Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Flat!

31 May 2020

…being a slightly decorated listing of unfortunate events.

It was threatening rain yesterday (Saturday) so I postponed my shopping trip until today. Probably just as well, as there was a demonstration downtown yesterday around the issue of the recent killing of a black man in Minneapolis. I have not seen the video.

This morning some people – volunteers I guess – were trying to clean off the spray paint left by a few out-ethics “demonstrators” on the Supreme Court Building (and legal library) across from the Capitol building.

volunteers try to remove paint defacing the Supreme Court Building in Sacramento

I had been in Folsom doing my shopping when I found I had run over something (looked like broken ceramic) that had punctured my front tire. So I came back home on the train, then got on my other bike to take a second try at a bike ride.

flat tire
Flat tire!

The demonstrators had walked across the “tower bridge” to visit West Sacramento. I thought I’d ride over that way, too. Someone defaced some utility boxes with their message. It’s a valid message, but not good to deface public property with it. Makes your “cause” look questionable, doesn’t it?

black lives matter

And another box near Macy’s:

defaced utility box near Macy's downtown.

Macy’s is one of many department store chains having problems competing with online shopping sites. And the pandemic lockdown doesn’t help. This quite large store hasn’t closed for good yet, but it very well might.

Government and Corporate

Governments and business have been intertwined for a long, long time. When something goes wrong in a society, where can you find the causes for it? The answer, of course, is the criminal. It might be a criminal in government, or one in corporate, or one not much connected with either.

Governments are usually expected by businesses and the public to capture and punish street criminals, such as the ones who defaced those utility boxes. However, punishment has not been found to be effective in reducing such crime. In places like the U.S., governments have also been leaned on by the public to capture and punish “white collar” criminals, usually ones thought to exist in business. But governments and businesses have always been so intermingled, that such actions are seldom very thorough.

Businesses, for their part, often don’t have definite methods for keeping their employees honest. They may choose to fire someone who is not performing satisfactorily. But what about someone who appears to making the company more money by engaging in questionable activities? The business may choose to try to hide such people from outside scrutiny or protect them in other ways. This is a long tradition in both business and government.

Thus, when a police officer acts like a criminal, most people expect him to be treated like one. But government (and business) would prefer to handle such matters more quietly. And so, the public are likely to perceive that an injustice has occurred in such a case.

My ride down Capitol Mall took me past the Wells Fargo Center. This is an old American bank with a colorful tradition.

Wells Fargo Center front plaza

Inside is a restored stage coach – one of their favorite things to display.

stage coach inside

This company made it’s wealth, we can suppose, by providing valuable services to its customers, like package and letter transport before the transcontinental trains went in. Those actions can be respected.

But those coach routes were being “made safe” by the U.S. Army’s program of rounding up and killing or encamping all the disgruntled native Americans who saw their lands being given away and destroyed. In like fashion, the British Navy used to protect East India Company merchant ships. And later the Company itself, with its own private army, took over much of India in order to protect is ports and other assets.

West Sacramento

I rode across the bridge, stopping for a minute to watch the boats on the river.

boats on Sacramento River

Across from downtown Sacramento, where the waterfront is set up as a tourist destination, is the West Sacramento waterfront – a decidedly corporate creation.

West Sacramento waterfront

There is a “nice” walkway and park along that side of the river, but a man found a bench there a convenient place to indulge in a somewhat fitful sleep.

Man sleeps on bench at entry to West Sac riverfront walk

What could he possibly be worried about? From a corporate perspective, everything is going fine, “we’re all in this together,” and we’ll all get through it somehow. Corporate, however, owns large and expensive assets, while this man probably doesn’t even own a bed.

We can see that an intention existed at one time to make this area a nice place. But how firm was that intention? How much did it include the local government and nearby residents?

West Sac waterfront walk

While this part of the waterfront remains tidy, the area is not in really good condition.

At the north end of the walk is an old railroad-and-car bridge (built 1911). The bridge can swing sideways to let bigger boats through, but I’ve never seen it do that. There are plans afoot to move the vehicle traffic to a new bridge. A much higher bridge to the south carries freeway traffic.

The view across to downtown Sacramento gives us a look at the steam locomotive they have parked in Old Sac with newer, higher buildings behind.

view of downtown from West Sac

I judge the Sacramento side to be in better shape, probably because of all the foot traffic in Old Sac.

I return to the vicinity of Tower Bridge to explore in the opposite direction.

donuts in an intersection

Someone has been using this intersection to make “donuts!” There are reports from many places that “car nuts” are taking advantage of the not-so-busy streets in many cities to do show-off stunts like this.

