Archive for May, 2013

Moths and un-moths

May 27, 2013

A couple days ago, I mentioned that it’s moth season. These are the moths that do a pretty good job of imitating dead leaves.

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The pupae look like this:

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And they’re everywhere. Today, I walked over to Stanford and around the dish loop. I stopped at a particularly dense area of pupae to see if I might observe a moth in the process of emerging.

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No, but I think this may be a larva in the process of pupating, soon to resemble its two neighbors. Either that, or it’s dead, dead, dead!

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As always, however, careful inspection reveals unexpected points of interest. I don’t know why this little guy is hanging around, but I bet it’s not accidental.

This one is surely an evolutionary mimic of the pupae.

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And getting right down to the bottom line, here’s one having lunch.

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From the dish, I walked back through Palo Alto and stopped at the Gamble garden to see what interesting things might be on display.

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A couple days ago, I mentioned seeing more of various small animals over the years, more than in previous years, harvestmen for example. I have no reason to believe that there are more harvestmen than there used to be, but I see a fair number of them now. I believe this is because I have learned to see them.

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Fun.

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Lerts, nicks, stitches

May 26, 2013

On alternate weekends, Jacky is on call to monitor server alerts. I suppose that, if a Lert dares to show its ugly face, she hammers it into the ground. Most days, she doesn’t encounter any Lerts at all, which is just fine.

Once in a while, a Lert comes along just after she goes off duty, Jacky having avoided the Lert in the Nick of Time. We don’t usually think of time as having Nicks, but if Jacky can duck into one, all to the good.

Then again, Nicks in time may be considered defects… I wonder whether a Nick in time could be repaired by a Stitch in time? But if you think about it, Father Time is probably not much as a seamstress, which might explain how Time got so bedraggled as to be full of Nicks.

Optimizing bicycle gearing, chapter 42

May 26, 2013

*Warning — technical stuff ahead*

In terms of gearing, what a cyclist would really like is a more or less infinite range of choices, with more or less infinitesimal granularity. Those who don’t spend much time on a bike just take what they get. Those of us who do spend a fair amount of time on a bike (albeit less than in previous years) also take what we can get, but we look harder to see what’s available, and try to optimize for the kind of riding we do.

I fitted out my classic Richard Sachs bike for touring and mountains. It was (still is) a 30-speed, configured in what’s called half-step plus granny. The idea of the granny gear is pretty obvious: a set of low-end ratios for the uphill grinds. Half-step was once called Alpine gearing, back in the days of 10-speed bikes. The idea is to have a wide-ratio rear end, with the two chainrings at the crank selected to interleave the ratios. The crank then has three chainrings, the granny and the two half-step rings that are almost the same size. My half-step rings were 45 and 48 teeth, which looks pretty much useless to someone who doesn’t understand how it works.

Well, how does it work? Think of interleaving your fingers: the fingers of the left hand represent successive ratios on the one chainring; the fingers on the right hand represent the ratios on the other. This arrangement offers both a wide range and close spacing, which is great. The downside is that it requires a lot of shifting of the front derailleur, which is usually more trouble than it’s worth. It also requires considerable know-how, 99.9% of all riders don’t know and don’t care, and manufacturers no longer offer separable bits and pieces that allow this kind of thing to be built up.

When I damaged my Achilles tendons some years ago, I was no longer able to ride the hills, so when I got the new Trek bike last fall, I bought only a 20-speed configuration (2 x 10) and put a close-ratio freewheel cassette on the back. This set of very closely spaced ratios lets me optimize for speed and effort, but only within a fairly narrow range. As long as I was riding the flatlands, that wasn’t too bad: I didn’t need the range.

2008 10-speed 50-34, 16-27

Here’s how it looks, graphically. The red lines show the ratios available with the 34-tooth chainring; blue is the 50. Not a whole lot of overlap, and nice, fine spacing.

But… but… I do more than just commute to work, where the afternoon headwind is the hardest challenge. And it turns out that the current generation Shimano rear shifters only shift down by 2 ratios when I sweep the lever all the way across its range. For a flat cassette, that’s pretty unsatisfactory (the one on the Richard Sachs does 3, and that’s what I was expecting: boo, Shimano!).

