Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Food!

28 November 2019

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!

From the musical Oliver!, lyrics by Lionel Bart.

I learned some of the songs in this musical in 5th or 6th grade at Wines School in Ann Arbor.

And since I didn’t get any shots of this year’s Thanksgiving meal, I’ll take you on a short trip down Memory Lane to a few major meals I attended in the long-ago.

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We’ll start with summer 1977 at the Beck’s (Culver City, Los Angeles). There’s Mom and Dad in the back, our friend Sophie facing the camera, a young Sherman staring down at something yummy, and my sister’s beautiful blond hair shimmering fuzzily in the foreground.

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Later that summer we stop by the Piersons. Here we see their piano and music books still prominent in the all-purpose room we spent most of our time in whenever we visited them.

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Next, a Thanksgiving spread featuring David, Mom and Barbie.

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And Christmas dessert, with Donna and Barbie all over-exposed in the foreground. Donna had great blond hair, too.

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And three years later, a scene from the big indoor get-together of the Pritchard Family Reunion (Grandma was a Pritchard). This was held in — can I remember? — the general vicinity of Garner, Iowa. The family started out in Belmond.

Food in the wild wild West

My most recent visit to the American River Parkway featured these food-related scenes:

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The salmon have been running in the American River. Last week I saw a big fish skittering up a shallow rapids near to where this vulture had caught another one.

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Woodpeckers feed mostly on insects living in dead tree branches. It is rare indeed that I catch such a good view of a woodpecker.

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When I came across this doe she had a corn chip bag over her snout. She ran away when I tried to catch her wearing the latest deer fashion (she probably fancied the salt). Here she’s trying to hide from me.

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I have ridden past this old orchard many times, and finally decided to snap a photo. These are walnut trees as far as I can tell. These specimens, however, are quite old. Most of the green on the nearest tree is mistletoe, indicating the tree is weakening from age.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Of bikes, banks, birds, bucks…

3 November 2019

I thought I might diverge a bit from my usual weekly write-up to mention a little more about the experience of riding from Folsom to Sacramento.

I don’t have any really good photos showing what Folsom is like, but here’s one from the summer showing some geese walking around on the lawn and sidewalk next to a corporate building and a transit station parking lot.

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It is a car-dominated, corporate-dominated suburban area. This is a newer part of town, so it has bike paths and lots of greenery and these random appearances of wildlife. I think a lot of suburbs have these things.

Some attack suburban life as “unsustainable,” but with a combination of lots of local employment plus a big city nearby, many people would much prefer to live in a place like Folsom if they can afford to. With the help of cars, a large grocery store like Winco is very viable here. There is plenty of room for parking, and the store is constantly busy, but especially on Saturday morning. The store is full of parents and kids, plus some older and younger couples, and a few singles like me.

I usually finish my shopping between 11AM and noon, then start back with my load of groceries, a big sun hat, and (in the summer) a dab of sunscreen on the top of each hand – the most exposed body parts (I wear long sleeves and pants when I go on such trips).

I got the bicycle I use in Pullman. It is a very well-built machine, but longer than most bikes. The frame has been extended about seven inches to allow for a lower center of gravity and more leg extension to the pedals. This is very helpful for urban biking where there is a lot of stopping for people and traffic. Most others on the trail ride racing bikes. A few older people ride motor-assisted touring bikes. I also see unusual bicycles on this trail. There is an occasional tandem bike, recumbent bikes, and a few “stepper” bikes.

Folsom is roughly 20 miles east of Sacramento. To its immediate north is a “lake” which is a reservoir formed by a rather large dam. Below that is a smaller “lake” formed by a smaller dam located at a fish hatchery. An aquatic park connected to Sac State University is located on this lower lake, and they host various boat races and similar events there. It is by this lake, across from the “Iron Point” light rail station, that I enter the Parkway and start my ride back to Sacramento.

Here are some people doing a photo shoot in that section of the park. It is right next to Folsom Boulevard, so very accessible.

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This is where most of the tarweed grows, as described in earlier posts.

Below the fish hatchery is a stretch of river used a lot for fishing and leisurely boating. The river is broad, shallow and slow-moving below the hatchery all the way to where it meets the Sacramento River. About 150 years ago, this section of the river was heavily dug up using various mining methods to remove gold from river sediments. Very large piles of river rocks adorn the banks of the river in this area, particularly on the south side where the bike path is. Here is a major example:

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On this part of the river, the other (north) side of the river is steeper and more hilly, so most of the rock from the dredges ended up on the south side.

