Monday, December 25, 2006

Chain Mail

As I pulled off the freeway at my home exit last night, my music randomizer landed on Aimee Mann’s song “Jacob Marley’s Chain.” The randomizer sometimes knows too well where I am, and what season it is. I’m nervous when machines know too much about me.

It’s been a busy season. I sent my family a message yesterday:

Just to make it official, I did not send any boxes or envelopes to any of you. Don't panic when they don't get there.

After I got the thermostat turned up last night and the water heater fired, I checked my e-mail and found the following from my sister:

I AM thankful to have you as a brother and to have all the family that we do. I don't think this year would have been the same without everyone. No One could do it alone.

I LOVE YOU For now and FOREVER!!

In the words of a guy who used to work for Jacob Marley, God bless us every one—especially the kid in the back who sneezed.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Year in Review

My friend Andrew picked up the meme from someone else; I'll keep it rolling. First line of first entry for each month of the past year:

March: Apparently anyone can get one of these blog things. You don’t need a library card or a Class C license or anything.

April: Daylight Savings Time starts in the U.S. today, meaning it's light enough to go for a serious ride after work.

May: The cop in the crosswalk is stopping traffic so we nutty cyclists can charge through the normally car-choked streets of L.A., in this case rocketing past the new Gehry-designed Disney Center.

June: Each sunset, like each snowflake, is an entirely unique cliché.

July: The sun goes down every day. I don't see why people make such a big deal of it.

August: It was Eddy Merckx who famously remarked: "You don't win the Tour de France by eating sandwiches and drinking mineral water."

September: In between listening to Bob Dylan's lush new album, I've managed to get out and turn the crank once or twice.

October: Cold weather causes the ground to freeze, making it more slippery but less dense.

November: reports today that the Web has more than 100 million sites, as of October 2006.

December: I'm not as good as I'd like to be at returning books, which I suppose is how I'm chastised for letting other people borrow mine and not return them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christians and Pagans

Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay"
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been awhile"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from, I think magic's in the learning
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother"
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here"
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve saying
"Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

--Dar Williams
(lyrics reprinted from

Monday, December 11, 2006

Flying Down the Beach

Got out on the bike Sunday, a short ride, my first since Thanksgiving: an hour, about 12 miles.

The downwind part was great. It rained here the night before (and again later that night), and all day a blustery wind did its best to push the clouds away.

You see things when you're out riding. The water in Long Beach harbor was choppy, but I saw splashes that were different from whitecaps. I stopped my bike to take a closer look. I could not see what was making the splashes. Little splashes, like the splash a bird makes when it dives into the water to catch a fish, but there were no birds to be seen. Could it be the wind making whitecaps? I watched, and a series of splashes went off in rapid sequence, in a straight line across 50 feet of water, as if someone had skipped a stone across the tops of the waves.

I peered in close, hoping I'd see flying fish. That's the only cause I could come up with that would make sense. The boils were coming over a defined range of water, not all over the harbor. I didn't see any fish. I watched for signs of dolphins under the water, breaking the surface. Nothing. Just white splashes on dark green waves, and then the flashes subsided, and it was just the wind-blown waves.

When I hit the parking lot below the Art Museum, I headed up the hill, as I usually do, so my legs are used to pedaling on something besides all flat. Got to the top of the hill and looked out to sea, but there was no Catalina; the sky was blue but haze obscured the horizon. I could post a picture of what it looked like, but it would look more or less like the pictures I've posted before. The differences were all invisible: the wind tugging at me, the temperature drop. Maybe you'd notice more people wearing windbreakers and parkas.

I came rolling down the hill to rejoin the bike trail. At the bottom of the hill were some kids playing with kites in the boisterous wind. Kids at their best are normally not too attentive about bikes coming up fast behind them, but kids whose eyes were fastened to a kite were going to be completely unaware of me. So I slowed, watching the kids carefully, and eased past them in the joggers' lane. Lucky thing the jogger coming along in the other direction was paying attention to something besides the kids and their kites.

Further down the bike trail, after I'd got back up to speed, I saw another kite, a little in front of me, and I watched for the kid who'd be at the other end of the string. I looked behind me but couldn't see who was holding the kite. As I slowed and looked again, the answer came flying by me: An empty reel of kite string came skipping along the sand, faster than I was riding, and bobbed across the bike trail in front of me, following the kite.