The cassette that came with the bike was sitting on the shelf in the garage. Today, I swapped it out: 11-28, where the previous one was 16-27 (those are the number of teeth in the smallest and largest cogs, respectively).

Took it out for a ride (35 miles, 1200 feet of climb), and I think I’ll keep it. Observations:

  • The low end is just slightly lower, 28 teeth instead of 27. Lower is always welcome, so that’s fine.
  • The range on the small chainring (34) is as great as the range across both rings with the flat cassette. To do the same as before, I hardly need the 50-tooth ring at all. The small-small combination makes a little noise, so I don’t quite get easy use of all 10 ratios, but it’s close.
  • The 50-tooth chainring is pretty much wasted. Assuming a modest cadence of 95 rpm, I could push the high end ratio up to 35 mph. I might dream of needing that capability, but the fact is that it’s completely useless. Around here, grades steep enough for that speed are not straight enough. Maybe in the Rocky mountains, but I doubt it. On my check ride today, I did power a couple of downhills into the high 20s, 6 or 8 MPH faster than I could push the previous gearing. That’s enough.

So my next challenge is to see whether I can find a large chainring that will fit the Ultegra crankset. Looking at the graph below, going all the way from 50 down to 44 teeth would be okay, but anything smaller than 50 would be an improvement.

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As before, the red ratios are for the 34-tooth chainring. Green is for the 50, and blue shows what a 44 would offer. Clearly, the high end of the green range is not useful.

(Soapbox: Most bikes, and most bikies, are geared too high. 53 teeth in front is not uncommon. As well as going slower than they could, there is a non-trivial risk of injury.)

We, who like to tinker, are always trying to optimize. Will this be the last round of optimization? Probably not, not until some clever manufacturer offers a semi-infinite range with semi-infinitesimal granularity.

New boots, Windy Hill, Small animals

May 25, 2013

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Last weekend, I had new hiking boots, and set off on a 19-mile hike under the assumption that they were going to be just fine. Not!

REI took them back without a squawk, dusty as they were. What a great company! How many places would do that!

With a new, new pair of hiking boots today, I’m a little more cautious. I went to Windy Hill, whose short loop is about 8 miles, and whose long loop is about 12. As well as being able to turn around and go back, I can stitch these together to a total trek from roughly 8 to 24 miles, in 4-mile increments, assuming I go around not more than twice.

Bottom line: twice around, once on the outer loop, again on the inner loop. 15 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Sore medial malleolus of left tibia, until I loosened the laces. I think they will be okay.

It was chilly. I set off without a jacket, but there was enough wind that I went back to the car and put on my padded vest. Glad I had it; even in the afternoon, it was chilly.

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The day started off with a dragonfly, considerately posing on the trail for photos. I hope no one steps on it.

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When a millipede goes for a walk, it’s a really big deal! Either that, or it’s nothing to even think about. Or maybe both.

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But when mom takes the kids for a walk… well, shouldn’t the kids do at least a little bit of the work?

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By the way, this is a really special sighting, one that doesn’t happen very often at all!

She got tired of posing for photos and headed for a convenient hole at the side of the trail.

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An unintended consequence, but a good one: minutes after she ducked into her hidey-hole, upward of a dozen runners came along the trail. I probably increased her odds of survival by several orders of magnitude.

The trail is indeed a pretty dangerous place. I noticed another millipede, squashed, an antique Packard beetle, squashed, a little snake, likewise, a lizard, flattened. Mountain bikies are worse than pedestrians because riders don’t see as much, and they flatten more territory.

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It is the time for larvae and pupae.

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I was thinking about the common and the rare small animals, and how they change, year by year. Some are obvious: last winter was relatively dry, and I find few banana slugs, scorpions and newts. But some animals vary a lot, for no apparent reason.

Assuming that I spend about the same amount of time, at about the same locations, the same seasons, the same time of day, and that I am no more nor less observant in one year than in another — questionable assumptions, all — assuming all that, I think there are radical changes in the population of small animals over time.