As this environmental interference is now over 100 years past, many of these areas are regrown, particularly along the river banks. Here is a typical view of the river not far downstream from the hatchery.

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The bike path tends to skirt along the river bank where there are lots of trees, while passing open fields on the other side. At some points the road and houses are quite close to the path, and at other points they are more distant.

There are a few sections of dense woods (which I love – reminds me of Michigan) but in most places the land shows signs that at one time in the past it was cleared by the miners for their work. I have shown this photo before, but I’ll show it here again to convey some of the beauty that a real forest provides.

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The ride home is for the most part a pleasure. But it does take me about three hours, and I usually experience some discomfort on the rump before the ride is over.

On the way I normally stop at one of the parks for a snack. It was not far from my stop this week that I spied these two birds down at the river. With bare eyes I could not tell that the vulture had a fish, but it was obviously feeding on something. The gull seems to be waiting with a sort of pretended attitude of disinterest, hoping – I suppose – that the vulture will leave some scraps behind that it may take advantage of.

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It is not common to come across such a poignant little vignette as the one above, but this area is home to wildlife, and they will sometimes appear close to the bike path, as I have noted many times concerning the deer. This week I got my first sighting of an older buck. I didn’t know there were any buck this old (two or three years judging by antler points) living in this area. I didn’t see any does in the vicinity.

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At Sac State I leave the river and head into town. The roadways in that area are a bit tangled, as a railway runs through it at a diagonal, which breaks up the usual orderly grid of streets.

I usually go into town using M and L streets. These are residential streets until I get close to downtown, so there’s less car traffic on them. On this route I go through the “40s” which is a very posh, upscale old suburban neighborhood. It stays residential until I get to the I-80 freeway which goes right through town between 29th and 30th.

The fact that the I-80 and the I-5 cross in Sacramento makes this spot a major transport crossroads. This fact has been emphasized several times by the drug enforcement officers who come to our church to brief us on the current scene regarding illicit trafficking, and particularly marijuana. It means there is a criminal interest in this location that would be absent if those freeways crossed somewhere else.

In any case, after the freeway comes the hospital (Sutter) along with the fort (Sutter) and then I get into a mix of older houses, apartment buildings, and cute shops that emphasize coffee, food, and drinking. L Street comes into downtown right between the Capitol Mall (a quite nice park) and the Convention Center (currently being renovated).  Then I switch over to K Street which runs right into the new DOCO, and I am home.

I might mention that the ice rink just opened this Friday and I had a nice opening day skate for just two bucks!

I will end with this shot of what was on the ground back in the park at the place where I saw the deer. It is not yet freezing at night here (and actually does not do so that often), and so many of the late-blooming plants just continue to go about their business. Sometimes when I walk down the city streets and see all that brick or concrete I wish the sidewalks could look like this instead.

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Gone Fishin’

19 October 2019

Tired of titles that have nothing to do with my content? I can’t help it. Hopefully I’ll get over it before too long.

If this title has anything more to do with this article beyond my photo of a guy fishing while an egret looks on, it would probably be that I had to “fish” these images out of larger photos. I almost always “crop” my photos to improve composition and focus more on the central subject. All these had to be cropped quite a lot, mostly because the featured subject was not very close to me when I photographed it.

Somewhere up on the river, after the dam at Aquatic Park, but not much beyond where I saw the guy fishing, I noticed a beautiful red-breasted hawk fly into a nearby tree to rest.

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Hawk sightings are not that common along this part of the river. Vultures are very common, and tend to dominate. Most of the hawks here are smaller birds; and I have never seen an eagle in these parts.

Squirrels are very active this time of year. And a lot of squirrels in this area use burrows for living quarters, rather than build tree nests. A park such as the William Pond Park – one of the larger ones on the river – can get quite torn up with ground squirrel holes.

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These little guys like to stand upright at the entrance to a burrow or nearby. I don’t know to what extent this reflects diligence or concern for personal safety. Perhaps it just gets smelly down there and he needs to refresh himself once in a while.

I’m always looking for the deer. Today they were considerably down river from where they usually hang out. A lady on a bike even stopped and told me she’d seen another one in the area where I saw two. But I didn’t photograph them. I have so many photos now of deer right next to – or on – the trail that it seems to me I have enough.

But when one showed up across from the Cal State – Sac campus, which is very close to town, I stopped to capture the moment.