I coasted up alongside a rollerblader who was watching the same thing and shaking his head. "There goes a loose kite," I said. The wind was pulling this thing along good.

"Not for long," he said, nodding after the kite. He and I stopped and watched, along with a couple of other people who had seen it go by but not done anything fast enough to stop it. The kite flew past the edge at the base of the beach where a telephone wire runs, and it tugged the string across the phone wire as it rose up over the bluffs. For a moment I thought the kite had enough gumption to pull the string all the way across the wire and fly off with the reel still trailing. But as I watched, the reel climbed into the air, swinging back and forth, and got trapped between the telephone wire and a metal switchbox on the side of the telephone pole. The reel was going no further. The kite was now a captive, though one with no master.

I rode on to the end of the beach, a few miles further along, turned around and started working my way back upwind. Now and then a mouthful of sand got lifted by the wind and thrown in my face. It wasn't as cold as I'd estimated when I set out. I got back to the spot where the kite had been caught, curious whether it would have sawn the string off against the phone wire yet, but no, there it was still hanging against the sky--distinctly aloft, out of anyone's reach, yet trapped. Equilibrium until the wind died. The telephone pole was flying the kite. I kept huffing and puffing my way home.

Later in the night I heard the rain start to spatter my balcony again. The pavement is still wet this morning.

But I know where there's a free kite, if you want one.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Beyond the Compass

I'm not as good as I'd like to be at returning books, which I suppose is how I'm chastised for letting other people borrow mine and not return them.

I've been dabbling lately in a borrowed book. I wrote a note to myself in the front of the book, to be opened after I had crossed a sea of time: "This is JMM's book, and you are a dip if you don't return it to her!"

The book itself is like a chatty blog from an old friend, an e-mail pecked out on a manual typewriter. The news events it names are still crisp and bright, and the writer's rumination as he wanders from one topic to another are still as enchanting as watching a grandfather search from pocket to pocket to find where he left his glasses.

He covers the dangers of accumulation--of not returning books to friends: "A home is like a reservoir equipped with a gate valve," he writes. "The valve permits influx but prevents outflow. . . . Under ordinary circumstances, the only stuff that leaves a home is paper trash and garbage; everything else stays on and digs in."

I can't say what made me want to read this book right now. I have been carrying it with me for many years--ever since JMM pressed it on me, telling me she knew I'd enjoy it. I cannot tell you when that was, but I'd be surprised if it was much after I left high school in 1982. It could have been well before that. I trusted JMM's taste when she said I'd enjoy the book; she knows how my mind works. And I have not ignored the book since then. But each book finds its time, and each time I picked this up and looked at it, I knew it wasn't time yet. Each time I have read a different book instead.

So this little bundle of essays comes to me from a great distance, measured not just in miles but in the slow transitions of a lifetime. The book I am reading was first published in 1962. When JMM handed it to me--when I penciled my note in the front--it was already not new; its thoughts were older than we were. But its age has doubled while I've kept the book, and then some.

More telling, my age has more than doubled in the meantime. The kid who wrote that note on the flyleaf was a stripling, a high-school wiseass who didn't know the note he was writing would be read by someone old enough to be his father.

And I can tell you I would have read the book differently back then.

I've been more places now, for one thing. The author writes about geographic details from the East Coast that would have been names on a map to me then; today they are neighborhoods I've been to.

He tells a story of sitting up winter days at his farm waiting to get a shot at a fox who has been raiding his henhouse. I could tell you stories of sitting up winter nights at my sister's house, reading to my niece a book written by the same guy, of the comic struggles of a fox father as he calculates how to feed his family by sneaking into henhouses, under constant threat from a watchful farmer with a gun.

The sojourner tells how he went up to Maine, to the Fryeburg Fair, to enjoy the cattle auction, and was almost tempted to buy a whiteface heifer. When JMM handed me the book, I had never been to a county fair, never bought anything at auction. (I've still never been to Maine.)

But these dispatches across space and time come to me as if they were written yesterday by a neighbor up the road. I am closer to the writer's age today than when I got the book; I think I understand the musings of the 55-year-old better today than I would have when I was 20. Even as I have been hiking further away from the date the book was printed, I have been climbing closer to the ridge in life where it was written.