Just to the right of this location is Raley Field (for Raley’s a local grocery chain) which recently became Sutter Health Park. It is a successful minor league baseball park.

Beyond the ballpark is a lot of undeveloped land. Just before the I-80 bridge, several apartment complexes have been built, with some still in-progress.

apartments being built

The older building is called The Foundry.

the Foundry apartment building

The newer buildings are called 980Central.

980 Central

There is a cute little park in the middle…

new west sac mini park

Both were developed by the same company. They rent apartments to singles, young couples, and small families, starting at $1500/month.

Across the street is the beer garden/pizza restaurant and play field.

the Barn from the playfield

Beer is big in this area. But the pandemic lockdown has made this empty on what would normally be one of its busiest days.

the Barn

YOLO!

I have previously addressed the issue of YOLO here: https://lecox.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/notes-from-the-wild-side-and-yolo/

YOLO!

Perhaps YOLO is part of the problem we’re having. It’s…not true, of course. But what happens to a person if he totally believes it? On the one hand, its sentiment might entice you to throw caution to the wind and feed your hunger for new experiences, the supposed original intention of the phrase.

On the other hand, it could lead someone to be much more averse to experiencing “bad” or “unsafe” things that could cut one’s “only life” short! This could be related to the expression “I’m good” which had one boost in popularity in 1980 and another around 2000 (according to Google’s N-Gram Viewer, which I like to use on all unfamiliar expressions). It really means “please don’t bother me with that because it’s beyond my comfort level.”

It’s easier to go ahead and wear a mask than to wonder why someone supposedly representing the medical establishment told us that we need to all wear masks and be six feet apart to “stay safe.” There is actually no study demonstrating that these precautions, applied the way we have applied them, would slow a pandemic. It’s just a guess. But when YOLO crashes into “I’m good” your result is an economic crash of unprecedented proportions.

Next, I found this sign next to an art installation on the river. No one wants to wipe the bird turd off. Not even me!

A few interesting things

This well-known flowering plant (this one at Folsom Winco) is called agapanthus.

agapanthus flowers

However, these ones, planted near the new apartment buildings, aren’t fully identified:

pink liliaceous flower

And out in back of the Barn, beyond where the paved trail ends, I saw a pair of jackrabbits playing around in the weeds. They were chasing each other, but I was too slow for that with my camera.

jackrabbit
jackrabbit
jackrabbit running

On my way back home, I took this shot of my other bicycle, with a pretty girl riding a bike in the background, among other things.

girl riding bike, etc.

At the foot of the bridge stands this sycamore tree. I think it is the largest sycamore I have ever seen.

rhododenron and

Beside it grows a little rhododendron bush. How did it get there?

Oh – and the lizard with its tail broken off. I almost forgot this one. From Folsom.

Memorial Day

23 May 2020

Memorial Day came early this year. That’s because now it officially falls on a Monday – the one closest to the end of May (that’s in May). Otherwise, we would have had to wait until June first.

Freedom

Downtown the conservatives were having a freedom rally.

Though Memorial Day is about war dead (originally, the Civil War), we have a current pressing concern about freedom. So a bunch of folks brought out their flags and came down to the Capitol to hear speeches and so forth.

I was not there long. I was listening to a Hispanic guy talk about how his people don’t want to be on the public dole, but would rather work and make a good living. He was talking about how most of his people are Christians. He was talking about how valuable freedom is to his people. This, of course, is not unique to Hispanics.

memorial day rally

In the old days, they used to call it “Liberty.” But whatever you call it, the real point is that one can use one’s freedom of will or freedom to act to enrich oneself at the expense of others or for the benefit of others. It was the “liberty” taken by the colonizer of North America that lead to the colonists desiring their own “liberty.” We know (more or less) what happened to the native Americans and to the imported Africans as we as a “free” people pursued our own sense of what “liberty” meant to us.

It sometimes must be pointed out that happiness usually arises from a good balance of freedoms and barriers. If, back then, there had been more barriers in place against the killing of native Americans or the enslavement of Africans we might be in a happier condition today.

However, governments and other institutions charged with managing people tend to err on the side of barriers. And so we have the current situation. (It should be noted that there was never any real medical consensus that the steps recommended by the CDC or the WHO were the best steps to take in this situation. It was a political choice made about 15 years ago.)

The barriers begin to fall

Nonetheless, a new consensus is arising – after three months of “shelter in place” – that it is time to start opening things back up. And so this Saturday, I saw a LOT of people rafting on the river.

rafting on the American river

And then I saw even more people rafting on the river!

even more river rafters

I also saw people sitting outside restaurants at tables eating, and even going into some restaurants. And I saw signs announcing re-openings.

