Archive for March, 2014

The tree trimmers

March 30, 2014

I put some iPhone pictures of this tree removal project on my Facebook page, but here are some follow-ups of more recent events with the real camera (the iPhone camera is better than anyone would have a right to expect, but it has its limitations).


Here’s how it looked at the beginning of the week, lots of structure up there.


The bucket truck unfolds its arm (orange), straight up, then comes from a kneel into an upright position. The combination of arm and legs, as it were, gets the elbow above the power wires, so he can move around with the (white) fore-arm and the bucket itself.


Above, notice the goodly-sized limb being lowered to the ground.


I’m not the only one watching the adventure. The kids were waving, and the guy in the bucket waved back.


The man in the bucket spends considerable time getting a rope around the bit he plans to cut next, and coordinating the rope with his partner, who is responsible for the high anchor that keeps the cut piece from falling into the power lines or damaging the house.





They spend a lot more time with the ropes than actually cutting and lowering.


If you don’t trust your harness, your ropes and the quality of your work, you’re in the wrong business!


The saw itself is on a long arm, powered by a hydraulic motor driven by the truck below. The hydraulic motor is on the outside of the bucket, not really visible in any of this set of photos.


This fresh-cut piece looks fairly small, until you see it on the ground. You certainly wouldn’t want to land on your head. There’s a man on the ground paying out rope to lower it at a moderate rate.


And of course, they chew it up and at the end of the day, haul it away.

On the one hand, it seems they go very slowly, and it has to be costing a bundle: a crew of half a dozen men for two weeks, and they probably have another week to go before the tree is completely gone. On the other hand, they haven’t brought down the power wires yet!

Windy Hill, Purisima Redwoods

March 30, 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014

I often write about volunteer work for the open space district, more often than not, pulling weeds, and more often than not, pulling broom. Here’s what broom looks like. The large bushes are full of pretty yellow flowers, starting right about now.


Last weekend, I did a quick hike at Windy Hill open space preserve. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, except for these pretty little green bells. I have no idea what they are, but I like the way they try to hide, showing their true selves only to a view from below.



Today, I hiked Purisima creek redwoods open space preserve. It has been rainy this last week, but I got my annual REI dividend and bought myself a new rain shell, so I was happy to try it out. (So of course it didn’t rain, but that’s fine, too.) I volunteered here a few weeks ago, unplugging invasive ivy from a slope, and today picked off a few stragglers that had been overlooked the first time.


Tis the season. The caterpillars are out in force, roughly a gazillion of them!

This hike is not all that long, not all that hard (Allison would disagree), but I can make it a mini-industrial strength hike with a 4-mile 800-vertical feet extension up Borden Hatch Mill trail and down Grabtown Gulch trail (total: 14 miles, 3500 vertical feet). And yes, once upon a time, there really was a Grabtown up in these hills.


Nice to see a few fungi, fresh from this week’s rains.


I also flagged six downed trees at various spots along the trail. The drill is to catch a GPS location and a photo, and file a trail report to the open space district. I’m only scheduled for trail patrol volunteer training in June, but I know the login password, so why not!


The hiking sticks are there to provide a scale for evaluating the problem.


And I spotted a tiny gray furry mammal, most likely a vole, as it ducked into the duff. I fired up my camera, then pulled away the duff, but it could burrow faster and deeper than I could uncover it. I loosed off a few desperation shots with the camera, but of course nothing came out.

Nice day, good to get out.

Montebello-Saratoga gap killer hike

March 16, 2014

Sunday, 16 March 2014

With the recent knee trouble, and two solid weeks of conferences, I am a little out of shape. But I got in two runs last week, and spent Saturday on an open space volunteer day effort. (That last may or may not have improved my conditioning.)

I first thought to hike Mission peak to Sunol, but the return trip down the front side of Mission peak is not for questionable knees. So I went to Montebello instead. Last time I drove up a mountain road in the dark, I almost hit a deer. So I took it pretty easy — unlike the guy who roared up behind me, passed like a bat as soon as I pulled over, and disappeared into the distance. His lucky day; I never saw him again.

Got to the top just as the sun rose. Left the car along the road, because the gates weren’t open yet.

