If You Want a Life, Don’t Read This

Among all the rabbit holes on the internet, there are a few I find especially deep.

If you are looking for ways to consume hours with no sense of time’s passage, I recommend that you:

  1. subscribe to daily emails from Open Culture, which will notify you about a vast amount of tantalizing free content on the web: classes, books, movies, articles, art, science, politics – whatever your poison you can get it from here.
  2. check out HistoryOrb, where you can see what happened on this day month year in history. Or many other days months years.
  3. play the big (20×20 or 25×25) nonograms here. I find this numbers puzzle so addictive and a big one can take me 15-25 minutes to complete. It is hard to stop with just one and the next thing you know it’s Tuesday. (FYI, currently the game doesn’t work right with Chrome.)

Whatever you do, don’t share your own rabbit holes with me!

A Floating Rorschach Test: Mud On the Move

Near my house is a place called La Tuna Canyon that has nothing to do with fish. I’ve lived here for a decade but never wondered how that name arose, until I began this post. I want only the best for my readers so have now investigated. Turns out La Tuna is “Spanish for, among other things, prickly pear.” Such an intriguing definition.

 Among other things. Where was I? Ah yes, La Tuna Canyon. Recently I took a hike there, and looked back down at my house:

View from the trail up La Tuna Canyon.

View from the trail up La Tuna Canyon.

Actually my house, down in the valley, is probably around the bend out of view. It is hard to tell with all the trees. It surprises me that the valley’s trees came with the housing tracts. A century ago, the valley was all fields and brush:

The valley in 1927.

The valley in 1927.

 (I got this photo from a site that has many swell photos of long ago Los Angeles.)

I continue to digress. On my hike, I turned a dusty corner like this one:



And I came upon a mud puddle, drying rapidly:


There was not much water remaining, and on the surface, mud flecks floated:


The flecks were like floating islands, and in such interesting patterns and shapes, I had to snap some photos.

As I snapped, I noticed the flecks were moving! The water rippled in a light breeze, and that was enough to send the flecks into eddies and surges:

At first the motions of the flecks suggested plate tectonics. The flecks are an infinite variety of Hawaiian islands. Then I realized that in another few hours the water would be gone, the mud solidified, and now the flecks seemed like vacationers, desperate for a last bit of fun.

As I watch the video now, I remember when I was a kid, eating the last morsels of cereal swimming in a bowl of milk. I would pretend each Cocoa Krispie or Cheerio was a being and I was the royal monster, hunting it down. Among other things.

I’ve never seen mud flecks like this before. What do they look like to you?

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see On Top.)


Responsive At Last

Which is blurry, the image or my brain?

Which is blurry, the image or my brain? After hours of changing blog colors, I am unsure.

I can be incredibly unaware of my surroundings. I can walk through a place I have lived for years and think, “hey, is that light fixture new?” and of course the answer is never yes.

If you aren’t like me, you will have noticed that I have changed the look of my blog.

I am happy with this new layout and I love being able to change the header picture with each click. I’m less settled on this color scheme. Everything I thought I would like wound up too industrial, too lurid, or too Easter. I may revert back to black words on a pale background. (Actually, there are glitches in older posts and some text is black on the current background. Tsk.) But this is the new blog for now. I can’t experiment with more colors until I recover from color palette psychosis.

The most important change is that this blog design works much much better on phones and tablets. The term is responsive. This blog now has a responsive design.

I’ve learned that term and made these changes as part of the WordPress Blogging 201 challenge, which is proving quite valuable and has made it easy to tackle changes and additions I’ve meant to make for some time.

What do you think of the changes? What’s better now? What still needs work? Do you miss anything from Required Writing Mach I?

Or are you reading this because you had a typo when you searched on required wiring?

P.S. I’ve changed content too. Can you find where? Hint: check the top menus.