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This one appeared to be quite young. Otherwise she’d know better than to wander this far down the river. But she was staying down by the trees. The bike trail here is up on a levee.

Perhaps next week I will feel moved to address topics of greater import. Kind of felt the need to take it easy this weekend…

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Odds and Ends

28 September 2019

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This weekend the high temperatures fell below 70 (F). But I got on the train for my usual ride up to Folsom. They were getting the streets ready for the annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, featuring food, drink, and entertainment on the Capitol Mall, just blocks from where I live.

At some point in the ride, a young lady – very cute and wearing short shorts – boarded the train and sat down sideways in a seat a few yards in front of me. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of her feet sticking out into the aisle.

American River Parkway

As the Parkway goes into autumn mode, the scenes there are mostly predictable, but with little variations due to the season. The geese are flying around more and gathering on park lawns more. In this shot I also caught a ground squirrel standing at his burrow.

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The four does I had noticed earlier were split into two pairs today. One pair was right at the bike trail. I am surprised they come that close, but they must be a bit acclimated to humans nearby.

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The late-flowering yellow asters are about the only flowers left in these woods now. The big-flowered ones are particularly showy, but their range is very limited – that is, I only see them in a few places.

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The taller plants with all the flowers near the top are more ubiquitous. One field where they predominate is very bright with them right now. And I saw many more on my short walk over to West Sac.

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A new yellow flower joined these usual ones today. It is called Sundrops, or sometimes Evening Primrose. This one may have escaped from cultivation, as it is rare in the wild here. But it is a perennial, so once established it should continue to grow.

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The Festival

I have been out of this scene for so long, it is a bit difficult for me to understand why these events attract so many people. It’s as if these people are constantly looking for “things to do” and ways to spend money. I don’t have to look for things to do or ways to spend money. My various interests keep me totally occupied. But that does not seem to be the case with most of these folks.

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In this typical scene, we have beer being served in the background, and a street entertainer making balloon shapes for kids. The glass of beer in the hand of the woman in the foreground is typical, if anything, a bit small.

On stage at the bridge end of the Mall (nearest the river) a blues-rock act named Samantha Fish was performing.

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This stage – and I suppose the performers using it – was underwritten by Bank of America. The festival is free to get in, so it must make back its operating costs from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Beer is extremely popular in this area. It probably is everywhere and I just have never paid that much attention.

Drake’s Barn

And thus another activity quickly becoming popular in this area – Drake’s Barn. This place has only been open for about a year now. Drake’s makes beer in San Leandro and has another taproom (bar) in Oakland. The Barn is located across the street from a housing development aimed at up-and-coming young people. I am guessing most of them work in Sacramento, as it’s very close to the main bridge that connects Sac and West Sac.

The Barn will be hosting a show of “electric art” next weekend, mostly light-oriented I think, and I plan to go over and check that out. So this weekend I walked over to the location to see exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there (about 20 minutes).

The place was full of kids playing – I guess that’s just part of the amenities there – while parents sipped their cold ones. I wondered what sort of lives these people lead, and what their futures will be like.

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Above you can see “The Barn” in the background. It is an odd-shaped flowing building made of numerous wood planks. Here’s a closer look, from the rear:

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I was keeping track of the time by taking pictures of my phone. However, I had my camera set wrong on this one, and the phone instead worked like a mirror.

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On my walk back, I glanced over the side of the bridge at the bank below and saw two cats there. I’m guessing they are feral cats. The one I caught licking itself in particular looks a bit scary.

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World Peace Day

An event earlier in the week at my church was a small presentation commemorating the International Day of Peace, officially observed each year on 21 September. This was started in 1981. Costa Rica had a lot to do with getting the U.N. resolution written.

The guest speaker at our church event was Edrine Ddungu, formerly of Uganda. He personally witnessed the terrorism in Uganda instigated (apparently) by Idi Amin. His own father was brutally murdered, at which point he was quietly sent to live in Kenya and finally made it to the U.S. where he wanted to study at Sacramento City College.

He told us that his desire to play a leadership role in promoting interfaith cooperation and non-violence comes mostly from his desire to continue the work of his father. He is currently president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento.

