Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Bluebirds

14 July 2021
22 June.

I get over to the park in Old Sacramento whenever I can. It gives me a nice walk, and I am usually able to stop for a while at the picnic tables set up next to the lawn.

As I have mentioned before, birds will sometimes come over to “visit” me. Now, I could tell you that I invite them and express my happiness to see them when they show up. But that would seem like a big ho-hum to most of you, right?

I already knew that animals can communicate with people (and with each other, of course) but only on a telepathic level. So if a person can raise their telepathic abilities, they can “talk” to animals. The leading light in the field is a South African woman named Anna Breytenbach. Well, I personally don’t particularly aspire to that, but I know that “being more present” will assist to make this possible

In Old Sacramento, the first bird I noticed was a hummingbird. That was many months ago. Later, a young blue jay would follow the hummingbird over to visit me. Then more recently, this bluebird showed up. In the above photo, he has been attracted by a spilled bit of mac-and-cheese. But he stayed around for some time and let me snap his photo.

Now (the below photos were taken on the 12th of July) the bluebird chicks have also visited me. I only assume that they are the children of the male shown above.

There are about five sycamores growing at the side of the lawn where the picnic tables are. Three of them are losing their leaves, and one looks a bit dead. It could be that the early-summer high temperatures have forced them into dormancy, or possibly even killed them.

But down to a brown patch of lawn under these trees came these three juvenile bluebirds, two females and a male. I had my “real” camera with me, so the photos aren’t bad. The birds hopped around on the ground for several minutes and I took over a dozen shots.

Animals are funny when they are trying to communicate. All my information about this is from videos Anna has made. They won’t walk up to you and look you in the eye like a human will do. They’ll just stand nearby and act like they are doing something else. Of course, because I’m not telepathic, I have no idea if these animals were really trying to communicate, or what they might be interested in. I just thanked them out loud for stopping by and letting me photograph them.

In other news…

I have accumulated many more images in recent weeks. The above one is cropped from a photo I took with my phone while riding back home from shopping. This is probably the same heron that has been visiting the dog run areas at Hagan Park for a year or more. I usually don’t catch it in flight. Herons are quite large birds (in wing span) so seeing one fly is pretty special.

Perhaps I will eventually post some other pictures, but they are pretty random, so I might not bother.

Here are some other topics that are currently floating around in my universe:

  1. Critical Theory: What would happen if we applied Critical Theory to the “constructs” that it itself assumes are correct or workable, such as evolutionary theory, materialism, or the desirability of freedom?
  2. Socialism: Does the appeal of socialism have to do with the fact that most governments today include elected representatives and are seen as there to serve the people? Are communal-oriented businesses (like Spain’s Mondragon Corp.) perceived differently? If more people saw businesses as serving them rather than shareholders, would a population be more likely to embrace fascism?
  3. Psychedelics: Who is pushing for the use of psychedelics in mental health treatment and why? Is there any substantive difference between this current campaign and earlier pushes to medicalize mental health treatment?

World’s Strongest Man…Sunday

20 June 2021

Today, Sunday the 20th, was the final day of the contest. Ten men were competing and the top guys were extremely close, as measured by the point system that they use. I didn’t think I would be let in to the audience, as many people were expected to show up. But a kind lady who recognized me from Thursday called me over before the last event started and asked me if I would like to get closer, then gave me a wrist band when I said yes.

Log lift and Knaak deadlift

The first two events of the day were slightly unusual lifting events. (The last event is the most unusual.)

In the log lift, a weight shaped like a log must be hoisted and held above the head for a split second. Here is a demonstration of what that looks like:

Note that the “log” has bars on its ends where weights can be added to increase its weight in increments of 10 kilograms. Unlike a barbell, where its center of gravity can be kept very close to the body, the thickness of the log means it must be swung a bit away from the body, making it harder to control. The weight of the log is increased until only a couple of the guys can raise it all the way over their heads. Here is one of the taller athletes demonstrating two good lifts at different weights:

This event was held next to the “train station” where the park sells tickets for a short train ride, and a shed houses several train cars and at least one engine. People who were not part of the crowd did have the benefit of standing in the shade across from the station, instead of in the sun…

The overall scene looked much like the events held here on other days.

Knaak is a company that makes tool boxes of all sizes, designed for rugged professional use. The “Knaak Deadlift” uses toolboxes as the weights instead of regular barbell weights. The athletes have to repeatedly lift this weight to knee level until they run out of steam or out of time. I got no good photos of this event, as all the action was too low for me to see.