P.P.S. The image comes from an on-line science mag for Cambridge U., and a fascinating article on synesthesia, a condition where the senses blend together (for example, for some people, sounds come with colors). I’m almost grateful for the color palette psychosis that led me to that article…

Watching the Ground Shift

I love survey monuments (aka markers, aka marks). They get planted in the ground so that surveys can be done from exactly the same spot, at different times. If you measure from the same place over time, you can detect changes in ground position by comparing the surveys. If you don’t use the same place, you get bupkis*.

Walking the dog, I discovered that a neighbor has a monument on his property:

Wait - is that a monument?

Wait – is that a survey monument?

Interesting! According to the inscription, at one time the City of Los Angeles held sway over this area. (No longer.) And I didn’t know they printed the elevation on the monuments back then. Fancy!

"Elevation 1716.15 feet above sea level"

“Elevation above sea level 1716.15 feet”

I wonder if the neighbor got special instructions when he bought the house, forbidding him from messing with the monument. I wonder if that irritated him – gub’ment can’t tell me what to do! – or maybe he’s like me, and enjoys the connection with local history. Whoever first planted the monument is surely gone by now, the monument has been there for generations. Not all the monuments have led such sheltered lives. Monuments about a mile east got buried in a 1934 debris flow:


Photo from Mike Lawler, Crescenta Valley Historical Society

Photo from Mike Lawler, Crescenta Valley Historical Society

Admittedly, most surveys are done for boring reasons like defining property lines. But they can also reveal a region’s geology, its ground deformation - I love that term! – the movements related to earthquakes, subsidence, landslides. Given enough time, this monument will have quite a story to tell. After all, it’s because earthquakes are shoving the mountains skyward that I have a mountain view from my house:


Mountains going up, valley going down: earthquake country.

Mountain view courtesy of earthquakes.

Obviously I am fascinated by these hazards but it would be fine with me if, during my years in this house, I experience no geologic drama.

* Looking up this spelling, I discovered that bupkis means goat droppings! One really can learn something new every single day!

A recent WP Weekly Photo Challenge wanted to see a monument.

Throw Your Two Cents Into the Ring

 Over the next whenever*, I will be changing the look of my blog.

Now would be an excellent time to let me know what you wish I’d change or hope I’ll keep.

* I won’t specify a time frame - I don’t want to annoy the free time gods. They are vengeful gods.

I am excited to try something new. It may turn out to be a makeover. Or a touch up. A sandblast. Or an unfortunate detour.


Photo by D. Saville for FEMA.

PhotoTravelog: Escape from Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

Until a couple weeks ago, I had never been to Hawaii, which has always seemed terribly wrong, given that volcanoes and oceans are two of my favorite things. Also, I love that Hawaiian slack key guitar sound. So I was thrilled to get a chance to go to a conference in Honolulu, on Oahu, even though I knew that these were the Hawaiian island and area least likely to interest me.

I am a churlish tourist who hates being with her own kind. For me, the best way to travel is to plant myself somewhere for a stretch of time and get a sense of what it would be like to live there. During this one week trip I did get a couple chances to escape the tourist centers where my hotel and meetings were sited, and venture into areas where people actually live.

HawaiiGraffiti12014-03-13 06.50.46

One dawn I walked east, away from the beach into a neighborhood of boxy tired apartment complexes. At 7 am everything was dark and closed except for the bus stops with folks headed away to work. I happened by a park with some amazing graffiti. Note that the white form is some kind of creature with a tail.

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I’d  heard about the fragrance of plumeria in Hawaii, and I adore the scent of the small, captive plant a friend somehow keeps alive in a container in his non-tropical garden. I was disappointed to discover that on Oahu, the plumeria are trees with blooms  too high to smell! (Turns out I should have bought a plumeria lei, to envelop myself with the scent as I went through my day.)

HawaiiPlumeriaTree2014-03-10 07.38.46

My last afternoon on Oahu, a Hawaiian coworker drove me around the eastern corner of the island. We stopped at a viewpoint with trails that could have taken us even higher up the mountain.

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A hang-glider happened by.

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From the viewpoint, I caught my first look at the north side of the island. After ogling the view, we headed down the hill, west and north, to lunch in a working class community nestled behind that beach.

