California 2012

We packed up and flew to California, my brother Mike and nephew Racin picking us up in San Francisco.  We had a late meal at Cattlemen’s.  It was delicious, but we were tired, as it was midnight for our jet-lagged bodies.  The next day we went out to the ranch and looked around.  I noticed a lot of owl pellets out in the barn that I’d want to get later.  We found some tubs of stuff from Mom and Dad’s former trailer, and we packed those up for later shipping back home.  We saw my niece Kristen and her sons Jordan and Kaden.  We ate lunch at the local Mexican place, El Gallito, which has been there for years.  My burrito was heavenly.  We visited my Dad at his new place, Cortona, which is an assisted living facility.  It’s very nice, and was outfitted with a lot of Dad’s stuff from home.  It was a nice visit.  We went back to Mike’s to nap away our food coma.  That evening we went to the Cornfest in Brentwood.  It was held in a dusty field, rather than the old park (which no longer exists–brilliant move, city fathers).   Stacey and I enjoyed seeing the old fire trucks. 

Saturday there was a 50th birthday party for me at my sister Marlene’s house.  She went on with the show in spite of the fact that her son Tim had just been in a bad motorcycle accident and was hospitalized.  The party was a great family get-together, with almost everyone showing up.  The kids swam in the pool, the adults drank beer, and we took a lot of pictures.  The vines and flowers on Marlene’s fence make a perfect background.   I got some gag gifts and some genuine ones.  The tables were decorated in plastic insects.  I felt right at home.  We had a hearty meal, of course.

Lovely cousins at my birthday party, From California 2012

Sunday was the Portuguese Festa at the Flor Do Oakley hall.  We saw the end of the parade and reunited with some cousins that I don’t see often.  I hadn’t seen Edward since he was about 10, and had never met his wife or child.  The sopas were outstanding, just as I remembered.  Savannah liked them this time.  She bought a bunch of Portugal/Azores themed stuff from the vendor.  We stayed kind of late for the auction, but didn’t buy anything.  After another food coma, we went to Cold Stone for dessert.  Yum.  Wish we had one here in Canton. 

Monday we went rafting on the Stanislaus River.  I’d heard about this since grade school, but never had done it.  It was Stacey, Savannah, Racin and I on this outing.  The water was crystal clear, and cold–50 F from the hypolimnion of Lake Tulloch.  There were lots of hawks and other birds on the trip downstream, and we could see many trout, some large, right below us.  There wasn’t a lot of current, but with practice we were able to manage the paddling.  I now know I much prefer a kayak to a raft.  We made the take-out ahead of schedule, and drove the short bit to Oakdale to see Grandma Eva.  I hope I’m as agile of mind and body when I reach 93.  Actually, I might be happy just to make 93!  She shared some recipes with Stacey, and told some stories from the old days, such as the time she went to the Azores.  Back at Mike and Cindy’s we ate sopas with Marlene and Melissa.

Rafting trip on the Stanislaus River, From California 2012

Tuesday morning we ran errands.  I wanted to have all the old 8-mm home movies digitized.  We dropped them off at a place in Concord that was conveniently close to my former teacher Myra.  We took her out to lunch at a Chinese place, as it was her birthday.  We caught up on a lot of news and enjoyed good food.  I hadn’t seen her in about 30 years.  It was great to reconnect with someone who was such an influence on my life.  From there we went north to Fairfield and the Jelly Belly Factory.  It was more fun than I expected, and they converted me.  I like Jelly Bellies now!  I actually tried a “Skunk Stink” flavored bean.  Not bad.  They had two Jelly Belly themed motorcycles in the lobby that I really liked.  Stacey and I are always talking about our imaginary house in Florida.  At this point Mike said, “What would you rather have, and imaginary house in Florida, or two real motorcycles!”  It was pretty funny, but I guess you had to be there.  It was a short drive to my brother Mark’s house in Vacaville.  Ours was something of a surprise visit.  When his wife Alex came home, I said, in my best redneck accent, “The relatives from Muzzeruh are here!  We heard you got a cement pond!”  We had a fine dinner and some great conversation.  We were able to talk more in detail than we had been at my party.

Burrowing owl in Oakley, From California 2012

Wednesday we went back to the ranch, and I picked up a large batch of owl pellets.  Mike gave Jordan another baptism in the cattle trough, which is something of a family tradition.  We went to visit Dad again, then had lunch with Marlene at Red Robin.  We did a bit of shopping, then went to ship off our tubs to Missouri.  UPS wanted $75 to send one tub, which far exceeded the value of the contents.  Time for a new plan. 