The situation in Africa

Uganda could be considered to be at the center of a very bad scene in Central Africa. I don’t understand it well, but it probably has partly to do with a breakdown of civilization in Africa that occurred in ancient times which has been followed by criminal meddling from outside players ever since. The Portuguese were the first to arrive on the Atlantic coast. They almost immediately started slave operations there. But slave operations on the eastern coast of Central Africa (Indian Ocean) had already been active for hundreds of years, and these were non-European operations.

There seemed to have been an almost world-wide agreement that Africa offered resources that could be freely taken advantage of by any group that had sufficient organization and weapons. And that has been the pattern ever since.

All Mr. Ddungu can do now is return yearly to his home country with a bit of money and educational assistance. The general situation in the region is still largely out of control.

The continuing violence in Africa seems to be fueled both by a complete lack of moral compass on the part of any of the major players in the region, and by increasing demand from the rest of the planet for the various commodities that are produced there.

Of the handful of people who attended the event, several were not particularly aware of how brutal and desperate the situation in Africa has been. We saw the great advances made in South Africa and thought that perhaps the rest of the continent was on a similar path. Though this may some day come to pass, it certainly is not the current situation.

However, getting reliable data on what has really been going on in the region has been nearly impossible. So my characterizations of the current scene are guesses based on reports I have been able scrape up or ran into. I am not a student of African politics or economics. But to say that part of the world is in definite need of sanity would be an understatement.

Earlier in the year, Scientologist Tim Bowles had visited us to talk about his work in Africa. He described the experience of meeting with the leader of one of the many African extremist groups. The man was at the emotional level of a teenager, mainly interested to know if Tim had met any famous Hollywood personalities. These people have stars in their eyes. They think they can become rich off the world’s dependence on various strategic minerals found in Africa. My guess is that they care about little else.

While Tim has had some success at starting real human rights education in Central Africa, it seems to me that until the companies that deal with African suppliers demand compliance with basic standards of human decency, people there will continue to suffer.

It’s our job, then, to get to those companies and change their minds about how they deal with Africa. That racism has nothing to do with this is very hard to imagine. Yet racism is just another manifestation of the insanity we are confronted with on this planet. We must make the people we can reach saner. If we don’t, this planet will be lost.

Equinox

22 September 2019

A few days ago we had our first rain in at least six months. I was wondering if any of the plants in the American River Parkway would respond to this. Of course, we are also just a day or two away from the fall equinox, the official beginning of autumn, and the plants could be responding to that, too.

But I really only saw one big change along the trail, and that was a renewed flowering of the mysterious yellow asters that I haven’t yet identified. While the tarweed that was so visible in a Folsom field has decided to stop flowering, these other yellow flowers decided the opposite.

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The other yellow flowers that I mentioned in a previous post are also blooming more strongly now. I think this may also be triggered by soil moisture.

This is also a time when flocking behavior and migration starts to occur for some birds. This was very evident on the river, with large groups of gulls appearing. I hardly ever see gulls on the river during the summer.

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Some of the larger aquatic birds will also begin to move around more this time of year. This egret is stopping at a man-made water control pond in Folsom. I hardly ever see egrets at this pond.

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The “ARP deer” were camped out at their usual place along the trail. For some reason, though, most of them were lying down – almost hiding – in the dry grass.

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The parties associated with the end of summer – and of the summer school break – are mostly at an end. But I missed including this shot in my last post, and I wanted to mention it because I had never seen something like this before. It was part of a party at Hagan Park last week.

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A child (or even an adult, I suppose) can climb into this clear inflated sphere through one of two ports and then walk or crawl around inside it. I found the somewhat bizarre structure of the object most intriguing.

On my way back home, I usually stop at this little mini-park in midtown to get a drink from the water fountain (the one in the foreground, not the cute one).

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And in the same neighborhood – a quite posh part of town – I happened upon this restored vintage car. This appears to be a 1937 Cadillac.

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The equinox symbolizes a momentary balance that our universe oscillates around. May your balance move towards perfection and your oscillations be interesting and instructive.

 

 

A Short Walk in Aruba

1 September 2019

Aruba lies on a diagonal (per conventional maps) in the south Caribbean Sea. On its sheltered southwest side live most of its people. A city called Oranjestad serves as its capital and main port. This is where I walked during my recent visit.

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For family and others that might have a sense of this, Aruba is just a bit larger than Beaver Island (largest island in Lake Michigan).

The climate in Aruba is similar to Sacramento. Average annual rainfall is just 19 inches, though this can vary considerably. Average temperature is in the 80s, and because it is so close to the equator, this varies little year round. Thus, the plants there do not really experience seasons, and I found many with new flowers, wilted flowers, and fruit all on the same plant at the same time. The island is at about 12 degrees north, compared to 38 degrees north for Sacramento and 32 degrees north for San Diego.

