Crannog Centre

When we returned to Scotland in 2015, we tried to return to the Crannog Centre (we first visited in 2007). It was raining horribly, the road was literally flooded out, and we gave it up. Next time, though, and we will have more than a film camera, shooting with expired film! (it was an artistic choice)

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I will perhaps give the pole lathe another try. I don’t remember it very well, looking back 13 years. I don’t believe I will require a new wallet next time, though.

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-D

Charing Cross

I’ve begun going through our massive photo collection & pulling things out of circulation. One can really only so many pictures of the same building, you know? So, how do you manage 39,000 photos?

In our case, it’s pretty simple, in a way. If it’s not a meaningful picture – doesn’t say something important, make us remember someone or something important – then it gets made private. That means, of course, that I’ve got to look at every single photo along the way.

So I downloaded them and am working my way through alphabetically. I’ve just made it through Charing Cross. Yes, the lighting all looks like this. Doesn’t mercury vapor provide a nice ambience? /sarcasm

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Charing Cross is basically where we spent most of our time in Glasgow, simply because it’s in the middle of everything. It’s also a sort of weird place where people would ask for me to take their picture. They didn’t really even want to see the picture. Just to be photographed was enough.

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Of course, for me it was also a great place for selfies, as there’s a building which spans the motorway there which has mirrored windows. I’d quite often end up stopped there & would say hello, as it were. Have a wee look around at the street view map.

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Not quite the standard mirror-selfies. I’m sure I’ll find more along the way.

-D

Weird Job: Washing Dirt, Boiling Corpses

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I would like to reflect upon one of the weirder jobs I’ve had: San Bernardino County Museum … person. In around 1990. In this picture here, off to the distance, was where I mostly worked.

When the highway departments carve roads through mountains & do major excavations they’re required to have the area assessed for fossils & such (there’s a requirement, I don’t know). So, the San Bernardino County Museum sends somebody out there with a 50-gallon drum, or maybe a truck, to take samples. They bring them back to the museum & lay the soil out on tarps.

From there, a handful of guys (because of course) take shovelfuls of the soil & run it through two or three grades of screen. We’d wash them in half of a 50-gallon drum full of water, getting all of the silt* out. We’d then label the screens with a tag made from a piece of aluminum can, scribbled on with a ball-point to leave an indentation, and set them in the sun to dry.

* If it’s clay, it might be run through kerosene first. This was only done by a Mexican man who refused to wear gauntlets (there were dozens, for the purpose, we all used all the time). His arms were white to the elbow.


After this, depending on what the paleontologists find, the pebbles and fossils might be run through zinc bromide acid. Basically, the specific gravity of zinc bromide is higher than that of quartz and feldspar, so they float where the fossils sink. After a day standing over the zinc bromide bucket, ladling gravel in and out (and occasionally boiling the acid, to concentrate it a bit), there might be 1/2 a cup of fossil teeth and bones, from some small rodent or lizard.

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The museum has a comparative collection. That means they have a mass of varying species of lizards & rodents, from fossils through to present day specimens. Some of the modern ones are “collected.” This meant that the resident “Dr. Death” would take his slingshot on expeditions to collect some hapless lizard from a corner of Joshua Tree or what have you. And bring them back to be “rotted off.”

You see, the museum had at one time had dermestid beetles. They gave them food that was too wet, which gave them some sort of fungal disease, and now they no longer have dermestid beetles. So, to clean bones without damaging them and without beetles, they’re boiled and rotted. If you’re very unlucky, there might be a few cycles of boiling and rotting, as with the python.

After the animal is sufficiently rotty, you pour it through a screen, hose it off, and perhaps put it back in its bucket or jar for another go-round. (Don’t put it on the roof of the museum, in the sun to make it rot faster, with the lids on tight. Word to the wise. Was not me.)

It took me maybe 20 years to be able to consume a breakfast burrito, after the desert tortoise. I started pouring off that tortoise juice and instantaneously projectile-vomited the breakfast burrito I’d just had. I have never seen such a pure expression of vomit. No sound, no wasted motion, just efficient removal of anything that might at all be causing the horror.

I do wonder if they remember where they buried the camel, donated from the camel racing people down there somewhere. They determined that it just was a bit too much to deal with locally, so they buried it to let it rot more gently.

-D

Virtual Vacation

I wish we’d done more of these photospheres. Please click through to this one & get a feel for what they’re like viewed where you can scroll around and really look at things.

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When we’re traveling, I like to use the big cameras, because the results are just so much better than the phones. Making these things, though, is something I intend to do more frequently.

A church in Taxco, Mexico. Just one of the several, as I recall.

-D

Nostalgia in a time of covid

We miss travel. No, that’s not right. We miss our friends. David is one of our David’s best friends & is in Glasgow. We last got to see David when we visited The Netherlands in 2018. We got to see both David and Laura & spend a few days with each.

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We left Glasgow in June of 2012. We’ve been back a few times, but not since 2016. We desparately want to go back, to feel at home again in the filthy city, and see friends.

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This is hardest simply because we cannot visit. It is not the travel. It’s the people.

Video conferencing just isn’t the same.