However, for this pool at Sac State to be usable by people again, there’s going to be some real cleanup needed!

More flowers

a garden-quality mullein (verbascum)

The floral scene continues to alter weekly as we move closer to Summer. The above flower was on the Folsom trail I use to get to the river. It is a mullein (verbascum) – a variety I have never seen before.

everlastings

These flowers are known as everlastings. They dry very well, and are often seen in flower arrangements dyed different colors. This plant is the only one I have ever seen in the park.

wild grapes in flower

Grape flowers have basically no petals. These are wild grapes and grow as a weed throughout this area. The grapes they produce are small but sweet.

mock orange bush in flower

I have never seen this mock orange in flower. I had a similar bush outside my window in Seattle. It is very showy right now.

St. John's wort

I thought I should take a photo of a St. John’s wort. It is widely known as a medicinal plant and is also very much in bloom in the park. The plant has some unusual characteristics, such as numerous small translucent dots in the leaves, and an odd serrated edge on the flower petals. I caught a bee in this shot as a bonus.

Dry hills

Across the river in the Folsom area, is a south-facing hillside. It has already been baked brown by the hot sun. This is a very typical scene in many places in California that aren’t directly on the coast.

It could be that these hills were once more verdant. Many of these places have been grazed for quite a long time. But I suspect hills that look like this have been the norm in inland California for hundreds of years. One looks at a slope like this with Permaculture in mind, and tends to think, “Wow, could that land use some swales!” Such land is at constant risk of catching on fire, and my understanding is that the natives used to set fires on purpose to control the dry underbrush.

Signs of the Times

16 May 2020
state parks flatten curve sign

…being a collection of images of local signage, mostly recently posted….

Older Signs

I think the first time I got an idea that I should take pictures of signs was the first time I saw this one in Folsom. It’s cute, sort of witty, right?

attentions dogs!

This next one is everywhere on the bike paths. I thought I should include it because of how confusing it could be if you didn’t know the context. Some people don’t know why this should be done and/or don’t do it.

walk left, ride right

And please limit your bicycling speed to 15 MPH! If I could go that fast, I could get home in less than an hour and a half. It usually takes me close to 3 hours. I figure I ride at about 6 MPH. The “racers” maybe go 10.

bikes stay below 15 MPH!

COVID-19

“Social distancing” (whatever that is) was one of the earliest concepts introducing into the pandemic “handling.” (Sorry about the quotes, but several sources including my gut call BS on a lot of this stuff.)

social distancing (winco)

Instruction signs were also posted along the bike path, but I haven’t seen them recently. Here’s another one in town:

keep US safe

Later on, WinCo put this one up…

leave your bags in the car

…then stopped charging for plastic bags. Here we have a huge plastic conservation initiative defeated by a microscopic RNA fragment!

And worse than that, the playgrounds are closed. This breaks my heart.

closed playground

I don’t know how the kids can stand these limitations on their movement.

I know a lot of them are learning how to ride bikes.

shelter in pace virtual run

I’m not sure what a “virtual run” is, but I guess these guys have it all figured out.

Closed restaurants

restaurant open for take-out

There are lots of signs like this around town. This restaurant is a very upscale place (across from the light rail station near downtown) so the sign had to look good.

There are roughly 1,400 restaurants in and around Sacramento (California Restaurant Association figure). The street I return on (L Street) is full of them. A cluster of rather chic ones occupies the ‘teens streets area.

thank you for supporting local businesses

Heroes

Suddenly health care workers are “heroes.” Are they getting hazard pay?

Heroes work here - Sutter

This sign is at the Sutter Health center. Sutter is a not-for-profit health care company that operates numerous hospitals.

health care heroes and home for sale

Kaiser gets to toot its own horn, I guess. It is the biggest health care provider of its type in the country. The Plan is strictly non-profit, but doctors can form for-profit groups within the structure.

Though I included a “home for sale” sign, the housing market does not seem to be particularly involved with what is going on right now.

Enjoying the early summer

party at a park - with social distancing

People who want to have an outing in the park usually try to pay their respects to the current restrictions.

people rafting on the American River

Rafters? Maybe not so much.

Medicine

At this time, perhaps more than ever before, the world of medicine has intersected with the world of public life. The result has been – from my viewpoint – a disaster.

learn pharmacy ad on train

The world of medicine is attached at the hip to the world of pharmacy. This is not because drugs have been found to be the best way to treat illnesses. But they are certainly the most simple-minded way to treat illnesses. So everyone agrees. And pharmacy has become big business.