As mentioned earlier, it has a mixed Spanish/Dutch heritage (not including the original inhabitants who came from South America). Most islanders speak Papiamento as their first language, a Portuguese-based Creole brought in from Portuguese Africa. It also uses a lot of Spanish words and some Dutch words. And so we see the buildings that are typical of these towns have a Dutch-European flare:

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The above building is near the center of the shopping district, and the ones shown below are just a few blocks away.

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The shopping streets have the “nice” trees of this area, acacia and various others. Here is a typical acacia:

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Notice the pods, marking this plant as a legume. Legumes are known in the plant world as being “nitrogen fixing.” This means that they can serve as hosts to a kind of bacterium capable of removing nitrogen from air in the soil. The plant then uses this nitrogen in its leaves and seeds, also leaving much of it in nodules on its roots. When any of these plant parts die, they fertilize the soil, assuming the dead parts are left on (or in) the ground.

Here we have the flowers for this tree. You see here almost no petals. Unlike their cousins the locusts that grow farther north, the acacias are adapted to dry weather and that means different flowers.

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Here is another tree seen on the shopping streets. I have not been able to identify it.

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There was a persistent chirping coming from many of these trees, but it was difficult to identify its source. That is because the bird responsible for the noise is quite small and prefers to stay inside tree foliage. It is known as the bananaquit and is very common in these regions. I finally saw one sitting out on a palm across the street and did my best to get a picture of it.

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I walked out towards the edge of the shopping district, where buildings and plants changed a bit. The buildings got more run-down, and the plants became more indigenous. I don’t know about the animals, though!

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It seems these free-running chickens know to stay out of the shopping areas. This rooster is sitting in a tree that is very common in this area, and which I have identified as a tropical mesquite. Mesquites do well in arid regions. They are causing ranchers considerable trouble in the southern United States because they crowd out grazing grasses which feed cattle better and also hold soil better. But, that is a different issue.

Here the mesquite don’t seem to be causing any particular problems. And as they are also leguminous, we again have nitrogen fixing happening where they grow.

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Given the opportunity, mesquite will “lay down” and shade a considerable area. Notice also the traffic barriers, or bollards, which are seen all over these islands. Variations of these are used in many cities to deter vehicles from entering certain areas.

A closer look at these trees reveals the characteristic pinnately-compound leaf (arranged like a feather; pinna = feather) and seed pods.

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On photographing more of these trees, I came upon this odd image, mostly a shadow from my viewpoint. I brought out a little detail by running auto-color-correct on the image.

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As I continued my walk, I saw many more of these lizards, which all look basically like iguana to me.

I walked back into town along a sort of drainage ditch. It was well-kept but definitely had the appearance of a drain. Along the way I ran across several more showy plants and a few animals. I have not identified this tree with lovely yellow flowers:

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This, however, is a cordia. It has some other common names. According to articles, the fruit is edible but not tasty.

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Right at the water I found this bush, a seagrape.

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And hanging above my head, coconuts:

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In a park near the harbor for small boats, I saw this lizard. It did not seem too concerned about me being there, and was quite patient while I photographed it.

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Likewise, a brown pelican, sitting just a few feet away. The pelicans are just one of many sea birds that frequent the coast. Another one – more difficult to photograph – is the frigate bird, constantly soaring near shore.

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The harbor and similar tourist amenities weren’t stressed in this post, but here is a view of it:

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I found the area for the most part quiet and unchallenging. A nice place to go to “get away from it all.” It is not particularly pricey, though the cost of flying there can be several hundred dollars. For some, it is their favorite vacation destination.

 

 

 

Plants and Animals

31 August 2019

Here in central California, the end of August is hot and dry throughout most of the inner valleys. That sort of weather even hits the coasts this time of year sometimes.

You’d expect the flowers to all be wilting, the wild berries shriveled up, and the grasslands a dull tan color. Midday you’d expect the animals to all be hiding somewhere until the sun gets lower in the sky.

But such was not exactly my experience as I biked home from Folsom through the American River Parkway.

I wanted to concentrate on the section of the trail (and river) between Folsom and Rancho Cordova, as this is the part I have tended to ignore a bit in my trips. I’m not yet tired enough to find an excuse to get off my bike and take some pictures.

