignore. There’s nothing wrong with that. It seems like I’m always on the search for just that sort of thing. But I’m mystified as to why this never made a bigger impression on me — and why it still doesn’t. That probably says more about me than the ones and zeros encoded on the disc.

Also, as of this writing, it is the last Dave Matthews CD I ever picked up. I guess I just had enough of the catalog to serve my needs.

Dave Matthews Band, of course, is touring this summer. I saw them a few times before concerts got outrageously priced. It was them, I am convinced, that started that trend. It looks like you’d pay $200 a pop for balcony seats at one of their shows near us this summer. That’s become my biggest Dave memory, sadly.

Anyway, time for dinner. The first ziti of the week.

(Ha! She made two casserole dishes. We might not have to decide dinner until Saturday!)

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

This gives me an idea, two of them, and one of them may be fun

I went for a neighborhood run. Of my own accord. Let me regale you with the details for 700 words.

No. It wasn’t that long of a run. Here is a 350 word passage.

I need to run more, but it is possible I like running less than I have in a long time. I blame time. Time is going to get a lot of blame in the near future. So, I put on the running apparel and the running shoes, and I went outside. Normally, for whatever reason, I turn right out of the driveway and run around the neighborhood in a clockwise fashion. But today, I turned left. This put me on an immediate uphill, which is probably the reason I normally turn right. When I got near the top of that very tiny hill I turned right again, so that I might turn right one more time and run down a cul-de-sac I’d never seen. Just adding a few extra hundred yards on a nice road, and then back to my main route, continuing the loop around the neighborhood. This was a mile-and-a-quarter, a good distance for a sprinting horse, or a jogging me. Let all of them see my athleticism! I go back and forth, when I run, thinking I should do this more so I can get marginally faster at it, just in case something marginally slower than me ever chases me in the most comical sequence nature has ever devised. But then I think, things sometimes hurt too much for that, anyway. Again, I blame time. Also, I have a bike. And a car. And locks on the house. And what’s going to chase me? But, maybe, if I ran a bit more, I wouldn’t notice an ankle ache because of a knee pain. That could be an upgrade? Also, sometimes we go for runs, and wouldn’t it be nice for that to be a pleasant experience, or something approaching almost, you know, acceptable, rather than something you gut out? And that’s my goal now, right now, to run enough to make it not something you have to grit your teeth through. And, also, to recover all of the speed, such as it was, that I enjoyed in my teens. Who do I see about making those arrangements?

Just wait until you see my next run.

I know you’re as invested in the fig tree’s progress as I am. Behold, today’s view of the fig tree!

We’ll be googling Fig Newton recipes in no time.

The hydrangea really work well here. These things will just show off for months.

I had to bring the aloe plant back inside. Being a succulent, it does not tolerate chilly temperatures and, being stupid, we’ve had temperatures in the 40s and 50s the last several nights, the plant was turning a tiny bit yellow. Fortunately I noticed it early. It should be fine.

Considering we are now well in the middle of April, it should be warm enough for everything to be outside by now, but what can you do? I mean, aside from lighting up the atmosphere and hoping for no abnormal frosts as May draws near?

Let us turn, once more, to We Learn Wednesdays, where we learn all about this county via it’s historical markers and bike rides. You see a lot more at the speed of two pedals, and today’s marker is the perfect example. This is the 32nd installment and the 53rd marker in the effort. I learned, a month or two ago, that this one was out there somewhere. But in my mind it was elsewhere on this same road. So imagine my surprise when I saw it yesterday.

I’ve passed it several times in my automobile — OK, usually at night — and had no idea. I’ve also passed it several times on my bicycle. Some things you just have to be looking for, even if you aren’t aware of it at the time. And I was only aware of this because of a nearby town crier. (We have a town crier nearby, how great is that?)

Jim Cook Jr, the crier, tells us that Christian Piercy was trying to flee the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. He got out of Philadelphia, hoping to find some refuge for his family, but he started showing symptoms on the stagecoach. So they kicked him off. He turned to the strangers around him for help, but everyone was terrified of the illness. One man took him in. He put him in a barn — or a humble log cabin, depending on the version you hear, and Piercy died soon after.

Piercy had risen to the rank of major in the Philadelphia militia. The militia in that state was an organizational mess:

Pennsylvania had two major shifts in government during the war, and also major changes in the types of militia forces that defended the home front.[1] The shifts in government were actually instigated by the militia, and so they also dramatically impacted the militia system, besides profoundly upsetting the population.

