Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Today's walk report: 123113

Final report, 2013.

Out a little early again today for two reasons. One I understand the behavior of a lot of people on a night like New Year's Eve and  two, I wanted to get home and relax for the coming of the new year. This morning I drove downtown and submitted paperwork ending another phase in the wonderful probate process in Los Angeles County. I actually got in and out of L.A. Superior Court quickly enough to only have to pay $5.50 of a $10 maximum for day parking at the lot I choose to park at. This has never happened before. It was called to my attention recently that a lot of people don't know what probate is about so in a nutshell...

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes:
  • proving in court that a deceased person's will is valid (usually a routine matter)
  • identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property
  • having the property appraised
  • paying debts and taxes, and
  • distributing the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there's no will) directs.
Not on that bullet list, it's a big pain in the ass but it wasn't enough of a pain in the ass for me to pay a lawyer to do it. The biggest problem is that process itself was essentially created by lawyers with their best interest in mind. So despite an independent Administration of Estate Act (IAEA) it appears to me things have been designed to confuse and intimidate the novice going in. This is something I've had to rise above.

The walk. I was out the door by 2:15. There were very few people out driving. In fact it was the same driving downtown today, it was like it was already a holiday--no traffic. In Los Angeles this always amazes us.

Onto the campus.

I think this is the same Anna's hummingbird I've been seeing lately, it's in the same spot as the 1st photo taken 122613. I got close enough this time to fill the the shadows from the palo verde tree that looms above and behind this Cesalpinia bush with the on board flash on my camera. This was a good reminder to do some tests with an old but decent Vivatar flash unit I have and that project is coming up this evening once I get myself cleaned up and over to the living room couch. The on board flash on most cameras is good for about nothing.

This is a turkey vulture above and seemingly challenging a red-tailed hawk for airspace. I had 5 birds of prey all coming in my direction in a circular pattern at the same time. I may have lost track of who's who watching through the lens. There may have been a Cooper's hawk in the mix. I was certainly spinning around in circles too.

This I'm almost positive is two red-tailed hawks.

Here's a closeup of that same lower red-tailed which circled directly over my head.

This, unfortunately, was the best shot I got of the turkey vulture. The second turkey vulture was way outside of the action zone.

That's it for 2013! I had a great 8.79 km walk on a beautiful day. On the way home I was already seeing some suspicious driving so I'm glad I'm not out amongst the holiday drinkers. Hopefully people are getting smarter about free Metro transit services here in L.A., and even free towing service from AAA. Please don't drink and drive. Happy new year and thanks again for joining me on my walks!

Today's walk report: 123013

The end is near.

2013 that is. It's been a wild ride too. I had a busy day yesterday and post walk, time to do this walk report thing, slid off my to do list. I slid onto the couch and watched concert videos from the 90s. Then I went to bed. Today's another day to move paperwork out of my hands and into the hands of Los Angeles County... that's what I did yesterday too.

The walk was nice yesterday but I was late getting out, missed good light for photos for the most part and walked away from the sunset. I just wanted to get home and relax. 7.39 km.

All the leaves are brown...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Today's walk report: 122913

Getting my birds straight.

This has been a challenge, the "birding" aspect of chronicling my walks. I have to admit to some laziness on this level but I have decided to get my act together and not jump to conclusions on identifying birds. Also, as stated at least once before, if you come across any of my photos, know these birds better than I do and would like to offer corrections I'm completely receptive to this. I already made two corrections I believe to now be accurate on yesterday's walk report.

Here's one of those again for today.

I'm sure now this "hawk" I ID'd yesterday is not a hawk at all. It's a falcon. All along I was having a problem with the dark streak offset by white coming down from the eyes but yesterday's images weren't nearly as clear as those taken today. For s second time I'm changing the ID on this. Pretty darn sure this time it's a Prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), this after continuing to question the size reference for what I had before which was a Merlin, Falco columbarius. That's another thing I find in a lot of online bird identification sites. They reference size relative from one similar bird to another but often don't give actual dimensions.

In flight the distinction becomes much more apparent for me. A red-tailed hawk would, for example, have its tail fanned. Also I'm pretty sure I have the under-wing pattern nailed down for a red-tailed hawk.

If birds could simply label themselves like so, things would be so much easier.

That's it for today. I got out a little earlier but walked the same 8.79 km as yesterday. It was a little rougher toward the last 2 km so I decided not to take on any more distance plus it was really windy toward the end. I could feel it pushing me back on the homestretch and I'm a fairly formidable opponent as people go.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Today's walk report: 122813

From my front door and beyond.

It was another one of those walks where I felt had I left earlier I could have spent a lot more time walking. I felt GREAT! Initially my plan was to leave about 2:30 but I didn't get out until 3:13. I woke up this morning with an eyestrain headache and by 1:30 it was nagging at me so much I decided to lie down on the couch, close my eyes and listen to music. Same thing that happened on 121613 but for different reasons, as soon as the stereo lost wireless I was out. I don't know if this is a bandwidth issue or Pandora just likes to cut you off sometimes to see if you're still there. Whatever the case, once the music was gone me and the cat on top of me were both sound asleep. I figure there was 40 minutes of music and 30 of nap time. As my mom would always say, well, you must've needed it.