Over on the other side of the river just west of Folsom is the posh/hip community of Fair Oaks. And across from Rancho Cordova is the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael.

This river is well-used from both sides for kayaking, river rafting and a bit of fishing. Over most of this segment, it is shallow and relatively slow-moving. There are some bluffs on the other side (the “north” side of the river) that bring human settlement very close to the stream’s edge. But most of the rest of the floodplain has levees built around it, which is how the Parkway came to be.

Up at the Folsom end, and just across from the park along Folsom Blvd., there are some awesome stands of blackberry bushes. One would expect most of the berries to be dried up by this time of year, but I found a few still going strong in a shaded area.

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There are also wild grapes growing in this area, but that crop does not seem so profuse this year.

There is a place along the trail (bikeway) where I have often seen deer. I am amazed they congregate there, as the houses come in very close, and there are people walking dogs. Yet the deer – does at least – show up there regularly. But I was not prepared to see all three does plus their fawn foraging together a little before noon.

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I decided to set near them a while and just sort of ask them to come closer. To my amazement, after a few minutes they started to do so. I have seen does “act stupid” before. They don’t seem to have the same attitude towards their own safety that the bucks do. First they came up to, maybe, 30 feet away from the trail. One decided she was going to feed on a particular tree, but the “good” branches were too high, so she got up on her rear legs and stretched for it! I’ve never seen a deer do that before. The image below was not that well-exposed, so I did an auto-color-correct on it. She really looks pretty goofy in this picture.

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Meanwhile, the others and the fawn were getting even closer. They came under a tree maybe 15 feet away from the trail. Damned if I could keep the camera steady enough to get a crisp image with my zoom all the way out, but this is the best picture of a fawn I have ever taken.

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Next, the rest of the does decided to come right up to the bike trail. Bikes were going by, I was talking to them, people were stopping to photograph them, people were walking their dogs on the other side, and these deer just wouldn’t go away!

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For a while, all three even crossed the bike path to see what was worth chomping on on the other side. Someone with a dog, I think, scared two of them back, but the third one didn’t want to leave.

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I walked right up to her (well, pretty close) and talked to her. “It’s better if you stay over on that side,” I said, “it will be safer for you there.” She still didn’t want to leave. It seems she had found something really interesting on the ground to chew on.

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It may have been some snack food that one of the bike riders had thrown out a little earlier. But I insisted, “come on, girl, back to the other side with the others!” She finally went back across.

I have never seen any wild deer get this close to people. They were young does, but still, this seemed a bit odd. Perhaps they were really hungry. They did look a bit scrawny to me.

I finally picked up and left. Not much further down was the place where the bikeway had been blocked for several weeks so that a washout could be fixed. Finally this part was open again! The repair itself was not very visually interesting. They had dumped a crapload of crushed rock down the slope to shore up the washout. I did notice a lizard out on one of the rocks taking a sunbath.

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Just a little further down the trail there is a place where the bank gets very steep. It’s hard to tell how much of this is “natural.” This whole area was extensively mined and dredged using the “placer” method, which leaves huge piles of small boulders by the shore, and the landscape considerably altered.

But here on this steep bank I found a tree hanging on for dear life to what looked like a piece of the original clay soil beneath the stone piles.

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The view below is from the same area. Notice the pine trees. They don’t appear further down the river. I haven’t completely looked into the history of these pines. They may have been an earlier attempt at reforestation. Note the mound of rocks in the middle of the river – possibly also the remains of earlier mining operations. And the parking lot in the distance is one of the many public access points to the river.

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Somewhere along the bikeway, there is a section where these rather lovely yellow flowers grow. They are mostly wilting now, but I finally got a clear picture of one. I was having a terrible time getting my camera to focus on them in closeup mode.

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I will return soon with some photographs of plants and animals that live thousands of miles away from California, but in a climate not that different from ours.

 

Geography Lesson

24 August 2019

I recently made a short trip to the Caribbean to take a service on our ship the Freewinds. (To find out more about the Freewinds, visit scientology.tv, Inside Scientology episodes.)

I flew to Atlanta first, then to Aruba. Here’s the approximate flight path:

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I picked a map without any writing on it to minimize copyright problems.

To refresh your memory, the biggest island is Cuba and the next biggest is Haiti/Dominican Republic. The stringy little islands to the north of those are the Bahamas. Aruba is part of the Netherlands Antilles.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to colonize Aruba. They enslaved most of the natives there, and so when the Dutch took over, the people were much relieved, as the Dutch did not impose slavery there.