Birds and Flowers

What would my weekly post be without some bird and flower photos?

brodiaea

This flower looks a lot like the ones I identified as allium (wild onion) earlier, but this new one is brodiaea.

asters

These asters appeared “out of nowhere.” Flowers really change a plant’s character and visual impact.

bluebird feeding young

The bluebird is now busy feeding its young. I can hear them tweeting inside their box whenever more food arrives.

And the geese at Hagan Community Park have been very productive this year!

Geese with many goslings

Happy Mothers Day

13 May 2020
Happy Mothers' Day sign

I was supposed to post this on Sunday, but got busy with other things.

After I got off the train to go to Winco, one of the first things I ran across was this outdoor “celebration” of the holiday.

Jesus Culture event

This event, in which people could drive in and get a bouquet for Mom, was being put on by Jesus Culture Sacramento. It turns out that this group came out of the Bethel Church in Redding, which we were involved with when we helped with wildfire relief efforts in 2018.

Bethel Church appeals to well-educated higher-income people who want to be Christians, but in a more modern way than how this faith is offered and presented in more traditional churches. They utilize the power of prayer (and group postulates, as we might call them) and believe in playing a leadership role in society. They train their people to be professionals.

Flowers for Mom

All the rest of this post is flower pictures. I usually take both a longer shot and a closeup of most plants I photograph, and have included the longer shots here (when I took them), though the closeups are definitely the bigger eye-catchers.

pea flower

On the trail from Winco to the park, there is a little stand of pea plants. Their flowers are very showy, though these have been out long enough to start fading. I usually don’t bother to photograph them because they aren’t wild plants.

clarkias

Here is another example of plants I don’t see in the park. However, these flowers are very common in California. They are related to fireweed which is a very common wildflower in many places. They are called “clarkias.”

clarkia flowers

Blackberries are common everywhere. This particular bush is one of several that are eagerly harvested when the berries ripen. In the park these berries tend to be ignored.

blackberry flowers

These are in the Rose Family just in case the thorns and flower shape look a bit familiar. The Rose Family also includes a lot of fruit trees.

The most obvious flowers in the park are the buckeyes (California horse chestnut).

buckeye tree in ful flower

These are now in full, full bloom. The weather this year was just right for this, so now they are putting on a real show.

buckeye flower spike

New members of the aster family also keep appearing. This family is so numerous with so many similar-looking plants that it is hard to know exactly what genus some of these plants belong to.

new yellow asters

While the new asters dominate the foreground in this shot, just behind them are a bunch of monkey flowers (covered earlier) that are still blooming quite profusely and have been for some time.

yellow aster flowers

At the aquatic center they have taken pains (apparently) to bring in some native plants that would otherwise not be seen very often any more. One of these now in bloom is the tree poppy. These are huge bushes with very big white flowers.

tree poppy bush

I have been by here many many times and don’t remember seeing these before, so these flowers must not last very long.

tree poppy flowers

I hope you all had a good weekend, and wish I could share these sights with more of you in person.

COVID-19 Mascot and other Animals

3 May 2020
turtle hiding

This guy was sitting on the Folsom bike trail I use to get to the American River Parkway from Winco. Apparently he had started across the trail but something must have happened to startle him and he stopped. He was right in the middle of the trail – anything could have come along and run into him. I set him over to the side and took this photo.

It was another beautiful day on the trail – a bit cooler than previously.

people on the bike trail Rancho Cordova area

A lot of people were out, as has been mentioned regarding my other recent trips. These ones aren’t hiding inside!

Also out were the model train enthusiasts in their park-like area next to the big park in Rancho Cordova known as Hagan Community Park.

maintenance locomotive at Sacramento Model Stream Train Museum

Various flowering trees were also making themselves known.

Buckeye (or western horse chestnut):

buckeye in bloom

Elderberry – now fully blooming in most locations:

Elderberry in bloom

Some catalpas by the river were also noted:

catalpa in bloom

Animals

Many animals were also out and about. The birds of course are always the most obvious. Here is another attempt to photograph the bluebird that lives in one of the bird houses erected in an area that is being replanted:

bluebird

I was shooting into the sun, thus the bird was mostly shaded and underexposed. In this photo I have asked the image software to correct for the underexposed subject, which brought out the blue on the wings. Most of the bird house inhabitants are not bluebirds, but this one pretty clearly is.

A deer:

I’m wondering if we’re going to see some new fawns soon.

Canada geese on the lawn:

geese on park lawn

As mentioned in other posts (https://lecox.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/goose-poop/ ) many Canada geese have settled into urban parks and made them their homes. I also see them in larger ponds and in the river and sometimes on suburban commercial or residential lawns. They can make quite a lot of noise but otherwise seem rather well-mannered.