2/3 a cup of coffee, 1/2 a liter of water and a rare ibuprofen later, I grabbed iPod and camera and was out the door. The headache was still haunting me but it would disappear about 1 km into the walk.

I'm starting to see some activity already from some of the wildflower seed I laid down in October and why not? The seedlings probably think spring is already here, we had a high of 84º yesterday and it topped out at 76º today. Hardly what most people would call winter weather.

Outside my door...

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

and I believe this is Alyssum Purple Royal Carpet (Lobularia maritima). Those seeds went down late last year and I never saw anything.

Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), it seems odd to me that this is only manifesting in one small area so far but I know little about the secret life of plants.

Onto the campus...

Merely an exercise in manually focusing.

Cooper's hawk having delusions of grandeur?

I continue to find it challenging to get a nice close-up of an American Kestral. My camera data here says I was 10.9 meters away which actually would be the closest I've gotten BUT I don't want to be looking so directly up, I'd like a nicer pose, I want better lighting and I'd like to capture the bird on something more "natural" than a lamppost.

These are the two crows I've mentioned before. These birds have known me for 3 years now. Crows in the wild can easily live into their 20s. This was where I'd almost always find them at the top of the hill close to sunset but lately there have been birds of prey hanging out in this same location. From this spot I walk a circle on the top of the hill. It's about 800 meters.

When I came back to the crow's spot look who I found. I now believe this is a Prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) but as always I welcome corrections, anyway, the crows were nowhere to be seen. Although I will also point out crows do not seem to be especially intimidated by hawks. See one challenge I probably diverted here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Today's walk report: 122613

Hawks and hummingbirds.

Yesterday I mentioned looking into the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society's monthly birding missions and that I'm not really the birding type and am mostly fond of birds of prey but that's not exactly true. I'm probably more fond of hummingbirds. The focus takes a different direction so it's hard to say. In general I think I have more fun watching hummingbirds but am perhaps more in awe of birds of prey. As far as picture taking goes, I'm inclined to say that any good photo opportunity with birds is highly welcome and sought after--except for really common birds like sparrows, pigeons, doves and crows. The Canadian geese also bore me now for the most part. I remember the 1st time I saw them here in this Valley though and I hopped in my car seeking them out.

This was in the early 80s. There are two oddities in this picture, one the geese mid-image for back then this was a 1st, at least it was for me but also the snow on the Santa Susana mountains. You just don't see that here very often. I don't believe I've seen it since but I haven't spend very much time here over the last 26 years or so.

Today I was losing light and walking fast, not because I wanted to get the walk over but because I felt really good and wanted to get as much distance in as I could before it started getting dark. I did, however, spend some time with this Anna's hummingbird trying to get between it and the setting sun... I never did. I have a lot of what I feel are good hummingbird photos, mostly from last year so I'm a bit hesitant to post new ones when they aren't up to par. But here you go...

Here's that same male Anna's catching flies. I don't typically see the flies when this is happening but I know that's what's going on. It's a good photo opportunity if you have good light, I obviously did not.

One more, same bird.

Here's another win a no-prize contest for you, how many starlings are in the tree. Submit your answer and you may be a the lucky winner of a fantastic no-prize!

I think this is the same red-tailed hawk I usually document here but it was getting dark and I didn't get a lot of detail (I'm 21.7 meters away.)

Yesterday was really windy. Today was also modestly windy at times. I wanted to show you something that might make this post from the 19th seem more significant. This is today, despite winds looking east toward the San Gabriel mountains. This is both dust and smog creating an orange filtered sky. So when it's clear like it was on the 121913, I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Today's walk report: 122313, Christmas, 2013

A Christmas day walk report, special edition.

Okay, probably not special other than going out at a special time, doing a longer than average walk and having some Christmas related images. Plus if I call it special it makes up for the no walk report yesterday, not even a report of no report until right now. Yesterday was cooking and last minute cleaning for a small get together, day before Christmas, smörgåsbord feast. There was so much food I didn't even have time to prepare some of what I had planned to make. I forgot to take a picture of the table too. It looked something like this, only different.

Anyway, once my guests had left and I got the kitchen partially back in order, which is about the same state it remains in now, almost 24 hours later, I was more than ready to vegetate on the couch for the remainder of the evening. I watch concert videos, about 2/3rds of a movie and crawled into bed about midnight. The fire in my fireplace had burned itself out hours earlier, there were ginger snap and pfeffernüsse cookies on the coffee table but alas no one came down the chimney leaving  me gifts.

A lazy morning with my constant companion, Lucy T. Cat and out the door before lunch, or breakfast for that matter, off for a walk by 12:30. 75º and winds up to 25 mph it wasn't what most people (including me) would call Christmas weather but it was nice, I didn't mind.

I started with about 1/4 of my Mon-Thus, southbound neighborhood walk, part of the infamous, "Candy Cane Lane" and then did my "full" campus walk... roughly 11 km in all.

Creepy. I question the people who like to do creepy. Sorry to judge but geez, it's for young children.

