Archive for November, 2013

Bear Creek redwoods volunteer day

November 23, 2013

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Jacky and I volunteered to help uproot invasive French broom at Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve. Some or all of this area is not open to the public, as it turns out, one of the unsung benefits of volunteering.

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It was a bright, sunny day — at the pond, where we parked. Most of our work was in the forest, so we didn’t see all that much sun. Very nice, anyway. There were quite a few of us; I think someone said 17.

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A previous broom-clearing expedition had discovered a long-forgotten bridge framework across a creek down here. They said it was completely invisible until they had cleared away the broom. A pretty substantial investment, once upon a time.

We worked along a ridge (dubbed Old Bridge Ridge), starting by pulling out sparse and small broom plants here and there, but eventually homing in on a dense forest of broom, much of it as tall as we ourselves. By the end of the session, we had made a serious dent in it, but there was enough more to soak up several additional volunteer days. Lots of work.

We went back to the pond for lunchies (I had never heard of peanut-butter Oreos!). Jacky and I volunteered to walk around the pond, looking for stray broom. As we set off, we saw several of the party heading off toward some ruined buildings down the way. Someone said there was a history talk, so we deferred the pond until later and joined it.

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Dave wearing blue jeans today, carrying an orange mini-weed wrench. Jacky the photographer (we both had only our cell phones; sorry if the pictures are a little unprofessional). The buildings are fenced off from trespassers.

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I believe our guide’s name is James, the one in the red baseball cap. He actually lived here for a number of years — someone said 20, but there seemed to be some confusion about the number — and himself built some of the infrastructure that we see here.


Originally, I understand that this property was the country mansion estate of a wealthy San Francisco family. At some later date, it was a school run by the Jesuits. The building below was the chapel.




The Jesuits had a bookbindery a bit further down the road. We didn’t go that far; don’t know whether anything remains at what was called the Village or not.


At some even later date, the Jesuits moved out and it was a school run by those who thought the noble savage was the right model, leaving the children free to do whatever they wanted. There was a large masonry wall on which our guide said the name of the school — Daybreak — had once been written, but they misspelled Daybreak …. Such a pain, this civilization stuff!


Jacky responds to the initial posting:

The history is even longer and more colorful than we heard today. Two other wealthy owners before Tevis.

The tour guide today was part of the West Heights Christian School; he built the roof of the chapel. The DayBreak School that came in later is not mentioned in this story. There is a Yahoo Group for former DayBreak students:

Another site I visited said that the Jesuit College moved to Berkeley and became a seminary. That article says, “There are two different possible origins for the name of the town [Alma]. The first is that the town was the location of a branch road that led to the New Almaden mine. The second, and more fanciful, origin is that the town was named after a local prostitute.”


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A good day, a good thing to do. We just hope we didn’t get too much into the poison oak.

Palo Alto falls

November 17, 2013

Saturday 16 November 2013

I have had a sore knee for a while, and I’m taking it a bit easy. Cycling seems to be okay, but downhill walking hurts. I spent much of the morning rearranging tree trimmings so the gardener can haul them away next week, then went out wandering Palo Alto.


Fall in California is drab, as are most other seasons… except for the imported vegetation such as liquidambar. Beautiful. Let’s hear it for the non-natives!


There is a demonstration garden nearby, the demonstration being how to garden without using much water. Succulents, as expected, but even at this season, some really pretty flowers.





Not far away, the Gamble house gardens.


We had received the subsidy tickets to buy 3 LED bulbs at reduced prices (thank you, government, for taking our money in taxes and then subsidizing us with a small fraction of it to do what the philosopher kings think we ought to be doing). Bulbs were on sale at the late afternoon Christmas tree lighting event. Loud music, so we didn’t stay long. Looped around to buy some hummus for dinner and home.

Sunday, 17 November

Happy birthday, Allison!

I thought that, if the knee wasn’t sore, I might go on a real hike today. It was only a little sore. I’m tempted to just go anyway, but I have many years of experience that pushing through sore connective tissue is not a good idea. So I went walking at the Baylands instead. 10 miles, but all of it flat.

The tide was out. The mudflats were… well, mud. Some of the mud was even dry. Went to the Palo Alto duck pond.


I believe these ducks are called shovelnoses? They swim along with their beaks right at water level, scooping up whatever may be afloat. Migration season, many kinds of waterfowl we only see in winter.

Shotgun sounds from not far away, outside the boundaries of the parklands. I believe waterfowl hunting season runs until January, when the survivors are granted a reprieve to raise their families.