Some years, I see no tarantulas; some years there are dozens. This year, there seem to be very few snakes around; some years, there are lots: gopher snakes, rattlesnakes, even ringnecks, not all of them in the same years. Fewer snakes? I don’t even see very many snake tracks in the dust of the trail this year.

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This year, there seem to be a lot of alligator lizards.

Some animals have found the area a congenial habitat recently. For example, it is only within the last five years, to pick a random number, that I have seen wild turkeys, and now they are quite common.

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It is the season for moths. Lots of them flying in clouds. This one was on a moss-covered oak in the forest.

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I stopped for calories at the top of the climb, second time around, and this little guy came out to cross the trail. Pretty! Notice the nozzle with which it can suck up nectar from flowers.

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Finally, just before returning to the parking lot, I stopped at Sausal pond and waited quietly for whatever might be in the neighborhood.

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I continue to boggle at the fact that the leading edge of a dragonfly’s wings are completely open, no membrane whatever. I wonder whether some aeronautical engineering student (or professor) has analyzed and simulated this with a view to using the idea in short takeoff or hovercraft.

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Ribbit!

Driver hall of shame: California 5FEK842

May 19, 2013

19 May 2013, 11:35 AM, Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park: light green Jag. She comes from a side street fast onto Sand Hill without even looking. Had I been a half second earlier on my bicycle, or less agile in swerving left (hoping there were no cars coming up behind me), she would have killed me. As best I could tell, she never knew I was there, even after the near miss.

Coming from church, maybe, feeling sanctimonious? Little does she know how much she has to be thankful for.

Small animals, at home and abroad

May 18, 2013

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The several mommy long-legs in the garage have produced half a dozen litters. Nice to watch them.

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Saturday, I thought I would leave the car at Palo Alto Foothills park and hike to Skyline from there. But the gate was closed when I got there, and parking on the road is verboten. So I drove up Page Mill to Montebello, where the gate was also closed, but it’s legal to park roadside. Just 7 when I started out, on a chilly, sunny day.

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From this view, you would never know there’s a drought!

Because this is not to be a long loop, I can do some of the infill trails today, trails that I rarely see. We start with a brief detour to the pond near Alpine road. The trail map just calls it Pond, no name.

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I have never been here before; I bet nine people out of eight don’t even know it’s here. I walked most of the way around, until the un-trail disappeared completely, then bushwhacked back up the hill to the real trail.

Several of the other less commonly used trails were also knee high with vegetation, and I stopped at the Russian ridge gate to check for ticks.

Three in my socks. Here’s one that I picked out and deposited on the fence post for photos.

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Interesting that this little parasite has its own little parasite, high on the left shoulder. I cannot feel very sympathetic.

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I also found a tick on my knee, heading north at full speed. Here we have a female eager to get into my pants. Sounds good, but not this kind of female.

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I have always wondered how they manage to crawl around on your skin without you feeling it. And in these close-up shots, I see droplets exuding from the feet — I bet they secrete an anaesthetic onto the host’s skin! How about that for unexpected!

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Here (below) is another tick from later. This seems quite different from the one above, which is in turn quite different from the one on the fence post. All told, I encountered six today, three in my socks, two on my legs, one in my hand. Of course, it’s the ones I didn’t see that are the real concern.

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I’m glad the bay area is not plagued with serious tick-borne disease!

There was a nice collection of other interesting wildlife, as I wandered Russian ridge, including a walk out to the end of the Mindego hill road, to see whether they have opened a trail to the top of the hill (they haven’t) .

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I spotted a spider stalking a little leafhopper kind of thing. Life and death drama here, so of course I watched.

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When the spider pounced, I could actually hear a little plop as it landed. No more leafhopper!

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Grin!

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Ever been grinned at by a spider?

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This bee really gets into his work!

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At Alpine pond, scum on the water, but clearly not random. I am reminded of Golgi bodies in histology, but have no idea what this would be. Interesting. The nature center was open; they had scooped some water from the pond, and captured a dragonfly nymph. The volunteer said the nymphs take two years before maturing into dragonflies. Who would have thought!