Bees:

bee on clover

The lawn at George Pond Recreation Area was full of clover, and the bees were taking advantage.

So: Life goes on! I feel more and more like that turtle that needs to get out of its shell and walk around a bit. Hiding was not enabling it to “stay safe” in that particular situation.

Tidbits

26 April 2020

…consisting of somewhat random notes.

The Arboretum

It was warm this weekend! And when it gets hot – which means I get hotter on my ride home – I usually stop at the arboretum (UC Sac State) along the way.

butterfly bush flowers

Here is the butterfly bush mentioned on the marker above. Exotic!

And an iris.

iris

Nearby were some calla lilies.

calla

This is quite a peaceful place. And popular as a way to take in a short walk.

There were a lot of people out Saturday. The regular bike racers, plus a ton of families with kids.

The weather, predicted to be partly cloudy, turned out mostly sunny, and I got burned.

eArt Projects

At home I have been working – almost feverishly – on putting together some systems that will allow me to continue to develop more electronic art.

I worked a lot on an oscillator made from an old IC known as “XR2206.” This IC is considered very outdated, yet it continues to have popularity among hobbyists and can still be obtained from electronics surplus stores. One wonders, though, why these parts are surplus. Could it be they were rejected by the original manufacturers due to being out-of-specification?

What I know about this IC is that it has been hard for me to work with in that it does not deliver the full functionality it was specified for. In theory, you can get a 2000:1 frequency range out of this part, but this is difficult to achieve because at higher current levels it begins to go unstable or stop oscillating.

Still it is a great way to get a sine wave for testing purposes with just the turn of one knob. And that’s all I needed it for.

XR2206 oscillator

This is an important part of my “analog” rack. This rack is for developing different ways to process sound and turn it into signals that can control light (LED) displays.

Below the oscillator is an open section where boards can be inserted for testing. That part isn’t finished yet.

analog rack

The whole thing looks like this right now.

The mounting rails with all the little screw holes in them are taken from the “eurorack” system. This system was developed as a metric standard that imitates the old U.S. standard 19-inch wide equipment racks. This rack size has continued to be popular for computer equipment and for professional audio equipment. The eurorack has become the default standard for modern modular equipment, especially analog (old-school) synthesizers. The “new breed” of “analog” synths can be computer-aided, which helps to overcome some of their old problems with tuning stability, amount of space required, and similar issues.

I note that vinyl as a recording medium is also back in vogue. Some people really think it sounds better.

I use these racks for projects that need to be modular – built in functional sections. They are a great substitute for older rack equipment which tends to be way too deep for this sort of application. Lots of professional synth modules are less than 1 inch deep behind the panel! My racks are about 4 inches deep. That was not quite deep enough, however, for the power supply module I found (at a very good price) so I had to make a hole in its panel so it could stick out 1/2 an inch in the front. That meant putting a thick plastic cover over it so it would be electrically safe.

I also have an analog meter in this rack, as I sometimes want to see the slower changes in a signal, and digital meters aren’t good for that.

digital rack

My digital rack is very similar, except it all works on 5 volts. Its purpose is to help me design digital pattern generators that will respond (usually) to one or more analog signals taken from the environment.

Here is another open section where boards may be inserted to try them out. That still needs more work.

Deliveries

I wanted a better webcam in case I had reason to use one over this period or later. So I ordered one and asked for it to be delivered by the second business day (Fedex). The driver, however, could not get into my building because the managers have not been unlocking the door when they’re in the office, like they usually do. For some reason he didn’t think to (or couldn’t) call me so I could let him in, so it’s the third business day and the camera remained undelivered.

I decided to go out to the Fedex facility and pick it up. It wasn’t hard, though it took about two hours by bus. Right now the bus drivers have to wear masks and all the passengers have to enter and exit via the back door (unless they are wheelchair types). Most people are taking it pretty well, but I think it’s crazy.

My electronics parts orders have been coming through pretty well, though. The USPS has no problem delivering the mail, and orders from California only take two days to get here, so that’s working for me.

Is the way out the way through?

This is an old saying used in Scientology, but actually broadly applicable. It means that if you have something hanging around that’s bothering you, it’s only there because you didn’t confront it well enough the first time you ran into it. The only way to get rid of it is to confront it more thoroughly.

While some doctors, including that Fauci dude, remain almost studiously ambivalent about this particular disease, the fact is that we wouldn’t be alive on Earth today if we didn’t have some natural way to build up immunity against all the pathogens floating around in the environment. And so, while it takes its toll on us to one degree or another, we will build up our immunity to this one, the next one, and a few more after that (I hope).