Atlas Stones

The last and crowning event of the competition is called “Atlas Stones.” Here is a view of the setup from after the event ended:

There are two sets of these balls, so the athletes compete in pairs. The event is timed, but if one guy can’t get all five stones up onto their pedestals, then the other guy wins.

Before I got in, the overall scene looked like this:

Here is my best shot of a guy actually lifting one of the heavy balls up onto its pedestal:

Here is a photo of the winner, Tom Stoltman. He elected to do the event without a shirt. They also get to use this gooey stuff called “tacky” on their hands and arms to counteract the tendency of sweaty skin to be slippery.

Tom’s older brother Luke also competed this year. But Tom did considerably better this year than his brother.

Here we see the pretty interviewer lady talking to Tom after he won this year’s competition.

The awards

Brian Shaw, long-time favorite of U.S. fans, talked to the crowd at the end of this year’s competition.

Then the awards platforms were set up, and all the ten finalists were called out and acknowledged.

This year, guys from the U.S., the U.K. and Canada were the top winners.

Father’s Day

Today was Father’s Day. Though several of the athletes are undoubtedly fathers, Brian’s kids were in the crowd, so he was specially acknowledged, along with all the fathers in the crowd.

There he is with his wife, showing his sons his award.

It was another hot day, somewhere near 100 degrees that afternoon. We were all happy to get out of the sun.

World’s Strongest Man…Saturday

19 June 2021

On Saturday there were three events for finalists and I attended all of them. So did a bunch of other people.

Barrel carry

I got to the morning event while it was in progress.

You can see one of the athletes back by the tents.

This event consisted of carrying a frame of four barrels on one’s shoulders, then another frame of two lifted with the arms.

With the crowd, I couldn’t really see the competitors. But here’s one having a conversation on camera.

This guy could probably see the scene a bit better.

It’s all set up so the cameras get the best views.

Turntable

They didn’t officially have an audience for the turntable event, but some of us peeked over the back fence…

Again, the athletes were difficult to see. This was a timed event. How fast could they turn the train on the turntable about 180 degrees? After every try, the turntable was returned to its original position using its built-in motor.

Here is a typical view of a contestant’s torso and legs.
My best picture of the cute interview lady.
Drone technician at work.
There are at least two guys who carefully watch each effort (white shirt, black hat).
Mr. Felix takes a short rest.
During each run, the mobile cameraman has to run to a new position.

Keg toss

The day ended with a keg toss. I got numerous photos of kegs in mid-air.

The above shot is from near the end of the event. Notice the height of the bar relative to the building.

The bar started out at 6.75 meters. Just about everyone made this toss.

Here’s a closeup of an athlete knowing that he made it over the bar, with the keg falling on the other side!

Above shows an intermediate position (7.25 meters?) and two guys watching from the roof. Later they took their canopy down and left.

Here I caught Brian Shaw just as he released a keg, on its way up.

Outside the fence

Several of us did not get tickets to be up close, or perhaps did not want them. I couldn’t help but photograph some of the others, most of whom braved the afternoon sun while I stood in the shade of a parked ambulance.

World’s Strongest Man…qualifiers

19 June 2021

Without an audience-eye’s view of the events, I didn’t expect to see much of the actual competition or competitors.

This is mainly a story of what it looks like behind the scenes, as that was my viewpoint.

June 15th, first day of qualifying events

I missed all the events on Tuesday, as I hadn’t studied their schedule at all, plus I got up late.

Here is a view from that day, with everyone deployed on the lawn.

June 16th, second day of qualifying events

I arrived too late to see the morning event. They were already moving that equipment into a truck.

As I walked around to the side, I found this little toy in the lawn and set it out on a manhole cover that for some reason sits in the middle of that lawn.

Over by the train station they are setting things up for the train pull. I don’t know…isn’t that car going to be too heavy?

The camera drone is tested, and then the competition eventually begins:

The first guy tries real hard. He can’t budge this train car.

Here is a shot of what the second guy looks like in his harness.

He can’t move it, either. They finally announce that the car wheels appear to not be free enough, possibly due to the brakes not being fully released. I think it was just too heavy.

Hours later, they have decided to use the little half-length engine, and they have switched to a push format, rather than a pull. This works, but I can’t see the athletes at all from where I am.