In the spirit of picking up some of the side trails that I don’t see very often, I hiked down the old Page Mill road trail until it ended. My new shoes are hurting my feet — that’s not good. Applied some moleskin and gritted my teeth.

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My bod is so attractive, it’s just irresistible!

Near Horseshoe lake, I saw coloured ribbons marking the trail, and there was a sign about an ultramarathon here tomorrow.  Probably as well I came here today.

Hot, tired and sore by the time I got back to the car, but it was a pretty good day.

Small animals without killer hikes

May 12, 2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Yesterday, I needed to cover a certain distance, and although I noticed a lot of small animals, I didn’t really seek out the ones that weren’t obvious. It was also difficult to photograph them because of the wind.

Today, I went to Arastradero open space at 7 AM, resolved to go infinitely slowly and watch for small animals. especially near the water. If I get in a mile or two of hiking, that’s fine, but that’s not the point.

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Today’s supply of small animals started straightaway, down the crack in the bench where I paused to lace up my shoes.

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And it only got better. A 7-legged harvestman was perched atop the fence, just waiting the chance to be immortalized by the photographer.

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I really like these little guys, not least because they are everywhere but largely unknown.

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The fat abdomen suggests a female crane fly.

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What a beautiful face!

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With faces like that, it’s probably not surprising that they mate facing opposite directions. Notice the slender waist of the male.

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These last two pictures from a pair I found at home.

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Everyone out looking for a little sex.

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Or a little food. This is one well-fed spider! Look at that hollowed-out aphid!

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It’s also an ordinary day, on which one of the chores is to manage the livestock.

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And if you happen to be delicious, to avoid being too visible.

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The early birds get the dew.

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And the late sleepers ought to be embarrassed! Who ever heard of a bee sleeping, and upside down at that!

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Whazzat?

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As the morning warmed up, the small animals took shelter from the heat. By 10, I was ready to call it a day.

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Mid-afternoon, I tried a run. I have had sore muscles for several weeks, and although I can hike and ride, the pain is exacerbated by running. But with effectively zero exercise the two previous weekends, I thought I’d give it a try.

About 4 miles to the nearby REI, running, feeling good, where I bought a new pair of hiking boots. The old ones are good friends, but they are coming apart at the seams.

Small animals and killer hikes

May 11, 2013

We could start off the small animals category with birds.

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This one has been parked at Moffett field for several days, near the levee trail, where I pass it on my bicycle route home. The tail says Travis (AFB). I have to admit that this bird probably doesn’t count as a small animal.

Well, how about genuine small animals? When Friedrich and Petra were here a week ago, I discovered a mommy long-legs in a corner of the dining room ceiling, complete with egg sac. I was not expecting results so soon, but…

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If you don’t mind my saying so, I think this is really cool!

Saturday, 11 May

More small animals later, as we get into the killer hike. Bottom line first: 19.3 miles, 4970 feet of climb. What? It’s less than 20 miles, less than 5k feet? How can that be a killer hike? Maybe because it was 90 degrees plus today?

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It didn’t start out at 90 degrees. It was a bit foggy when I started, right at 7. Lots of people out; I had to park almost at Mission boulevard, further from the trailhead than ever before. As always, the street was busy with people who came here to hike, driving up to the parking lot, hoping for a spot, then turning and coming all the way back. For me, I just take the first place available and hike.

I took Horse Heaven trail, as per usual. Most times, it’s practically deserted, but today was fairly busy. I was coming up behind a group of four hikers; we had just made a right-angle turn in the trail below a heavily vegetated embankment, when from behind came a long, loud, melodious Moo-oo-ooo. Startled, the hikers in front spun around. The only animate object anywhere in sight was … Dave.

When I passed them a few minutes later, I remarked that I could claim no credit for the entertainment.

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By the time I reached the shoulder of the ridge, it was a sunny, pleasant day. The top of Mission Peak is to the left; I go down the slope to the right, to Sunol.

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This is an industrial-grade hike by default, just to Sunol park headquarters and back to Mission Peak. If I go past the park headquarters, on up Flag Hill (above), it becomes a killer hike, at least on really hot days.

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This TuVu is today’s first comparatively small animal. It was perched in a tree where I’ve seen them before, sometimes two or three.