On a dead tree above the pond, I spotted this guy, having breakfast. I couldn’t tell what it had caught, but I’m sure it was delicious. When I came back half an hour later, it was at the top of the tree, relaxing in the sunlight, thinking about lunch.



Almost surrealistic, these birds with their heads tucked underneath their arms (oop! — wrong phrase: wings).


At the Mountain View pond, a dozen guys getting ready to go play water basketball. I suppose the helmets and face guards are a good idea; in the heat of competition, a paddle in the face is a real possibility.


Cormorants drying their armpits, and graciously allowing a gull to visit their exclusive club.



Landing in the midst of his buddies.

It is alleged that I never take pictures of people. Today, I took several pictures of people. So there.




And almost back at the parking lot, an egret silhouetted against the foam as the rising tide poured through the strait.



I worked around to the other side. Same egret, different lighting.

Stockholm, Thursday

November 7, 2013

 Thursday, 7 November 2013

Today I went to Kista, where I presented basically the same material twice to two different audiences. There is a true raft of people here from San Jose; probably one of the reasons I’m unlikely to get an upgrade on tomorrow’s flight home.

Olle invited me for a walk around the area at noon. Swedish law allows overnight camping on private property, but caravans from eastern Europe have taken to extended stays, leaving trash (and worse!) on the property, both public and private. So there is a sudden boom in the market for concrete barricades and gates with low overhangs. Too bad the slobs ruin it for everyone else!

Finished my work around mid-afternoon. Took the train back into town, got off at Rådhuset. I can never remember which is the Rådhuset and which is the Stadshuset, where the Nobel dinners are held. It’s the Stadshuset, but they are so close that it would be the same subway stop anyway.




View from behind the Stadshuset across the water to the old Munich brewery conference centre, where we were yesterday.

Wandered around enjoying yet another little corner of Stockholm that I have not seen for a while, then back to the hotel. Not yet 4, and the sun is down. Time for a nap.


Because I skipped lunch, I was hungry. Greek, maybe? Lebanese? I don’t recall having seen such things, but if I wander, maybe I’ll find something. And I did. Kebabs, order at the counter, shawarma and such. Well, maybe. As I stood there looking in the window, the chef began picking his teeth. Without a toothpick. Well, maybe not.

Eventually ended up wandering out Birger Jarlsgatan. Just before Citizen Jarl gives up on city and turns a bit suburban, I found a Korean barbeque place. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I bet I’ll go away happy. And I did. Falcon dark Bavarian beer: darker than the usual Swedish, but I don’t think a Bayer would claim it. My stir-fry duck was marked spicy on the menu, and it was, after I added Jam from the little pot at the table. Hmmmm!

Tomorrow, home. It’s been fun.

Stockholm, Tuesday

November 5, 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

It was raining when I woke up (late: 7:30) this morning, so I spent some time in the hotel, until it stopped and became a rather pleasant mostly cloudy day. Went out for a walk, in the general direction of Skansen.


Very nice, the coolth and colour of autumn.


As elegant as any city in the world, Probably about as pricey, too, for the people who live in places like this.


This is the nordic museum, where they wanted SEK100, which is more than I wanted to pay. (I also checked out the Wasa museum, a terrific place, but not for SEK130!).


More really classy places around, most of them now parks or museums.


The view back toward the city.


Stopped back at the hotel, where I sat in the lobby (free internet access: in the room, they charge SEK100 per hour, which is truly horrifying, especially since every crummy roadside motel in the world offers free internet access). Had a Paulaner Hefeweizen, but when I had to leave, there was no bartender. Well, maybe I can pay later.

Took the T-Bana (subway) to Kista, where there was a reception. I figure that’s dinner tonight. As the host said, there is no free lunch: the assignment was to network with the assembled luminaries, and make at least five new acquaintances. For the world’s most introverted person, that’s a pretty extreme challenge.

I interpreted this as a mandate not to leave as soon as I had eaten, to stay the course. And I actually did meet a few new people, had some good conversations. Mostly due to my colleagues, admittedly, but it’s the results that count.

Back by subway, accompanied by one of the colleagues that I already knew. Into the hotel bar, for another Hefeweizen and the opportunity to pay for both of them.

Tomorrow, real work. Well…. yes. Real work.

Stockholm, Monday

November 5, 2013

Monday, 4 November 2013

The plane arrived in Stockholm at 6:43, ahead of schedule and ahead of sunrise. A whole day to be out and about. Too bad I never sleep well on planes; I’m in pretty bad shape. But outdoors is the right place to be, as long as my eyes will stay open.