I try going round to the back and peering over the fence. But the view is pretty well blocked by the crowd, the crew, and a low fence.

June 17th, third day of qualifying events

Again I miss the earliest events, which are scheduled to start at 8, but usually start later. Between each event there is a rest period for the athletes. So it’s hard to squeeze in more than three events per day.

This day is HOT, so they have emergency personnel standing by.

A weight lifting event is taking place, but all I can see is camera equipment and bodies.

Here, two camera technicians have a conversation.

One of the athletes signals to the crowd as he finishes his attempt.

While others wait their turn.

Mark Felix was the only black man in this competition. Seen here wearing Boudreault’s shirt?

Here I catch one of the contestants lifting one of the huge barbells.

And then, another:

And one more:

The weight lifting ended. I missed the next event but returned later for the “stone off” event.

A security guard told me he thought they were letting extra people in. So I went over and asked. And they let me in!

This is what the equipment for the “stone off” looks like. There are five “stones,” each heavier than the last. Two men compete each time.

I stayed in the shade, so didn’t get the greatest view. Here, two competitors are near the end of their run.

And here another pair begin their round.

The Stoltmans figured prominently in this year’s events.

Friday was a day off, then come the two days of finals!

World’s Strongest Man…preparations

16 June 2021

World’s Strongest Man is a TV franchise and athletic competition that has existed in some form since 1977.

I had never heard of it.

However, on a recent walk to the park in Old Sacramento, I was greeted by this sign:

At first, I thought it was a competition sort of like the Olympics. But it isn’t. It is filmed like a TV “adventure” series, in line with many other similar shows that have sprung up, particularly since cable TV got all its channels. There are about 25 guys – really big muscular dudes – who operate basically as paid actors, even though they are also competing to win the annual title.

On Monday the 14th I came back to see what was going on, as the actual competition was scheduled to start the next day. I was surprised by the extended perimeter and all the camera equipment, as I hadn’t fully read up on it yet.

They had already placed the main “prop” for the weight lifting event to happen the next day.

There was lots of equipment and people moving around.

I went around to the back, as I had read they were going to use some train cars for some of the events.

They had parked several engines in a manner that seemed to be aimed at blocking the view from the rear.

However, there was one beautiful old engine on the turntable, which they were planning to use in one of the strength contests.

People who want to be in the audience that gets filmed have to sign up in advance, as there is a lot of paperwork involved in being an “extra” on a film set. There were only so many slots available, so they filled quickly (I was not aiming to be an extra).

The contest then started in the morning of the next day. As it is predicted to be over 105ยบ F on Thursday and Friday afternoon, they may adjust their shooting schedule a bit on those days. I am putting together some photos for a report on the contest proper, to appear later.

Turtle

2 June 2021

Ever wish you were a turtle?

A few days later, I watched one turtle swim up and join the other turtle on the log. It wasn’t real easy. It took some real striving for the second turtle to join the first one. I imagined that they are in love…

My latest mini-video

28 May 2021

Larry visits…Walnut Creek

27 May 2021

Currently, the BART station is surrounded by construction work. My leading image shows the classic vista from BART, looking east to Mount Diablo. But if you look down, or west, you see new or recent construction.

Everywhere I see more apartment buildings going up around my city and the Bay Area. I hope there are young people who can still afford to live in all these posh new places when all the economic and political unrest settles down, if it ever does.

Parking structure next to BART.

And will people still be able to afford their cars? Currently the whole urban pattern in the Bay Area consists of people driving to BART stations from their suburban homes, then going into The City (or Oakland, or even San Jose) on the train. So every suburban BART station includes a huge parking structure.

On this day, I set off in what I hoped was the direction of Main Street. Many years ago I had visited here with parents and family friends to see the offbeat French film “La Cage Aux Folles” (Cage of Fools) in an artsy little movie theater, such as were popular in those times. Downtown Walnut Creek today is unrecognizable, but not unfamiliar.

At the outskirts of downtown, across from a Target and just up the street from some car dealerships, a lovely corporate park containing three nice buildings sits amid lush greenery.

Right down Main Street yet another apartment building is being put in.

A block or two further, and the downtown shopping / eating district starts for real.

The quaint-looking edifice in the distance is a real estate office that appears to have been built rather recently.

I then proceeded to walk down one side of Main, cross over, and walk back up the other side.