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Crossing the bridge between Sunol park headquarters and the Flag Hill trail, I see the stream full of mossy pillows. Pretty, but I don’t think I would want to go wading there.

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Here’s how Flag Hill looks from near the bottom, about 900 feet above the stream.

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Small animals, as in really small.

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Coming up just below Flag Hill (above), which was populated with half a dozen other hikers (below). I perched on a rock and enjoyed the view and some calories.

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Looking down from Flag Hill. I emerged from the Mission Peak trail into the Sunol headquarters parking lot just above and to the left of center.

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The red roof just about dead center in the picture above is a house about 200 feet above the level of Flag Hill. The trail runs very close past it. Mission Peak is the high point about two thirds of the way to the right. I come over the shoulder just to its left, and go back over a trail to the right of the peak.

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Came down Hayfield road, which runs past the old JB ranch. I understand the venue is sometimes used as a group camp, but it was not occupied today, except by hikers and a couple of mountain bikies.

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Unlike Sunol headquarters, drinking water is available here. Though probably not from that tank.

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Ok, small animals we want, small animals we get. There were zillions of earwigs. They didn’t like posing for photos, though, so I didn’t get pictures as good as I would have liked.

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While I was shuffling around in the tall grass, I acquired a tiny spider. Here’s my little friend, finding its way through the hairs on my knee.

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When I started looking closely at this thistle, I discovered all kinds of small animals in addition to the bee and the earwig.

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And just to break the monotony, the Goodyear blimp flew over. This is tail number N10A, named the Spirit of America.

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Back to the small animals…

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I dropped back down to Sunol headquarters, where I drank as much as I could from the bottled water they bring in, then refilled my water bottle. It was enough to get me back, but I would have liked more. A lot more.

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And what should to my wondering eyes appear, but an alligator lizard. Their defense mechanism is to freeze, which makes them good subjects for photographers. Nice colors!

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Two things to notice: first, the really interesting shapes to its scales. Second, the blue-ish bulb behind the head is an engorged tick. Often they have more than one. I’m told that there is something in lizard blood that immunizes the tick from Lyme disease. Well, and third, look at the middle toe on the front foot!

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Not long after, I found a lizard on a mossy tree trunk. Usually they scurry away, but maybe the alligator lizard had been on the horn to his buddy. “Just freeze. It works every time!”

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The shoulder behind Mission Peak is a fire road with a hundred feet or so of ups and downs. A hiker came along, trailed by his dog. At the low point of a roll in the trail, the dog decided it had done enough work for one day, and laid down.

The hiker went back and picked it up. Nice of him. Just as well it wasn’t a really massive dog.

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There were quite a number of these little guys. Doris tells me they’re horned larks, with their horns down. Inconspicuous: I might have stepped on a couple of them if they hadn’t moved!

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At the bottom, looking back up. Not so much fog at this hour, and most of the people coming down rather than going up. Two or three hang gliders at the top, and another one had just landed near where I took this picture.

A nice day.

Bike to work day

May 9, 2013

I have been cycling to work more or less forever. Most times, I ride to Ericsson by road in the morning (14 miles, about) and go home by way of the shoreline trails (about 15 miles). To my mind, that’s a fairly long commute. I consider 15 miles about the outer limit of what’s feasible for a bicycle commute, for reasons of time, if nothing more.

I have consistently participated in the bike to work day, but have never come close to winning the longest-commute prize. Some guy always rides in from South San Francisco, a distance that Google maps puts at 38 miles. Clearly something he doesn’t do every day…

Well, if that’s how the game is played, I can play it, too. Got up at 4 this morning, out the door just a few minutes before 5 into a 50-degree overcast night. The radio said there was fog in the area, but not here. I wore a light long-sleeved shell over my cycling jersey, thinking I would take it off when the day turned sunny, but the day didn’t turn sunny, not until long after I was at work.

The old generation incandescent lights just would not have been enough, full stop. I have LED headlamps, one on the bike, another on my helmet, and the combination does pretty well. I could see well enough to avoid the broken pavement on the east approach road from the Dumbarton bridge, broken pavement that could easily have blown a tire.