Took the train into town, found my hotel, which had no rooms available at the ungodly early hour of 8 AM. Scrounged what I needed from my luggage, left the remainder at the hotel, and went out to rediscover the city. It has been several years since I have been here, and I remind myself of things I know about but that have faded a bit. I take wrong turnings, but I’m only a little bit off where I ought to be; I turn a corner and see something and say, “Oh, right!”


For example, the bronze above is the princess as nearby George savages the dragon.  She’s such a wimp, I don’t know why George bothers, myself.


Here’s an old wellhead, the weighted pump handle designed so that a team member on the opposite site could synchronize the pumping action and not get out of step. (I figured that out myself: pretty clever of me, right? Pretty clever of them, too.)


A nice day, but crisp. Streets wet from overnight rain, and it may rain again this afternoon or evening. Meanwhile, everyone’s out enjoying!



My meetings later this week are at the old Munich Brewery, now a convention centre (I hope they still have beer!), so I wandered over to have a look. Here’s the view back across the water to a sunny corner of Gamla Stan, the old town. Very nice.


Lack of sleep was catching up with me. Back to the hotel, which still had no rooms available. Sat in the lobby, connected to wi-fi, did some work for a while and napped.

At noon, I went out and bought a week-long subway pass, and rode to Kista, where I met Elmar. He had arranged to take the afternoon off; we went to Täby, where he lives. After he changed clothes, we drove to a nearby lake, which we walked around. Only 5 or 8 km, but nice to be out.


The country reminds me a lot of the area around Ottawa, both because of the geology and the  vegetation, but also because of the autumnal scenes that are taking over the landscape. Nice, nice, nice.



And even though this isn’t Canada, there are beavers here. This tree was weakened enough by beavers that it became a safety hazard by the trail and had to be cut down.

The sun goes down early here; we went back to Elmar’s where I crashed for an hour or so of much-needed sleep. When Antonia got home, she  very kindly prepared an outstanding dinner, very artistically presented, complete with hausgemachte Apfelstrudel!

Konstantin (age 4 1/2), is learning some English along with German and Swedish. He got a considerable amount of practice as we spent the evening playing games around his age group. For some reason, I couldn’t win the games aimed at age groups 4+, but I did win games whose age group targets were 3+ and 2+. What does that tell you?

It was a fairly early evening; I was turning into a pumpkin. Elmar drove me as far as the Mörby Centrum T-bana station, where I caught a train. Back to the hotel in the just beginning overnight rain, where they finally did have a room for me. Nice not to have to sleep on the lobby floor.

Great day!

Castle Rock state park

November 2, 2013

Saturday, 2 November 2013

I thought I’d go to Grant Ranch today; it has been a while. But the traffic report on the radio said there was an accident on the freeway down that way. Early in the morning, probably not much of a backup, but why bother! So I went to Saratoga summit instead, hiked south along Skyline trail and made a loop through Castle Rock state park.

I had intended to do a longer hike, but the knee complained, so I cut it short: 10 miles, 2100 vertical feet.


Near the parking lot, just as the sun rose, a madrone had fallen across the trail. The smooth bark and absence of clutter makes this just about the easiest deadfall I have ever had to climb over!


It being Halloween season, this rock seemed highly appropriate.


Leading to the Castle Rock falls overlook (above) and the view straight down from the deck (below). Only a trickle of water at this season, of course. Early enough in the day that there are no climbers on this particular face.


But just across, I hear voices, and I see one climber, quite likely an instructor. He was just standing there, leaning back into his harness over the abyss, talking with someone I never saw, probably a student.


Lots more holey rocks; the edges pretty sharp, as these things go. Rock climber’s heaven.









I hiked around the loop to the campground, where I erroneously took a little side trail that led to a flat where, once upon a time, there was a house or maybe a few houses. Nothing now but the chimney.


I took Loghry Woods trail back to Skyline. I believe I have never been on this trail before, having always made wider loops. The bad knee encourages a shorter hike today, and it’s a very nice trail. Glad I did it.

It runs below a shooting range. The acoustics are always fun. I hear the shot, and then a drumroll of echoes from the surrounding hillsides. Sometimes the drumroll echoes again into a secondary drumroll, and even a third, and the total can go on for three or four seconds, sometimes after a half-second silent gap between the initial report and the start of the first drumroll.

The shadows and interference fringes are also impressive. Within a trail distance of ten or fifteen feet, I go from hearing no echo at all to hearing a full drumroll of echoes.


Leaf shadows on the rock give the distinct impression of oriental serenity. Very, very nice!