I can tell you, though, that JMM was right, as I knew she would be. I'm having a great time mapping his thoughts, recognizing the turns in some trails, delighting at being taken into some nooks I hadn't explored before.

I could go on, but that's probably enough for now. I'll close with one final, mostly unrelated thought. The writer, an American of letters, quotes another American--a statesman--who himself found in the words of a third--a jurist, who had died well before either of these guys--an idea worth note:

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

In this little sheaf of essays, those words are used in a description of a dog's character, but I have no doubt the writer intended them to go further.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Together Tonight

Don't let us get sick

Don't let us get old

Don't let us get stupid, all right?

Just make us be brave

And make us play nice

And let us be together tonight

The moon has a face

And it smiles on the lake

And causes the ripples in time

I'm lucky to be here

With someone I love

Who maketh my spirit to shine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?

Just make us be brave

And make us play nice

And let us be together tonight.

--Words by Warren Zevon

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

His Cuteness

Brother #3 is pretty good at posting movies of robots for rusty old Bro #2, but he hasn't been pulling his weight lately in the more important field of posting pictures of Baby #1. Who is considerably cuter than anything named Scooba.


When in doubt, hire a specialist.

Brother #3 got me all hooked up with an online version of my grand Orson-Welles-top-this tracking shot of a floor scrubber.

You might want to get a tub of popcorn before you settle in to the couch and hit "Play."

What do you think of that?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Southbound Again

A month from now the sun will set as far south on the horizon as it ever gets.

In June the sun set in Long Beach. By August it was setting on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Then it drifted out to sea; as of a couple of days ago it was setting on the western tip of Catalina Island, which means it has traveled 26 miles across the channel.

So far, the temperature hasn't flagged. 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Long Beach today (30 Celsius), and it feels like late August. To keep the average where it's supposed to be for the year, we're going to have to compensate with about a week of subzero weather sometime in December.

Each time my panorama stretches wider and the landmarks get smaller. I haven't gone to measure anything with a protractor, but the migrating sun has swept across a good-sized hunk of the horizon in its march, from setting almost due west to almost due south. I recently found the compass I used to carry around when I was a boy. Maybe next time I go watch the day end, I'll bring it along.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stranger in the House

My brother is the one who does a good job at uploading video, but I can show you the still images of a new hardworking houseguest and the results of having it around.

I'm not much of a mopper. Every now and then it crosses my mind that it's time to make the floor look better. If I wait long enough, the feeling goes away.

A while ago I got this thing called a Roomba, which goes around and sucks up odd bits of shrapnel lying on the floor until the carpets and tiles look fairly presentable. It's no rug beater, but it left the house looking pretty sharp . . . until an unfortunate enthusiasm caused me to subject it to a series of experiments that left it incapacitated. More on that some other day.

But what you're seeing here is my first experiments with the Roomba's cousin, a Scooba. The Scooba is a scrubber of hard floors--tiles and such. As you can see, it's more successful on some dirt than others. In the picture at the top, I hand-scrubbed the three tiles at the top of the picture, to show the effect I was after. I'd say Scooba picked up a lot of incidental dirt from the tiles, but was not so good at burning through long-term stains. It lightened a lot of them, but most of them are still there.

The second set of pictures--the ones on the right in each set above--is what the floor looks like after four rounds with the Scooba's special Clorox soap and three times with white vinegar, not in that order. Scooba is easy to use and mostly harmless. It would probably take forever to restore the floor to a clean state, but it did pick up a lot of dirt that hadn't been ground into the tiles yet. And, once I get around to cleaning the rest of the kitchen floor, it will probably be better than I am at maintaining that sparkling look.

The Roomba was an immediate hit--I saw right away that it was doing a great job. The Scooba's not a bad machine, but its benefits are nowhere near as dramatic.

For entertainment value, though, the Scooba is a worthy mate to the Roomba. I probably spent longer watching the Scooba do its work than I did cleaning the three tiles at the far end of the kitchen.

For you to watch it, though, you'll have to wait till I get around to signing up for a YouTube account.

On the Road to Peace

Tom Waits has a new boxed set coming out next week, and a few songs have been released online already.

One is “Road to Peace,” an unusual (for Tom Waits) literal reading of current events. It talks about Henry Kissinger, the New York Times, Hamas, George W. Bush and re-election, and bloodshed in the Middle East.