Passed a dredge along the levees, lit up like a small casino. Do I stop for a photo? No, not today.

I met several cyclists going the other way; their headlights were blindingly bright, and I suppose mine blinded them as well. Good. By the time I got to the Ardenwood farm trail, the dawn was gray, and as I continued out Decoto road and reached the Alameda Creek trail, I switched my lights to flashing mode.

At Mission boulevard was a freight train, moving slowly into Niles Canyon. I rode beside it for a while, almost keeping pace with it, until it disappeared into a tunnel. By the time I had followed the road around the hill to the emergence of the rail tunnel, the train had picked up speed and disappeared.

Without motor vehicles, Niles Canyon would be a terrific bike route, easy grades through pretty country. With traffic, this is the stressful part of the ride, stretches of road, several bridges and undercrossings with narrow lanes and no shoulder. By the time we reach Sunol, the road is wider and there’s less traffic, and beyond I-680 on Calaveras road, it’s not a problem. Even though they are rebuilding the Calaveras dam, the on-road construction traffic was minimal, mostly just guys on their way to work. Not many; from their viewpoint, I am a latecomer.

The climb through the hills and around the lake is the only real work of the day. I would be happy to have one more low gear, but the bike is okay with what I have. Passed two other cyclists on the way up the hill, maybe doing the same thing as I am, cycling to work.

Pretty country still, but by the time I reached the steep drop into Milpitas, I was ready for a change. It was still another 10 miles, a different kind of riding, jamming through the morning’s traffic.

Just after 8, I checked in at the bike-to-work table in front of Ericsson, 47.88 miles (and 1860 feet of climb), only to learn that the guy who always commutes in from South San Francisco now works at Dell, presumably next door. There’s room at the top, as my colleague Mark said. I heard later that someone had ridden in 30 miles from Pleasanton, maybe also via Calaveras road, so had I just done the ordinary 14-mile ride, I still would have been far out of the running.

Well? Well? Did I win the longest commute award? Doubtless I’ll find out tomorrow.


Late-breaking news: Yes, I did. The 30-mile Pleasanton rider came in second. Woo-hoo!

Faure — Wieder Kopfmusik!

May 8, 2013

While we’re on the subject of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written (also here)…

When we were there two weeks ago, the used book store in San Luis Obispo was playing something quietly in the background, too faint to hear, really, just the faintest fragrance of sound. Ineffably beautiful, and clearly by Gabriel Faure, but I couldn’t put a name to it.

It has been playing in my head ever since. Wonderful, but what was it? So I searched through the CD collection and found it: Cantique de Jean Racine.

Nice that the set of most beautiful music ever written is so richly populated.

Palo Alto

May 6, 2013

Saturday, 4 May 2013

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After breakfast, Jacky and Friedrich and Petra and I wandered, first over to the Gamble garden, briefly to Stanford, then to downtown, where Palo Alto was hosting the 91st annual May fete children’s parade.

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We found a good spot to watch, and enjoyed seeing thousands of people having a great time. Kids being kids. Grown-ups being kids, too, including ourselves.

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Well, maybe not everyone had his best day ever. But he didn’t cry until after he had been picked up and loved a little.

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It’s good that it is completely impossible to embarrass a dog.

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Also impossible to embarrass some people. Do you suppose she has any idea of the rear view we get?

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The electric car club drove by. I especially liked the second one back, made from a pair of picnic coolers. If these guys turn into professional engineers, they will understand cost tradeoffs!

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The parade ended at a nearby park, so we wandered over. They had maybe fifty classic cars on display.

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The oil can, evidence that one should always keep the essentials close to hand.

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A TR-3. The only classic sports car I ever owned was a TR-3. Mine was dark blue. Terrific car. When it was running. It was an education. The early-years Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude that I owned many years later were a million times more practical, but not quite as classic.

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I believe the fine detail at the right front hub is the speedometer-odometer mechanism.

The women went on home, but Friedrich and I wandered back over to Stanford. The succulent garden featured far fewer flowers than we were expecting — what? How come cactus care whether it was a dry winter or not?