Aruba, with Curacao and other places in this area, is relatively dry (arid). So it never became a plantation island. It was used for trade, for providing other food supplies, and later as a location for some industrial installations.

But this post is mainly about the flight to Aruba.

As we were traveling, I only had a rather general sense of the places we would be flying over. My window looked east, so that’s what I saw.

The view from a plane window, as you may know, is not usually that awesome. In some of these photos, I asked my photo editing app (IrfanView) to auto-correct the colors. This gave them more contrast, though they look a bit gaudy. Here is an example using just clouds:

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I have not been able to identify the smaller islands we flew over, but several came to view.

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This next one has not been color-enhanced.

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Notice how the clouds seem to be forming over the land mass.

Next we flew over Haiti. I had studied Haiti a bit, so when I saw this, I thought: “Hey, isn’t this the top of Haiti?” Yes, this is Tortuga, on the north side of Haiti.

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Later I saw a city and I thought, “Port-au-Prince?” But this matches better to a city in Haiti called Gonaives.

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At the south of this big island is a feature I thought would be a cinch to spot when I got home and could open something like Google Maps. And I was right. This is an interesting feature at the south of the island, part of a large national park in the Dominican Republic.

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It looks like some giant finger came down and scraped a trench across this peninsula, turning the tip into an island. Perhaps something of that nature actually occurred.

It is nothing but clouds and sea until we arrive at Aruba.

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This shot has not been color-corrected.

I believe the plane came in on the west side of the island, then flew down over the water to get to the airport.

After 12 hours of travel and 24 hours with no real rest, I had arrived at my destination!

 

 

A Not-So-Normal Saturday

10 August 2019

I didn’t see any deer this Saturday, so will show you the doe I saw last week resting under a tree.

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I left early to go shopping in Folsom so I could be back in time to catch the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities being put on by the Square Root Academy at DOCO.

The train was crowded. It included two guys who planned to bike around Folsom Lake then return home via the American River Parkway bike trails. We had a nice chat.

The shopping went fine as usual, and I was shortly on the bike trail headed back downtown.

There are some plants which – kind of amazingly – wait until late summer to bloom. One of them is tarweed. It is not native to this area, but grows well here. As you might be able to tell from the photo, its branches and tiny leaves are sticky.

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The ride was relatively uneventful until I got down to the area of Rancho Cordova’s Hagan Community Park (the same park where they have Kid’s Day every year). The trail that goes by there experienced a wash out near the river, so someone decided to fix it, and that section of the trail was closed.

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So everyone had to bike through the suburbs of Rancho Cordova, then into the park. There is a school next to the park where football players and cheerleaders were practicing. But if I got close enough to get good pictures, I thought I’d interfere with the practice. The geese at the pond were much more available (although I really would have liked a nice shot of the cheerleaders!).

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After squirrels, birds are probably the most noticeable animals in parks or park-like spaces. I usually take a short break at the Sac State Arboretum. And who should I find sharing the shady forest-like environment with me? Turkeys!

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Turkeys are kind of a “thing” in Sacramento, particularly near both large and small waterways. It’s a bit like the free-roaming chickens in Fair Oaks and Yuba City. Permaculture-wise, poultry or fowl are considered an important part of a natural garden. They help with weed control, add some fertility to the soil via their poop, and can be used (if privately owned) as a source of meat. Turkeys are commonly seen in odd places near the river or tributary creeks around Sacramento, but I’d never seen them in the Arboretum before.

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They were just hanging out; seemed not very interested in going anywhere else. They are large strong birds compared to chickens, or even geese, so it’s wisest to give them some space.

After the Arboretum, I took city streets into town.

After stowing the groceries, I went out to the DOCO to see the STEM displays. Square Root Academy is an educational non-profit that helps get less-advantaged kids interested in technology subjects. I was interested in what they would “bring to the table,” so to speak.

On my way out, there was a large group of bicycle riders (not “cyclists” – the ones who wear special spandex suits and do it for exercise, just ordinary-looking people) outside my door. I don’t know what they were up to but it looked fun.