Black widow in the old milk barn, From California 2012

Thursday morning we took all the tubs to the post office and shipped them for about $30 each, which was reasonable.  Mike drove out to San Francisco while I navigated (with help from an old GPS).  Of course, there was road construction right next to the Exploratorium that forced us onto Highway 101 North.  I thought we were going to have to go over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Luckily, we were able to get off on the last exit and navigate back.  The Exploratorium is really designed for children, but we had some fun.  There were lots of optical illusions I took photos of.  We went to Pier 39 afterward for shopping therapy.  I bought Stacey a nightgown that says, “I’m crabby in the morning.”  It has a crab graphic on the front.  After a nightmare navigation through downtown San Francisco we made it to the airport on time.  Stacey had left her Swiss army knife in her purse and was busted going through security.  They confiscated the knife.  Dang. 

Floating water droplet at Exploratorium, From California 2012

We flew the redeye with a brief layover in Phoenix.  It was hard to sleep on the plane, of course.  The drive home was uneventful, and we were overjoyed to see our dogs upon arriving home.  Friday was spent largely sleeping and recovering.  I didn’t get to functioning much until Saturday, when I mowed the lawn.  We’re back in the groove of things again, but tomorrow I fly to Florida. 

The fam at Pier 39, From California 2012

Click the link at the bottom of any photo to see many more in the online album.

June 2012 – Yard work season

Since my return from the enchanted isles, most of my time has been occupied in remedial outdoor work.  Although we hired out the fencing job, there was still much preparation and support required to get it going.  I have had just a bit of time to get out and see the world.  I made an attempt to photograph the transit of Venus.  As I did not have the requisite accessories to do the job properly, I improvised to some extent.  Actually, I got this idea from, which is a web site that I find unendingly fascinating.  I picked up a #9 glass for a welding helmet down at the local farm and home store.  It functions as a 9-stop neutral density filter for only $5.  I taped it to the end of the lens hood for my telephoto lens.  One is supposed to attach it to a UV filter, but I didn’t have one that size and couldn’t get one on short notice.  The result was about what you’d expect given the investment: Venus appears as a dark blob, not the perfect disk that I had hoped for.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting experiment and I’ll know better next time I have the same opportunity (in 2117). 

From June 2012

Another photographic effect that I obtained from was the creation and use of a Claude glass.  As luck would have it, I had salvaged the lenses from an old overhead projector that the fire department was throwing out.  It generates somewhat eerie effects.  First I tried some natural landscapes, but found that my neighbor’s house was the most impactful subject.

From June 2012

I was able to take one day and go fishing with Lowell.  It turned out to be a banner day.  The water was low and clear.  I used a spinnerbait in the morning and caught quite a number of bass.  After lunch I switched to a topwater bait and caught a few on that, which is always exciting.  While we were motoring around the lake, the resident green heron was on the prowl.  I was able to get some nice shots from very close range, and then a sequence when it caught and ate a bluegill.  Also photographed a turtle and attempted tree swallow in flight (very difficult).

From June 2012

As usual, click through to see more exciting images.  There are some nice insects, invertebrates and fire trucks in there.

Stacey and I worked hard on the 4th of July for the Fire Dept. barbeque.  Fortunately, there were no fires.  The next day I was one of three firefighters to go to the fireworks display at the nursing home.  We took a couple of brush trucks and kept an eye on things.  I had all my camera gear so that I could photograph the fireworks.  Afterward we took one of the trucks back to Station 2.  As we were leaving, the page came out for a structure fire in Canton.  We hauled it back to town as fast as possible.  We already had our gear so we went straight to the scene.  The garage was fully ablaze, but I thought if we could put that out we could save the house.  I put on the SCBA and went in twice.  We put out everything we could see, but the fire was in places we couldn’t see–voids created from remodeling the attic.  We finally stopped going into the house in favor of the “surround and drown” method.  Our ladder truck, another pumper with a deck gun, and a big ground monitor were the primary means of pouring water on the place.  By then we had called in nearly every other department in the county.  There were about 20 people on scene, but not enough work for everyone.  I got the camera out and started shooting stills and video.  It’s rare that I have my best camera gear on a fire scene. 

From 2012_07_05 LCNH Fireworks

From 801 White St. Fire

I used some crazy high ISO settings (5000) to get some of these images.  The videos are neat too.  I may be posting some on YouTube later.

I cleared some photos off of my phone.  A few were kind of decent, and I put them up.  Some are rather dated.  We did a training with the Air Evac team.  I only had the phone.  The video I took of it taking off looks cool on the phone, but not so much on the computer. 

After deciding that something had to be done about our aging fleet of automobiles, we sold the Chevy Tracker, which Savannah has been driving for several years.  She now drives the Taurus, which had been Stacey’s.  Stacey drives the Lil Egg (Toyota Echo), which had been primarily mine.  Musical cars!  I bought a new Toyota Prius C in fire engine red.  It is technologically light years ahead of the others, and not just the hybrid drive. 

Bug Nymph From July 2012

 Prius C From July 2012

Click through for more!