The doctors who do talk about immunity and the immune system as the way through this thing are oddly ignored by some of the others who want drugs or a vaccine to handle it. This has led some of them to wonder out loud if the medical establishment has some “agenda” it’s trying to push forward (to make more money and gain more control), and from all I’ve heard and read, this is quite possible.

What I know for sure is: This disease needs to run its course, and people need to get back to what they were doing to earn money and make things go right. You can’t put the world on hold forever without killing it. Is that what those doctors want?

Here’s another photo of flowers. They don’t seem to be aware that there’s anything wrong.

yellow flowers

Flower Show

19 April 2020

Flowers continue to dominate the American River Parkway bike trail experience.

The buckeyes are now starting to bloom.

buckeye

If you are familiar with horse chestnuts and these flowers look familiar to you, it’s because they are very closely-related plants. They are also in the same family as maple trees.

Lupine is huge in the upper part of the parkway right now. I’m not sure why the lower part (nearer Sacramento) is so different.

lupine

Behind this field of lupine are the ever-present California poppies.

The above is a zoom shot, and at first I thought the gold-colored flowers in back might be hawkweed. But that grows mostly in small patches close to the trail.

hawkweed

Not to be confused with dandelions, a close relative that grows in moister locations, like lawns.

dandelions

Vetch is in full bloom now, and is widely seen along the length of the trail.

vetch with more poppies

More poppies – just can’t get away from them! Notice how these vetch flowers whiten in their lower parts after being out for a while. This is apparently a natural variation, but may have to do with sunlight, as flowers I saw that were more shaded didn’t have this much white.

The thistles are just starting to flower. They will likely continue into the summer. Most plants in the Aster family, particularly native varieties, are quite hardy and tend to continue flowering for some time.

blue thistle

Further down the trail, cow parsnip starts to make an appearance, along with some other wild umbellifers like wild fennel (or anise).

cow parsnip

These are related to carrots, celery and parsley.

The elderberries are just beginning to flower. These are probably the “blue” variety that can be batter-fried and eaten.

elderberry

There is a “red” variety that is too toxic to eat safely.

This manroot, featured in the photos from my last trip, was climbing up on the elderberry bushes, so easy to photograph.

manroot

I will end this little flower show with a full shot of a single lupine. These are supposedly native in this area, but I’ve never seen so many growing together as I’ve seen on the upper part of this trail near Folsom.

lupine

Poor Images

11 April 2020

With a broken play on words, I introduce some of my photos from today’s trip back from Folsom. Was my camera giving me trouble or was I the problem? Hopefully this question is not important enough to answer at this time…

hummingbird on dead branch

Hummingbirds don’t often pose for me, but one did today. Still, I used all the optical zoom I could plus a crop of the photo to bring this little one this close.

people on the trail

This photo of some of the other trail users features a young man riding what seems to be a giant scooter. I’m not sure if it was motorized.

old cut in river bank

This is one of several cuts into the sandstone bank of the river that were likely made many years ago to facilitate gold mining operations.

manroot fruit

Though this would normally be called “wild cucumber,” it appears to be the related plant Manroot.

deer feeding on young leaves

There must be something in the young tree leaves or flowers that attracts this deer, as forage is abundant this time of year.

head of bluebird

This bluebird was also posing for me in this tree, but I failed to point my camera correctly, catching only its head. This bird is probably here because of the nearby nest boxes put out as part of a habitat restoration project.

jackrabbit running away

Likewise here, I had several good opportunities to get a profile of this jackrabbit, but ended up only with a shot of its rear. I have seen this animal in this area before, but they are very rare in these parts, and I consider myself lucky to have noticed it at all.

the clouds thin

By lunchtime, the clouds started thinning, as predicted. This is at the William B. Pond Recreation Area. Sometimes horse riders come here, as there’s plenty of parking space and some nice short trails.

horses at William B. Pond

This lady told me that the horses like having their pictures taken.

locust tree

I just call this tree a “locust,” but it’s probably a Black Locust. It is in the Legume family, related to the Acacias, Brooms, Clovers, Peas, etc. The flowers are striking as they bloom, but usually don’t last long.

men work on power lines

There are two sets of power lines that run basically north-to-south through this part of the county. I believe this was the “first” set of lines (more to the east). I never see these lines worked on. It is fairly uncommon, as you have to turn the power off to do it, and that’s a lot of power (about 300,000 volts at some hundreds of amps).

sundrops flower

This Sundrops plant was blooming! It’s a yellow Evening Primrose, and I last noticed in the late summer last year.