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We went to Stanford bookstore to see if they had audio CDs. No. But there was a group of singers just across the fountain, and they were excellent. We sat on the bookstore terrace and enjoyed them until they finished their gig.

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It was graduation day, too, and we saw a few caps and gowns. Not a lot, because it was just time for the ceremonies to begin.

On the way home, we saw a great blue heron standing stately in the open eucalyptus forest. Great to see all creatures great and small having a terrific day!

Purisima, Fitzgerald marine preserve

May 5, 2013

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Jacky had to monitor server alerts today, so she didn’t come with Friedrich and Petra and me to Half Moon Bay, where we first went to Purisima redwoods open space preserve and hiked the trail along the creek, out and back. Very pleasant.

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Of course, I was watching for small animals.

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I stirred this one up with a small stick to get a look at its thousand feet.

We also saw lots of banana slugs, but not a great deal of other wildlife.

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From there, we went up highway 1 on a cold, cloudy, very windy day, to Fitzgerald marine preserve. The tide was falling, but with another two hours before hitting full ebb, and the ebb was not all that low anyway.

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So we went out on the rocks, such as they were, and looked for interesting things. The wind disturbed the surface so much that there was little chance of seeing anything interesting under water. Mostly just seaweed of one kind or another,

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The wind was so strong, those of us wearing shorts felt like the paint was being sand-blasted off our legs. So we retired from the beach after only a few minutes, and went into the Montery cypress forest overlooking the preserve. Still windy, but nowhere near as cold and unpleasant as on the beach itself.

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From the overlook, we could see a pod of harbor seals, one of which decided to go for a swim while we watched.

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Below, we see an incipient collapse of the cliff. You can see that the trail used to run there; now the barrier fence is 10 meters further back.

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The other interesting thing about this forest is the red algae, not everywhere, but on much of the vegetation closest to the water. It is visible, though not obvious, in the picture above, and lends a nice touch of colour to the picture below.

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Home again for naps, an early meal, and best wishes to our friends for their return journey to Munich. It has been fun!

Big Sur, Monterey

May 3, 2013

Sunday, 28 April

Before breakfast, we drove to the Cal Poly to see if the arboretum was worth seeing. Don’t know: it’s behind a fence and a hedge, and you pay admission to get in. That would be when it’s open, which it wasn’t, not at 7 AM on a Sunday morning. Well, maybe next time.

After breakfast, we headed out highway 1 for a day of Big Sur country. There was a sign warning of possibly extensive delays because of today’s Big Sur marathon, but we’re not in a big hurry, so we pressed on. First stop, to change drivers, at Ragged Point, where there is a very nice little resort.

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Maybe a place to stay someday when we just want to relax and not do very much.

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The drive through Big Sur country is not that many miles, but it’s slow, with all the curves in the road. We stopped a few times to enjoy the day: chilly, foggy in many places, hazy sunlight.

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Beautiful country. Too bad there really isn’t much to do here, other than drive through it.

By the time we reached Big Sur, the townlet, the sun had won the battle, although it was still cool. Jacky thought a cup of hot chocolate would be good, so we stopped — and then went on, when she saw the prices!

We always like to see ambitious bicycle tourists. The riders were in the restaurant soaking up calories.

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This one is nothing if not practical.

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It was well into afternoon, but north of Big Sur, we ran into the straggles of the marathon. Many miles of creeping along, one amongst a thousand cars. Well, we can’t claim we weren’t warned.

We decided to reward ourselves — maybe — by stopping in Monterey, walking down Cannery Row, getting something to eat.

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This model recognizes the Chinese fishermen who were also part of the old sardine fishing tradition that launched Cannery Row.

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The high point of this stop was seeing a sea otter not far offshore. It’s rare to get close enough for even a moderately good photo. This one is eating the meat from a clamshell (above); the shell itself is visible (below).

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Lying on their backs in the water is of course how they eat without picnic tables.

The traffic report on the radio said the roads from Santa Cruz were congested, so we turned off at Castroville toward 101 and discovered an hour or two of creeping congestion on that route, too. Even with the traffic, though, it was a pretty good micro-vacation.