At first the cute little shops and eateries seemed familiar enough. A used book store. Some sort of art shop. Asian food.

All the eateries are very hip and want to “protect” their clientele while doing their best to stay open (thank goodness for the mild weather here!).

I had to include the photo below. This is an “old style” downtown building. It would have been a hamburger joint or dime store back in the day.

These sorts of shops continue for another block or two. Then the tony corporate stores begin to take over.

Tiffany’s
Anthropologie
Apple!

The Apple store heads up an extremely posh set of shops along a walkway. It reminds me a little of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Not shown: Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms. You have to have a very healthy cash flow to shop here!

… or eat …

Another view of the corner…

A bank with a bizarre piece of sculpture in front greets me as I return to the area with the little eateries and specialty shops…

Mel’s!

My visit was short, but the air was fresh and I got to see how yet another “old haunt” has transformed over the years.

I wish the Bay Area well. I doubt I will ever live there again, but who knows? Perhaps my affinity for the place will eventually lure me back.

Mid-May Images

23 May 2021

As the world seethes with whatever paroxysms it is going through, daily life continues in its animated and comfortable sameness…

Old Sacramento

As the menace of disease recedes for many, and the pleasant days of early summer beckon, Old Sacramento gets busier and busier, particularly on weekends.

The tour boats are running again…

… and the dockside turtles never fail to appear for their daily sunbath.

Old Sac is a favorite site for photographers.

Who can overlook a pretty girl in an old fashioned red dress posing for a photo shoot?

People love to stroll through the little park, in spite of the dirt walking surface that often billows with dust when the winds gust.

Young couples are typical Old Sac visitors.

Many visitors seem to be from the local area rather than being “real” tourists. You don’t need to dress up to visit Old Sac.

The little native wildflower bed planted by one of the park rangers has probably reached its peak.

American River

The buckeyes are now in full bloom.
Sweet peas growing wild next to Folsom Blvd.
The allium are also blooming heavily.
This jimsonweed flower by the fish hatchery is at its prime.
This green pine cone will probably never go to seed. It somehow got knocked off the tree prematurely.
The cottonwoods are also at their peak now.

Elsewhere

I found this huge hedge of sage in Pleasant Hill (Bay Area).

There is a LOT of building going on in the area. Construction sites are not very photogenic, but the creation of what is essentially a collection of artificial caves is an amazing process.

Graduation!

I’m not sure how Sacramento State managed to matriculate a class of students over the past several months, but somehow they pulled it off. Here I sit in the Arboretum and watch a line of eager families waiting to take photos of their graduates in front of the “California State University Sacramento” sign at the main entrance to the campus.

Early Summer Images

5 May 2021

It has been very hot in Sacramento the past few days. The weather feels like deep summer but the animals and plants are still transitioning out of Spring.

Folsom views

For the first time since I have been here, the pond by the newish construction near Winco in Folsom went green and stayed that way instead of getting flushed out by the Spring rains.

While over at the Aquatic Park, the lizards who used to bask tenaciously on top of some granite boulders lining the bike path are quick to run for cover if someone comes along.

Some of the blackberries are starting to flower, though it’s a little early for that.

The Spring flowers have already died back, and vetch has taken over in many places. I already have so many photos of vetch I didn’t bother to take any new ones. But a yellow daisy-like flower is showing up here and there.

Birds

There are many wild turkeys living along the American River and it is mating time for them. This male got very close to me. He was being followed by at least six hens.

My best shot of a full tail fan.
Partial tail fan.

The bird houses further down the trail are occupied now.

Blue jay and hummingbirds

I often sit in the park in Old Sacramento and ask the animals to come over and visit. Recently I have had a blue jay appear, with one or two hummingbirds following it. It’s as if they are playing together. It used to be I would only see a single hummingbird.

Birds are difficult to capture, especially with a phone camera. And hummingbirds even more so. I think the next images include a hummingbird. But they are hard to see.

Seals or sea lions

Once in a while some seals or sea lions will swim up the Sacramento from the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure why they do this. A couple were playing around in the river by Old Sacramento recently, but I couldn’t catch a photo of them. Later, one popped his head out. Again, the phone camera is not really up to the job…

Fashionable?

The current fashion includes torn jeans. Mine now qualify! To me, it’s still a sign I need a new pair.

The other popular fashion trend that has caught my eye may be taken up in a subsequent post…