-D

Irvington Gardening

During this time of everyone staying at home, we decided to do some gardening. Well, no – we’d already decided, but now seemed an ideal time, so we ordered 7 cubic yards of compost, and some plants to arrive a few days later.

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We knew 7 cubic yards was a lot of compost, but it actually went fairly easily. It was cool enough to need to wear warm clothes while shoveling, which made a huge difference. There are 5 cubic feet in a wheelbarrow and 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. So, figure about 40 wheelbarrows had to make their way somewhere.

We basically wanted to bring the earth back up to being level, either with the sidewalk or with the top of the planters. The previous tenants didn’t really do much with things, so we’ve been adding fertilizer and compost and really trying to improve the soil as much as possible.

It has been 13 years since we’ve done any serious gardening, and even then, it was probably way back in 2002 or so that we were really able to garden at home (we’d been gardening at B & L’s). Here, it’s convenient to get out there first thing for 20 minutes, or to get out there over lunch to thin some fruit, rather than having to make a huge production of Visiting The Garden.

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The challenging part was managing to get about 15 wheelbarrows tipped into the raised beds. There’s a metal nose on them, which needs to be wiggled into place on the lip of the bed, and then the whole barrow has to be lifted through 90 degrees and dumped.

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We’re deciding what to put where, and how much space to leave between things. We’re trying to read the labels and give things the space they need. It is hard to resist Annie’s, though, particularly when there are such gaps in our garden. On the other hand, we seem to have planted quite a few seeds, and they are growing apace. Soon we shall be inundated, we hope.

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We have planted morning glories all around the fence and at the base of the tree at the sidewalk. We’ve more to plant (these were sprouted inside), and then a whole bunch of other vining things (birdhouse gourds, cantaloupe, cucumbers), etc. For a first year’s garden, we don’t expect it to be perfect, but we really are looking forward to what comes up!

-D & T

Revisiting Photography

We generally leave the TV on when we’re reading or cooking or what have you, with the TV playing … pictures from our Flickr. As a consequence, I end up examining photos and really really wishing I knew more, back then. For example, this photo. It’s a manually-done HDR, which means I mixed 3 images together to get it.

Edinburgh D 16 HDR

I looked at that going by and I thought, “I wonder what that would look like if I reworked it?” So I pulled the raw images, reset all of the settings in Canon, rendered out 3 tiffs, ran Photomatix, and here we go.

Edinburgh D 16 HDR redux

Now, is it better? In some ways, and in some ways not. I suspect that I don’t really know what I’m doing with Photomatix any more, and this is the version with all of the advanced features, so … we’ll see. On the other hand, the phone does a better job maybe. And on yet another hand, I now know how easy it is to go back and adjust, and I have all the raw materials, so … if they’re particularly egregious, maybe I’ll fix them.

Happy New Year!

-D

Concerts, Persimmons and Pomegranates

Our Christmas choral season is over for Mission Peak Chamber Singers. For us, that meant 2 hours of singing on Friday night, 3 hours on Saturday night, 1 on Sunday morning, and 2 on Sunday night. 8 hours of singing this weekend. It was a blast, despite the rain and wind, awkward microphone malfunctions, travel time, and exhaustion.

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MPCS at Old Mission San Jose

We’ve continued to enjoy the harvest, with the pomegranates and persimmons having ripened and been harvested. One citrus has turned out to be a grafted tree with at least 4 different fruit, including a white grapefruit, maybe a lime, and a satsuma.

Unfortunately, the squirrels and crows did manage to get to a few before we could harvest them, so I had no choice in sharing with them. Everybody else can go to the grocery store, though – this is the first time in my life I have a persimmon tree and I’m pretty much going to eat them all myself. I’m sure my blood sugar will hate me, but if it helps add a few pounds I will not complain at all.

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I brought them in, polished them up (they have their own wax), and left them for nearly a month. Next time I’ll trim the sepals when I first harvest them, because they’re quite stiff and make it harder to remove the stem end without rupturing the soft fruit. I may prune back the Granny Smith, as it shades the persimmon (and because who in their right mind plants a Granny Smith?).

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Pomegranates also came ripe, so I took the opportunity to prune back the bush that should be a tree (it helped me get to the fruit on the inside of the shrub, as well). Quite a few split, and there were a few dozen tiny ones. We harvested them all, removed the arils from the split ones, and found that the tiny ones are just as mature and flavorful as the big ones! I might strap the individual stems together to try to make it function more as a tree and to stop obstructing the pathway. What ought to happen is for it to be pruned back to a single tree, I would guess, but that’s going a bit far for me.

Earlier in the year, when I’d encounter a hollowed out one, or one that was gnawed by the rodents (squirrels), I’d pick and discard it. So, when harvest came, I wasn’t expecting anything like this hollow one – I’d gotten rid of the ones I could identify weeks and weeks ago. This was one of the reasons I got out the pole saw: the fruit was fabulously dark red, and I expected it to be perfectly ripe.

Next will come the white grapefruit (maybe this weekend), and then the orange and tangerine. And then it’s time to do research on how these trees should be pruned and when, and to finish planning and planting the flowers for next year.

-D