As the song winds down, he sings:

If God is great, and God is good,
Why can’t he change the hearts of men?
Maybe God himself is lost and needs help
Maybe God himself needs all of our help

It’s a nice twist on a refrain entwined in Christian liturgy: “I will, with God’s help.” The affirmation gets used in different places; maybe the best example is the Episcopal baptismal covenant, wherein the service leader asks a series of questions about whether the audience (or the person being baptized) will behave themselves: Will you persevere in resisting evil? . . . Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons? The answer to each of these questions, one after another, is “I will, with God’s help.”

The repeated vow implies an understanding that these are not easy tasks for any person to promise. No matter our good intentions, we all backslide. But we will do our best to do our best, “with God’s help.”

So the notion of God needing our help strikes an intriguing note.

Many years ago, at a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem, I heard an engaging young rabbi (Levi Weiman-Kelman) address a Sabbath congregation. Speaking of Adam and Eve and God, he asked us to pay attention to the first question God asks Adam in Genesis: “Where are you?” A few sentences later, the first question God asks Eve is “What have you done?”

Why, the rabbi asked us, does God ask these questions? God in this story is all-knowing and all-seeing. God must know where Adam is. God knows what Eve has done. Why ask?

Any parent of a child is probably ahead of me with the answer on this one: If God’s not asking to enhance his own knowledge, maybe we could imagine that he’s asking Adam and Eve what’s going on because he wants them to think about the answers. God wants them to pay particular attention to these questions. He could tell them, but he wants them to come up with it on their own.

And, as you’d expect in the very first pages of a text that has arguably had more impact on human culture in the last 4,000 years than any other, they’re pretty good questions for all of us to ponder. In the Bible, they set a theme that recurs again and again: Where are we? What have we done? Is God asking Adam and Eve to pay attention to what they’re doing, not just right now but always? A text this rich has many layers, but I think that’s one fair reading.

I thought of this as I heard Tom Waits singing that maybe God needs our help. The song uses it ironically: How could an all-powerful being need help from us earthly grubs? But I think back to that scene in the garden, where God, who knows the answers, wants the humans to work it out themselves.

As Bob Dylan sings, "You never ask questions when God's on your side."

Monday, November 13, 2006

California Gold

History books will tell you that gold was discovered in California in 1848, and the California Gold Rush got up and running in 1849, with folks swarming in from all over the world to get rich quick in the diggings. Then, the textbooks tell us, most of the easy gold got panned and mined and collected, and California's economy had to evolve to one that wasn't based on gold.

That's fine on paper. But anyone who's spent any time in California can tell you that California's real gold was never buried or mined or refined or locked in a vault. It's still there, plain as day, for anyone with eyes to see.

The miners were right about one thing, though: There's gold in them there hills.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ne Dork Pas, or Maybe I Am

This isn't anything special, just a picture. I have on-again, off-again Net access these days, so I post when I get a chance, even if it's only half a post, with just a picture, no incisive textual commentary.

Maybe my friend Andrew will come up with some words to wrap around the picture. He recently came back from a self-imposed 30-day blip (which stands for "self-imposed blog silence," except the phrase is in Swiss, like CERN, which in Swiss stands for "the place where the Web was invented"). While he was gone, a devouring virus sucked all the bright-colored pixels off his blog template, and now the only points of illumination are the words themselves.

Or maybe Brother #3 will shine a light on the ramifications of branches in the night. He recently posted about black-and-white pictures of Gobelins, so I know he knows from Hallowe'eny spookulage. And speaking of negative coverage, he's working on a project that's the diametric ("two meters," or about 79 inches) opposite of Andrew's blip: His words have all the colored pixels turned on at once, or at least they do if you're looking at them on the right kind of monitor.

Me, I'm going to go turn on the radio and write some checks. It seems somehow appropriate to pay for service I'm not getting with money that's not mine. Currency is fiction anyhow; it only works because we all agree to suspend the same disbelief. A photograph at least gives you something you can hang your hat on.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Seid Umschlungen, Millionen! reports today that the Web has more than 100 million sites, as of October 2006.

In August 1995, it says, there were only 18,000 sites. (CNN's numbers come from a company called Netcraft, from Bath, England, which has been tracking Web statistics since August 1995.)