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We stopped at a local hangout of a takeout restaurant.

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After ordering the barbeque chicken platter, we had lunch in the adjoining, semi-open-air dining room. There, between the walls and ceiling, dwell scruffy and bold pigeons who come out to forage for scraps. According to my local pal, pigeons are a new addition to the island, and they are quickly becoming a nuisance. (No. Really?) Over the last few years, the finches have disappeared from his bird feeders, crowded out by the pigeons. Turns out finches are plentiful in Hawaii. People trap the finches and sell them to pet stores. There is no market for pigeons.

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The dining area walls are painted with scriptures and lightning bolts.

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And the walls are covered with scriptural graffiti – Bible quotes in the handwriting of countless patrons.

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After lunch, we took the highway back to Honolulu. The mountains are actually the back rim of an ancient volcanic crater. The rest of the crater rim collapsed into the ocean, many thousands of years ago, in a massive landslide that created an enormous tsunami.

HawaiiCrater2014-03-14 14.21.59

The highway cuts through the mountains in a looooong tunnel. Here is the tunnel entrance

HawaiiTunnel2014-03-14 14.22.12

and this is the view upon exit.

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The area looks remote but is scant few miles and minutes from Honolulu’s congestion.

These glimpses of Oahu away from Waikiki Beach gave me a better understanding of why people so love these islands.

See? Churlish. I told you.

This is the third of three posts about my trip to Hawaii. I also blogged about the sights near Waikiki and a walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head.

PhotoTravelog: From Waikiki to Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

There are a lot of great scenes waiting for cameras in Hawaii as I learned when I visited the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time.  I made the trip for work, so I spent most of my time at the convention center, or near my hotel on Waikiki Beach. My last day there, I walked a few miles from my hotel to another set of meetings near Diamond Head, and took lots of photos.

That distant hill and point is Diamond Head. I took this photo from the harbor near my hotel on the afternoon of my arrival. I didn’t see any bugs in Hawaii but saw much evidence of their existence, such as in the trunk of this tree.

HawaiiDiamondHeadBugs2014-03-09 14.16.30

The walk to Diamond Head was the most ambitious excursion of my trip and most of it took me through spectacular scenery. in the distance is my goal, lit by dawn sunlight.

HawaiiDiamondHeadDawn2014-03-12 18.36.32

The banyan tree is a common sight on Oahu. Older trees have roots that grow up and add themselves to the trunk, creating a broad, ropey base, like this tree en route to Diamond Head.

 HawaiiBanyanTree2014-03-14 09.12.08

Whatever you do, don’t feed those …. um …. those…. Altered signs seem to be a trend here.

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 And then there are signs that promise other alterations. Why wait until dinner? I call this one cutting to the chase.

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I loved the rough surface of this jetty, which exists to protect tourists from slipping into the sea. It may be too close to the lunchtime happy hour  to succeed at all times, however.

HawaiiJetty2014-03-11 07.19.39

Now I’m on the Diamond Head side of my earlier photos, looking west and back toward the Waikiki Beach hotels.

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The road took me uphill through neighborhoods that reminded me of Santa Barbara, California. Only 9a but it was getting warm.

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I went past cliffside parks with trails down to the ocean, some of which were not safe to hike. Or anyway I think that’s what the sign was trying to tell me.

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There was an old lighthouse, now occupied by an island bigwig.

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Surfers in Hawaii have so many choices of places with great waves!

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During my week on Oahu, the weather fluctuated continuously although the temperature held to the high 70s, low 80s. Sunny then cloudy then drizzle then wind. Blasts of rain punctuated with balmy breeze. Humid then less humid then more humid again. Clouds from the north were always piled up against the mountains that stretch along the center of the island. I took this photo of the clouds and mountains from the glass elevator at my hotel.

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Here is a cloudy moment near Diamond Head.

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It came amidst the sunny moments like this one.

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This is the second of three posts about my trip to Hawaii.

I also blogged about the sights near Waikiki and glimpses of non-tourist Oahu.