As I headed into the city, I saw more turkeys at the arboretum, but I already have a bunch of better photos of turkeys posted. Next stop was at the train tracks.

freight train going through midtown sacramento

This line runs through midtown (around 20th) and is used a lot. Fortunately, this train wasn’t very long.

In other news…

The most surprising thing (I think) that came to my attention recently was the fact that the U.S. now has a Space Force. The plan is to make it an independent branch of the Armed Forces, operating under the Air Force Department of the DOD.

I found out about this because I get newsletters from a bunch of electronics trade magazines and sites, and a recent featured article covered the story of how the Space Force is upgrading their near-earth radar systems so they can track more orbiting space objects.

I understand that a lot of people aren’t thrilled with the U.S. decision to militarize space. They don’t want to see space weaponized, as we already have enough trouble with land-based weapons. There is a United Nations treaty to this effect. However, with no space-capable fighters yet visible, these objections seem a bit premature. The current mission of the new branch consists mostly of protecting our most vital assets in space, like the GPS satellites.

There have been multiple stories released since the Air Force Space Command was established in 1982 concerning what might be “out there” besides our own satellites and space probes. No one is officially talking about that these days, though Reagan talked about the “other possibility” at least four times in public, so that keeps the fires burning under the story that there is more to our Space Force than meets the eye.

Space Force Seal in bad taste?

There has been some problem with the logo, or “seal” as it is called, for the new unit. Some Star Trek fans seem to feel that it might have been stolen from that show (late 1960s). However, the show’s emblem was purposely based on NASA’s emblem, which had been around since 1959. The main problem remains that the Starfleet was considered a non-military (mostly) activity sponsored by a federation of planets that had established peaceful relations among themselves. This was a central tenet of the original series, an appeal to viewers to embrace the diversity of races and cultures on Earth and abandon the Cold War and other types of war. With the implementation of our new Space Force, we have turned and walked defiantly off in a different direction, or so it appears.

Here is the “seal:”

U.S. Space Force Seal

April’s Fools

4 April 2020
people at the light rail stop Friday morning

In anticipation of more rain today (Saturday) I (again) went out to do my grocery shopping in Folsom on Friday. Just a few people needing transport hung around the light rail station – about normal for non-rush times on this line.

empty light rail car

By the time we got to Folsom, everyone else had debarked.

bridge on trail with bikers

I very seldom take shots of the general area that the bike trail goes through. This is a foot bridge across an inlet on the little lake used for boat racing by university student athletes. As you can see, there are plenty of people out on bikes.

further down the river trail

Further down the trail there are both walkers and bikers.

more people on the trail

And on this very picturesque section of the trail much closer to town, still more walkers and bikers.

More Flowers

fiddlenecks

I got a nice clear photo of the fiddlenecks.

vetch

And another of some vetch. There is a lot of this along the trail; most of it will bloom out a little later.

collinsias

And I couldn’t resist taking more pictures of the little hill full of Collinsias. These are also interspersed with Lupine.

Then down at the Aquatic Park I decided to take a closer look at the tree I’d seen last week full of big yellow flowers. I have been unable to identify this tree. Obviously it has a horticultural source, as this is the only specimen I have ever seen.

unidentified tree with big yellow flowers

California poppies continue to proliferate, particularly on sun-baked slopes.

California poppies along the river

Flowering dogwood is a familiar site in other climates this time of year, but it thrives only in gardens here in Sacramento.

flowering dogwood in town

These streets were full of these small trees, and they were full of flowers. Quite a display! This was taken by the way in the “40’s” neighborhood, streets 40 through 49. It’s a very nice part of town.

Animals in motion

A swallowtail posed patiently for me, but my camera refused to focus on its black body. The image below is cropped out of a wider shot.

swallowtail butterfly

The turkeys were chasing a hen, but I was moving a little when I snapped this, if they weren’t.

male turkeys chasing a hen

Pandemic News

The Germans got their testing started early, with almost 100,000 confirmed cases at this point, and 1,500 deaths. That would be a fatality rate of about 1.5%, but doctors there think that number will rise. According to reports I’ve seen, ordinary flu kills at about 1/10th of that rate.

My friend Patrick who was visiting Malaysia and afraid of getting stuck there managed to get on the next-to-the-last plane from Malaysia to Japan. He likes Japan and trusts that country to handle the pandemic brightly.

He recommended “Last Plane Out” as the theme song for his adventure and possibly this whole episode of history. It was written by Kevin Gilbert (a short-lived professional musician born in Sacramento in 1966) and recorded by his band Toy Matinee, getting some airplay around 1990.

The Understory Revives

28 March 2020

Today is Saturday and it’s raining again. But this was predicted, so I went shopping (again) on Friday, and this time I brought my camera.