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In case anyone wonders, that’s an older mural in the background. The city has a lot of murals, as there is an event every year during which artists are invited to paint more of them. The area next to that was a very old hotel. The brick facade looked nice, so it was left standing and the old structure behind it completely removed. The area looks rather strange right now, as they are just beginning to put in a foundation for the new hotel that will go there. So all you see from the street is the old brick facade, suspended on a beefy steel framework, which I suppose will be removed when the facade is attached to the new building going in behind it. I’ve never seen this done before.

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Meanwhile, in DOCO the Square Root Academy volunteers have set up tables with science projects suitable for young people (like me).

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The sugar snake table attracts my attention. You can mix sugar with baking soda, then set it on fire and it’s supposed to puff up into a big black weird-shaped ash. Um – mine didn’t come out that great, though.

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There was a table for each of the four “elements,” fire, water, earth and air. At the water table they had vortex bottles and bowls for comparing the density of clear water and salt water. At the earth table they had two water filters set up, one filled with sand and the other with wood chips. Hm. And they also had an erosion demo set up in a paint tray. I played with that. At the air table you could make a sail-powered car, except they ran out of hot glue by the time I got there. I made a pretty good one anyway without using glue.

I am not “passionate” about technology the way some people still seem to be. I know it has an up side and a down side. The up side is that we can use it as a tool to extend our capabilities. The down side is that we can use it as a crutch, or for destructive purposes, or to “maximize profit” while leaving a poor class who can no longer find the manufacturing jobs that used to be so plentiful.

Still, a modern society must be able to deal with technology successfully. We can only  maintain control over it if more people understand it quite well. So we do need to educate people about it. But that requires Study Technology, which most educators are not yet aware of.

From what I can tell, society is in the throes of the next phase of its technological development. In this phase, a wealthier stratum has the choice to “break away” and build a society where machines do all the hard work, including the policing of the masses. The “common people” think that they have an opportunity to improve life for everybody by somehow seeing to it that technologies do not get abused by special interests. It seems to me that this is the real battle and the real issue. How do you bring humanity and compassion to a stratum of society that has seldom if ever demonstrated these traits in the past? That’s our big challenge.

My 1979 Rock Art Trip

3 August 2019

As a part of putting up some “historical” articles that might be of interest, I offer a short and somewhat impromptu account of a trip I took in 1979. It was an important trip for me personally, but because we visited a remote area in California, it might be of broader interest. The photographs are from slides I took from the trip (except for the featured image) which were later scanned into digital files. Thus, they don’t have the quality of a modern digital photo taken with a 5Meg camera such as the one I have been using since the late 1990s.

The University Research Expeditions Program (UREP) started in 1976. It gave people a way to take a summer (usually) vacation and help a researcher with one of their projects at the same time. It attracted mostly college-educated people, but the variety of participants could be quite great. Their rock art expedition into the hills behind Santa Barbara was the cheapest one they offered, so I signed up for it.

There were about a dozen people on this trip. They included men and women of every age. There were two who took care of the camp and did the cooking. Very valuable! A bunch of the guys were “regulars.” And a few others, like me, had never done anything like this before. Our hosting researcher was Georgia Lee, a rock art expert working out of UC Santa Barbara.

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The scenery was iconic California back country – grazed land of course, but in this area, protected because of the native art inside the rock sheltered spaces.

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I actually have few good pictures of the art itself. But here is a sense of our little adventure. Below is pictured one of the sites we visited early on during the about two weeks we were there. You can see there was a division of labor: The site mappers, the photographers, the art tracers.

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We day hiked to all of the sites from the camp.

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If a site was too far from this camp, we didn’t visit it.

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The camp stood below a rock formation that itself had paintings in the sheltered areas.

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Some campers were writers and brought portable typewriters to keep journals or do creative writing.

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We usually didn’t go to bed in our tents until after dark.

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Showers were courtesy a water tank set up for the cattle (not pictured).

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This trip helped me to grow up. In 1979 I turned 25. But I did not have the social skills of a 25-year-old. This trip helped propel me in that direction. It was really my first experience working together with a wide variety of people who all got along at a very friendly level, even though they weren’t family.

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These people all had a mix of serious intellect, a sense of humor, a willingness to work hard, and an ability to be with each other.

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It opened up my respect for humanity, and in a way, for myself, as they were willing to accept me as one of them.

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In the following year I would take another major trip by myself on my way to a family reunion in Iowa.

I also joined Gamelan Sekar Jaya around that time, then not soon after got into Scientology and joined the Sea Org.

People need to have the opportunity to grow up and take some level of responsibility in life comparable to their awareness of life. This trip helped me to do that.