The first Website ever was established at CERN in 1989, the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee and others.

So in its first six years, the Web expanded 1,800,000%. In its next 11 years, the growth rate dropped below 600,000%. In the past 30 months, says Netcraft, the Web has only doubled in size, from 50 million sites to 100 million sites.

What's fun in these statistics for me is knowing that in 1995 I had one of the only 18,000 Websites out there. I had no idea it was such a rarity at the time.

I'd have to dig through old records to figure out when I registered the domain, but by 1995 I was already using AOL to post HTML pages and .JPG images to, or whatever the address was for the Websites they gave members.

It was a bit of a hack, using a somewhat clunky AOL FTP interface to put files in public view, but AOL made it possible, and using a Macintosh, which had the only multitasking OS widely available to ordinary users at the time, it was easy enough to edit HTML text in one program, pictures in another, and post them to the Web in a third.

Eventually the 10MB of space AOL provided got too confined, and I signed up for a Website on a shared Apache server that gave me more elbow room. I kept it up to date pretty regularly until 2000, when I moved, took on a new job, and ran out of free time. I still have a backlog of several years worth of exploits to post, one day when I run out of higher priorities. Since 1999, my home page has been updated three or four times and visited 42,000 times.

Nowadays I manage a few other Websites as well, plus there's this blog, which seemed revolutionary to me when I started keeping it. It's a different style of posting, more of a journal and less of a static collection. But when I ran into an old friend online a few months ago, as I was giving a new computer a test flight, he pointed out that I'd been blogging way back in 1995, only they didn't call it that. I'd go somewhere, or do something, and post stories and pictures of it online. I guess he wasn't far off.

I do love the modern blog interface, which lets me post my ramblings easily--too easily--through forms on a Web page. The even bigger enabling move for me was moving to a digital camera, where now my pictures are available to post online as soon as I take them. Technology at all levels has improved: operating systems, individual applications, connectivity, Internet bandwidth, browser abilities. (Don't ask how much oil we're burning to keep this effigy alight.)

On my own-designed Website, I liked the control I had over what fell where on the page. Navigating through posts on a blog tends to be fairly linear, based on chronology. On my Website, I could set up navigation that way if I chose, or I could build something more hierarchical, with information clumped around different topics, or I could design an interface that was even more jarring and random. I can customize the blog interface here, to some degree, but the technology is at once more arcane and less exciting.

One of these days, maybe I'll start sticking all these blog postings back on Here or there, it's fun to be adding to the 100 million pages of dribble that make up our generation's paean to civilization. Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Standard Shift

When I got home last night, I had to replace the dead batteries in my wall clocks with dead batteries that were an hour newer, so the hands moved an hour earlier.

(It seems a little creepy to have things in your house moving around when you're not there. I prefer not to worry about whether my wall hangings will move when I'm asleep. If I want the hands in a particular place, I can put them there.)

In the U.S., we are now on what's called "Standard Time." For five months a year (out of 12), we're on "Standard Time." Next year, we'll bring that down to about four months, or a third of the year.

When did we change our standards?

It seems to me that the time called "standard" would be the time we were on more regularly. This is the same complaint I have about "standard" transmissions in cars: More typically, in the U.S. at least, cars have automatic transmissions. That's the standard. Often you have to search far and wide to find a "standard" transmission.

I don't know who you have to go to if you want to see the change codified, so we can stop using the word "standard" for what has become less common.

But it's interesting to clock the shift as the U.S. moves toward a shorter span each year when we are on "standard" time. Changing the hours in spring and fall helps farms that follow a clock. Last week 6:00 milking was in the dark; now it comes in the very early morning.

Changing hours at all tends to throw off other businesses, and it has a negative effect on businesses that don't start at the crack of dawn: As the business day shifts later, lights have to be turned on earlier. Office lights that were turned on at 5:30 last week will have to be turned on at 4:30 this week.

As the U.S. moves further away from farms and further toward later hours, we nibble away at the chunk of the year when we shift our clocks to accommodate field workers. "Standard" time used to last longer than it does today. Next year it will be even shorter than it was this year.

We mark the arbitrary hours as if anyone could really change what time it is.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dumb Art on Oaks

I have to name-check my brother today, because he used the f-word in a post that also included a reference to linguistic back-formation (not, as some would think, the process by which linguists get spines).