Understory? Reminds me of a bad joke. But ecologically, it’s everything that grows below the forest canopy that isn’t actually living in the ground. And though the canopy no longer exists along many parts of this river, springtime remains the time of the understory, of the lower-growing plants, bushes and trees that thrive before the canopy leafs out and shades them.

After a dry February, the rains returned in March, giving the early plants and flowers a big chance to proliferate. And though in many places the grasses are already choking them out, in many other places they are the stars right now.

Flowers

broom

Let’s start with all the leguminous plants that like to flower at this time. Above is a broom. Brooms are very hardy and are officially considered weeds in most of the west. But they sure are showy when they flower!

lupine

Here’s a lupine. What a show! This is probably the Silver Lupine, which is native in this area, but quite possibly has been replanted in this case.

Another spring legume is the vetch, not pictured. It is very common in this area and likes to crowd in with Star Thistle and the grasses that mature later in the year. And another is the Redbud. It is not native here, but has been planted all over due to its beautiful spring flowers.

Next, some flowers that may be horticultural escapees, but are very conspicuous now in the Folsom area.

Here we see Allium, Fiddleneck, and a mustard (Rocket) all growing together. The Allium are so noticeable right now that they deserve a separate portrait.

allium closeup

Monkeyflower, which I saw blooming in the late summer, is even more prolific now. It tends to grow in bushy patches.

monkeyflower

Right next to this plant, growing under a pine tree, were a large bunch of Collinsias. I call them by their botanical name because they have so many different common names, such as “Chinese Houses.”

collinsias

We also see vetch and leaves of a buckeye in the background, along with an unidentified dried stalk with seed capsules still attached, along with a mint in the fuzzy foreground on the right.

And of course Spring here would not be complete without California Poppies.

california poppy

Way down the parkway in the William B. Pond Park lawn, I found this next plant, which I had difficulty identifying. It is a Henbit, a small-flowered member of the mint family.

henbit

Other Plants

fern fronds in the sun

I had to go back and visit the fern plants I have been keeping track of. They seem mature now, which means the “green” part of their life cycle is almost over. In a moist environment (a real understory) these fronds would persist throughout the summer. But out here among these rocks, they will probably die back.

coral lichen and mosses

The amazing lichens I photographed back when it was really wet have already died back, and the mosses they live with are well on their way to completing their life cycle for another year, too.

Drawn to the Draws

In western lingo, any gully or visible low area is called a “draw.” I have always found these areas appealing, but they are hard to photograph in a way that conveys the feeling of shelter that goes with them.

large open draw

This one is all sunlit, right next to the trail, and with a big dead tree down at the bottom.

deep shaded draw

This one is also right next to the trail, but shaded. It is quite deep, but possibly not really natural, as all the terrain in this area has been modified by the old gold mining activities that used to be the norm along this river. But that’s been over 100 years ago now, so all these places have had a lot of time to grow back into more diverse ecosystems.

poppies next to a wide draw

Here’s another wide and sunny drainage area with poppies all along its banks. This is right next to a huge pile of river rocks (mine tailings) that has not yet become overgrown.

Animals

Animals present various photographic challenges. In this first shot, though, I think I just had my camera set wrong. The fuzziness of the butterflies does, however, suggest how in motion they were.

butterflies in fiddleneck

There were a lot of these dark-winged butterflies flying around. They look like they may be Swallowtails.

male turkeys

These turkeys did not really want their picture taken. I believe these are males. There were some females not far away, but they were further off the trail.

This deer also wanted to keep its distance.

Stay At Home?

people on the trail

A lot of people seemed to agree that home was not the place to stay on a beautiful sunny day. As was true last week, there were a lot of people walking and biking this Friday afternoon. Most of the government people involved with the shutdown orders seem to recognize our need to get out for some fresh air. They are most concerned about people going out in order to gather somewhere and then infect each other.

I was on an “essential” trip, grocery shopping, and those qualify as well. “Infrastructure” work also keeps going, such as on this construction site, and at the hotel they are building across from where I live.

construction site

The businesses being hit the hardest are the gathering places. The restaurants, bars, auditoriums, schools and churches. My church decided to close so that parishioners would not find themselves in situations where they would have to explain to authorities why going to church is essential (though I think it should be considered so!).

It is such a shame that a stupid disease would convince us that we should not go out and meet with each other, hug each other, or shake hands. It can’t continue this way. Hiding inside is no way to confront a problem. We do too much of that in “normal” times. In the end it would probably be better for us to get out more, not less. It’s already become a bad habit that many of us really need to break, not find more justifications for.

smile