And, what’s more, not everyone wanted to serve, and we don’t just mean the Quakers, Mennonites and other pacifists. That same article tells us that substitutes made up about 42 percent of the total militia force between 1777 and 1780. But Piercy answered the call in the summer of 1777, just after the Pennsylvania’s first-ever Militia Law required mandatory enrollment of all white men between the ages of 18 and 53. Two of his brothers also mustered.

He was apparently wounded, says a modern descendant in an ancestry forum, in a rearguard action about 20 miles outside of the capitol, in a September 1777 rout of the American forces. Our man served and suffered at Valley Forge that next winter, and stayed in the militia after the war, until 1789. It is difficult to tell, from here, what else he did during his time in uniform. Some of the Pennsylvania militia were serving as home guard, others were ordered to battle.

In 2020 Piercy got a brief mention in The Atlantic, which notes that he died alone in that cabin, almost immediately after he arrived. He showed up that same year in a Washington Post story. (Ahh, 2020, when everyone was drawing parallels.)

Piercy was of German descent, and he and his family were part of a proud and longstanding Philadelphia tradition of cutting edge pottery. He lived right on the river, and his shop was nearby, as well. Just a few years ago, local businesses were still discovering some of his works hidden in their collections.

In July 1788, he helped led a group of potters in the Grand Federal Procession in Philadelphia.

Three hours long and a mile-and-a-half in length, the Grand Federal Procession was an ambitious act of political street theater, scripted by federalist supporters of the newly ratified U.S. Constitution and performed in the streets of Philadelphia on the Fourth of July 1788. From its commencement at Third and South Streets to its conclusion on Bush Hill north of the city center, the procession involved an estimated 22,000 Philadelphians: 5,000 men in the parade, with a vastly more diverse crowd of 17,000 men, women, and children watching from streets and windows, fences and roofs. Organized by rank and occupation, the marchers were roughly divided between federalist gentlemen (bankers, merchants, members of the Marine and Manufacturing Associations) and thousands of artisan-mechanics who, as the city’s producing class, were central to the ideology of federalism.

That’s a big parade.

There was a brilliant description of the entire order of march in the 1930s.

A flag, on which was neatly painted a kiln burning, and several men at work in the different branches of the business — Motto — “The Potter hath Power over his Clay.”

A four wheel’d carriage drawn by two horses, on which was a Potter’s wheel and men at work, a number of cups,- bowls, mugs, & c. were made during the procession; the carriage was followed by twenty potters, headed by Mess. Christian Piercy and Michael Gilbert, wearing linen aprons of American manufacture.

In the line just in front of Piercy and the potters were the Whip and Cane Manufacturers, “Let us encourage our own manufactures,” the Black-smiths, White-smiths and Nailers, “By Hammer in hand, all Arts do stand,” and the coach-makers, “The Clouds dispell’d, we shine forth.” All of these people were working on the floats as they came by for spectators to see. Behind the men making their pottery on the move came the Wheel-wrights, with five men working on a plow and wheel ahead of 22 of their colleagues, a dozen tin-plate workers, and then the skinners, breeches makers and glovers, 61 strong, under a flag that said “May our Manufacture be equal in its Consumption to its usefulness.” Then came the tallow chandlers, with the mottos “Let your light so shine,”
“The Stars of America a light to the World,” and “United in One.” Twenty of them came through, each with an olive branch in hand.

Street theater is a good name for it.

That was 1788. He died in 1793. Hopefully it was a life of peace and clay in between.

They buried him right away, presumably as a contagion or logistical concern. His wife survived him, and she had the marker put in place. It’s on private farmland, and I didn’t feel it was proper to walk up there, but if you just look in the distance, on the left side of this photo, there’s a flag fluttering in the breeze. That’s where Piercy was buried.

He was just 49 years old.

We’ll see another great marker next week, I’m sure. I just have to go hunt them out between now and then. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

That’s enough for now. Tomorrow, we’ll check back in on the happenings in the greenhouse, see another cool video and maybe more! See you then!

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.

Mar 24

We’re back! Somehow …

We made it back from California. We were only a little late, but that worked in our favor. But that’s getting ahead of things.

I had two days worth of taco lunch, on Thursday and Friday. Also, on Friday, I did a little two-mile run. That’s two runs this week, and my first two runs of the year. I’ve been spending my time, of course, putting in base miles on the bike. All of which allows me to find ways to get to this old saw: When I see a person riding their bike, I always think, ‘Man, I wish I could ride my bike right now!’ I have never, ever seen anyone run and think, ‘Man, I wish I could go for a run right now!