It's O.K., because I was thinking of him today anyhow, and particularly I was thinking of how I was going to mention him in today's post.

See, he's seen all this stuff before. He's been--with me, and with his lovely bride--to the Arastradero Open Space Preserve, up Arastradero Road from our sleepy little hometown. We hiked all over. He knows how those hills smell, how you can just about taste the wild fennel in the air down by the water, how the grasses and the oak and the eucalyptus mix on a warm wind and smell like home, like summer.

But he wasn't there today. Not because he's some young punk slacker, mind you--no, he's got something going on with a baby, and transcontinental flights, and three-wheeled strollers, and a dog, and for whatever reason he missed it.

By "it," of course, I mean it: the last day of the season. Way back in April, I nominated the first day of Daylight Savings as the start of the bicycling season. That would make today, the last day of Daylight Savings, the day that I can hang up my shorts, count my new T-shirts, rub my sore calves, and savor the memories of a well-traveled season. I rode a century. I rode several organized rides, major and minor. I rode places I'd never taken a bike (or a car) before; I rode Northern California and Southern California. I rode by night and by day, after the sun set and before it came up. I had flats; I replaced a derailleur cable; I got new riding flip-flops. All in all, a fine season.

And, since it was the last day of the season, I did take advantage of some really spotless warm October weather to swallow up my last few hills before I load the bike on the back of the car tomorrow and head south for Long Beach. Will I keep riding in the next few months? Absolutely. But I'm not in training for any particular ordeals, as I was last April when I was already mapping the buildup to August's Cool Breeze Century.

And yeah, bro, you can come ride Arastradero with me any time you like. As you can see, we've kept a space open for you.

Mountain Coda

Going through a houseful of old stuff, you run into strange odds and ends. Note the vintage pop-top on this can of soda. People used to make necklaces out of those, until some bright light figured out a way to open a can of soda without having a ring and tab that immediately turn into litter.

More to the point, have a look at the brand name and logo. Couldn't see a thing like that without mentioning it adjacent to my post from the other day.

Shasta's still in business, by the way. Check 'em out on Wikipedia, where they're even quoted in a Beastie Boys lyric.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hasta be Shasta

Today was what steamship companies call a "positioning cruise": I need to be in San Francisco tomorrow, so rather than making lots of local stops and not venturing far from my starting point, I made a long run without many stops at all, ending up at my home base for tomorrow's shorter jaunts.

I've squeezed off a lot of shots in the past few days, but I don't feel I've really captured the feel of fall in the Siskiyous. It's a rich season, with lots of saturated browns and oranges and reds and yellows in the trees, offset by dark evergreens, brightly lit by autumn's intense sunlight.

Every time I come across the Siskiyou summit, I try to get a picture of this sign. Sometimes I miss it completely. Sometimes I get a good, clean shot. It marks the number of times I've been up and down this road. It also reminds me what weather I had on a particular trip. Today was crisp and clear. I saw a roadside thermometer that said 47 degrees Fahrenheit.

I always tell myself I won't take bazillions of shots of Mount Shasta as I come down the highway, just because it's there and it's captivating. I already have bazillions of shots from every other trip I've taken up and down this road. And every time, no matter what I tell myself, I take bazillions of shots anyhow.

Above is the formal, posed shot, from the main vista point off the highway just north of Yreka. This captures the whole scene from the north, with Shasta on the left, a double peak formed by the main mountain and Shastina, a lower peak that's part of the same structure. On the right, but still really part of the same complex, is Black Butte, a much smaller cinder cone.

Shasta showing off her fall colors, before the first snowfall. Look how bare the mountain is, compared with winter and spring shots where it's entirely white. Also note the smudge of smoke in the sky to the left (northeast) of the mountain. Not sure exactly where that came from, but it's not an illusion.

Black Butte from closer up.

As Shasta fell behind me to my left, the sun sank out of sight on my right. Here's the silhouette of the boat docks at the marina on Lake Shasta, behind Shasta Dam.

Many hours later (too many hours), I was on my way through the tunnel in the middle of the Bay Bridge, heading in to San Francisco. My vision at this point was considerably better than the camera's. The camera had a long day, and needed some coffee and a good rest.