There were three coyotes wandering through the parking lot. They left when I headed their direction. Half a mile further along, three deer. But the most prolific of the local wildlife was the newts. I lost count somewhere north of 30.


I pop dead bark off the fallen trees, hoping against hope to find a scorpion. No luck, but I found one of those tiny almost legless salamanders, and a beetle who’s perfectly happy standing on his buddy’s head.


A pretty day, warm in the sun, cool and pleasant in the breeze and the shade. Fog over the ocean, so there was no crisp blue horizon off in that direction.


At my second calorie stop, I met Logan and Sean. Logan would be somewhere around 4 years old, I suppose. His father Sean had relocated back here from the LA area, had worked search and rescue in some previous life, but wasn’t 100% familiar with this area. Not sure whether his S&R experience was a long time ago, or just somewhere else.

I told him my itinerary, estimated it as about 18 miles (wrong: 20 miles, 3700 vertical feet). He said, if he ever tried to do a hike that long, he’d end up crying like a baby. “I’m considering it,” said I.

There was as much pain as I needed, certainly. And I always run short of water, even on a comparatively cool day. Still, it feels great to be outdoors and feels even better to have a shower and a brew back home.

Bad day on CalTrain !

March 13, 2014

I took CalTrain to San Francisco today. From San Bruno, near the airport, the train was supposed to go direct to SF. We started off, as expected, but the train stopped at the next station, Bayshore.

Curious. After a while, a lot of people came walking through the aisle. After a further while, the crew came onto the PA system and explained that there was a stuck brake (that’s what was causing the smell: but not in the car I was in). They eventually cut loose the whole car – explaining why the people were relocating – and moved on. Slowly, per standard operating procedure.

Sounded ok, it wouldn’t be that much of a delay. We went through a tunnel, and stopped again. The driver came on the PA: “Some idiot is walking through the tunnel. We have trains stopped at each end, waiting for him to get through, and we hope the San Francisco police will be here to pick him up.”

Foof! What a hassle! Eventually, we did start rolling again. Didn’t see any police, but maybe the idiot du jour was walking the other direction. What else could possibly go wrong?

Funny you should ask. Three minutes later, we stop again. The driver comes on the PA: “We just hit a car.”

From my second deck seat in the third car back, I had a ringside view of any number of fire engines arriving, police redirecting all the traffic, an EMT crew unloading a stretcher, then later re-loading it empty, a CalTrain truck arriving to inspect for damage, a tow truck arriving. Similar collection of vehicles on the other side, only a little of which could I see.

Eventually, the sheriff released the train to back up off the car, CalTrain inspected the track, and … dare we hope?

We actually made it to SF, about an hour and a quarter later than expected. Getting off the train, I turned to look at the cab car, which of course showed no sign of damage whatever.

It’s always an adventure, isn’t it! Official story

Verdi’s requiem

March 2, 2014

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Verdi’s requiem at Stanford Memorial church.


What can I say? Nice!

What more can I say? Really, really nice.



Followed by a stop at the Cantor art museum and a quick nod to the bronze driftwood horse, then a brew in downtown Palo Alto and home for a hausgemacht pizza.

Pretty good day.

First March

March 1, 2014

Saturday, 1 March 2014


A rainy weekend, so I don’t mind too much working indoors. I got about two hundred comments on my document by the deadline last night, and they need to be collated and organized for next week’s meetings. The joy of being an editor.

We also pulled the mattresses off the bed and vacuumed the carpet under the bed. As well as finding almost 30 years of accumulated lint (!), we discovered how worn the rest of the carpet is, compared to the virgin carpet under the bed. We’ll yet find ourselves getting new carpet there.

But around mid-day, I wanted to get out. What better than the Stanford dish loop? Starting, of course, by walking across Stanford campus, busy and fun.


Got a photo here, just as left-handed Junior got a hit! He’s better than I ever was!

By the time we get into the hills, the sky is pretty, but a little threatening.



The official dish is just the largest of many antennas, some of which are not even dishes. There is even a dome for a small optical telescope here.


Rain coming this way, but I think it will pass a little off to the side. And it did; just enough to get me to put on my rain jacket, and then it was gone.


Back into Palo Alto. What a terrific day!