My run was to the drug store. I should have bought some painkillers for my little run, but the purpose was to get some contact solution. I could have gone to a CVS four-tenths of a mile away, but that’s not a run. Not really.

Anyway, the first run this week was 1.5 miles on a beach boardwalk. This run was downtown, which is a run that, despite the red light, green light, wait for a clear intersection nature of it all, felt like it could go on for forever. Maybe those occasional breaks were why it felt that way.

I saw a bunch of friends, which was delightful. I bumped into a former coworker, who is about to leave the place where we met. She told me how difficult things have become there, which is unfortunate. But she’s excited for what’s next for her, starting next fall, which is exciting. She’s been stretched thin, it appears. Added duties, administrative issues and so on. It all sounds not good. I said, When you get there, and you’re doing just the work you’ve been hired for, the work you want to do, it’ll be a big improvement. And you will have earned that. You’ll just have to be let yourself come to realize that fact. When you do, you’re going to remember how to enjoy all of this again.

Sometimes, I sound like a sage.

The Yankee’s two presentations at the conference were great. Interesting research abounded throughout the conference, none more so than hers. We had a great dinner on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, we were up and out early. To the airport, Jeeves!

This is what happened next. The Los Angeles city government conspired to ruin everything. We’d received an email on Saturday from the car rental people warning us that construction between their lots and the airport was slowing everything down. Arrive early, they suggested. We did. Returning the car was easy. The shuttles to the airport were non-existent, stuck in traffic somewhere around wherever. This, despite an early morning flight, backed up customers at the rental car lot. On the third bus, we were able to board the bus. The driver was awesome, but she was flabbergasted. The construction project had reduced the lanes to the international airport to a minimal level. After a long, long, long time on the bus, we just got off and ran the last mile and change, backpack and suitcase in tow. (So look! Three runs in one week!)

After which, the federal government conspired to make it worse. At Terminal 5 at LAX, there are two TSA agents tasked with the important job of checking driver’s licenses. Yesterday morning, there was a man and a woman on the job. Around two corners — not counting the serpentine crown lanes — I managed to get in the woman’s line. This was good! The man’s scanner was barely working, which meant that every third passenger or so he had to walk over and borrow the woman’s gear. The woman, for her part, left her duty station three times. The time was ticking. And I missed the boarding window.

Fortunately, my flight crew was stuck in the nightmare outside, as well. And that was the only way I made that plane. When the first part of security theater had been satisfied and my ID was finally checked, an older woman came to the front of the line, asking if she could go ahead. Her flight was leaving in eight minutes and so on and so forth. Everyone was in this boat, I was sure of it. The TSA agent said she’d have to ask permission of everyone in front of her to cut the line. I knew my flight crew was still trying to fight their way in, so I invited her to break in line in front of me. With one authoritatively dismissive tone, I convinced the dismissive ID experts that she was with me.

At the take walk-around-in-your-socks portion of the security, the old woman said she’d lived here for 40 years and she’d never seen it like this. She said she, too, ran from the road. She said she was 75 years old.

She had time to tell me all of these things because the scanner image specialist left his duty station twice.

“Safety,” one of them tiredly said over and over, “is my priority.”

Somehow that explains why people kept leaving their posts.

Anyway, we made the plane, but I only made it because the flight crew had trouble getting in.

The flight was fine. Long, but short. Seemed to take an entire day, especially with jumping three time zones. On the other hand, we flew across the entire nation. Lunch was airport food on the plane, chewing quickly, hoping to avoid cooties. Dinner was from a rest stop Shake Shack at 11:30 p.m. But, hey, it’s milkshake season.

It was a great trip. Our only problem over the whole trip, as it turned out, had to do with getting home.

I have a lot of video from the trip, and that’ll be something I dole out over the next however long that takes. But I’ll give you a hint.


Come back, or better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed for many, many more videos from the Pacific Coast.

I shot, I dunno, maybe 15 or 20 videos that will just be Peacefully Enjoy The Moment videos. I suppose that speaks most of all to how pleasant the trip was. But I haven’t counted how many videos I have, so I’ve no idea how many and how long we’ll enjoy from that trip.

For example, I’m still adding video from our New Year’s diving trip. This one just has a lot of fish, and then a barracuda with great camera sense.


I’ve probably got a few more videos from that trip, and then maybe I’ll just pull out some single shots for posterity’s sake. Video runs never really end here, but this post must. I must finish my prep for this evening’s class.