Close up of Chucky the Elf.

I'm not sure I get the Santa Claus pirate ship connection either.

Model T Santa, this I understand completely. I mean, chitty-chitty bang, bang was a flying car, then there was Flubber...

The mail carrier had to smile at least once over the past several days.

These people obviously like Mickey Mouse and company.

The way over the top we love Santa Claus house.

Sort of a Santa meets Tarzan kind of thing.

One of my favorite decorations, sparing no expense to make something of quality that really stands out.

Onto the campus.

I met this charming British couple who we out birding and we stopped to chat. She told me about a San Fernando Valley Audubon group that does monthly outings and I'm going to look into that. I have a fondness for birds of prey for some reason and I'm not sure I'm interested in much else, other than the photography side which I find to be rather solitary but I would be interested in the locations they visit and it would probably be good for me to meet some people.

Nobody's ever very excited about getting their picture taken (I got that <sigh>) but I think they look quite lovely.

Lots of Canada geese in the pastures and flying about.

CORRECTED, almost positive now this is a Prairie falcon. Part of my problem in ID'ing birds is I think I get quite a number of wrong IDs online.

Horse, fly.

Red-tailed hawk and contrail.

American Kestrel in flight... avoiding me... as always.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Today's walk report: 122313

Go for a walk or take a nap?

If it gets to the either/or position the walk always wins. If the question arises and there's time for both I'll squeeze the nap in or at least lie down, close my eyes and listen to some music. I don't typically get worn out tired but my eyes are. Usually this means too much time on the computer but it's also straining my eyes by leaving my computer glasses on and doing non-computer related stuff. It's easy enough to do. I go to great lengths with my ophthalmologist to make sure I have a wide range of focus for computer work--24" to 42". Absent mindlessly I might walk around with my glasses on because that range doesn't express out of focus eyestrain nearly as readily as reading glasses would. It's a bad habit. Little bad habits like this on going on my new year's resolutions list--nice manageable stuff I can put notes around the house for until I create new habits.

Today I was tired, all of me tired. I had a great deal of difficulty getting to sleep last night and just as much trouble waking and getting up. Then it was back to errands and housework preparing for tomorrow's pre-Christmas festivities. It's for the guests but it's mostly for me. When everything is said and done I'd like to relax, enjoy myself and also take some time to reflect on the year gone by, where I'm at and which direction I'd like to go. I think having the place clean will help with that. I'm almost always "neat," I'm not always that good on the clean side.

Anyway, I grabbed the iPod and my camera and took account of my condition again today, headed out the door and wound up with another 4km walk to the garden and back.

Just off the curb on my 2nd block. It says DOTCOW on the dress. I didn't notice the "press here" sticker or I would have.

The 3rd day of winter and while it's not like winter in the mid-west or the east you've still got plants knowing the time of year and dying back. These are all CA natives, mostly sages. I had the wrong lens for this but you get the idea, everything is pretty much brown.

Green lynx #1 is still hanging out. I didn't have my close-up attachment but don't believe her babies are still living at home. It was windy so excuse the focus please.

That's it, not very exciting but the walk was nice and fresh, about 72º out the door with a nice cool wind blowing all along the way. Alright, a late afternoon/early evening cup of coffee is in order while I work out my cooking game plan for tomorrow morning.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Today's walk report: 122213

Almost a "no walk" report.

But I did it. I thought, just walk a few blocks and see how it feels. For the most part it felt great and as usual it cleared my head some. Today was shopping at CostCo asap (they open 10 AM, I was in the door at 10:10) and come home for house cleaning. Serious cleaning and some yard work to boot. So that took its toll on my back and other parts. Then there was the TFL issue from yesterday. That hurt like a son of a motherless goat. I didn't want a repeat of that today so despite giving myself about 8 minutes a side with the Morfam massager I wasn't too sure it wasn't going flare up again. It took about 500 meters yesterday to start feeling pain. Going up the one decent hill I took which runs 320 meters I actually sped up, wanting to end the agony. I've said this before--more agony over less time seems to work for me.

Anyway, after close to an hour of saying no walk I grabbed my iPod and headed out the door. I walked to the garden and back which is slightly over 4km roundtrip. I could feel my TFL muscles wanting to bitch but I did OK.

This little late lunch I'm doing on the 24th. It's a family tradition. We always had a smörgåsbord on Christmas eve here growing up. Well always... I don't quite remember what they were before my dad was killed 2 months before my 5th birthday. What I think I remember could be fused between then and later Christmases but certainly the tradition started with my dad and my father's side of the family because that's where the Swede in me comes from. I also see this now after having connected with some family from my father's side via Facebook. They are doing the very same thing and shopping for the same scrumptious traditional eats and it's not at all a surprise. My mom once said to me that connections with my dad's side of the family were hard after my father was tragically killed in an auto accident. I even found letters written to my dad's family by my mom from years gone past but obviously they were never sent. I found a letter written for the 1st Christmas without my dad, never finished. I could see it was too hard for her to write. It was hard enough for me to read it. I understand this, in fact I understand it more now than ever. When my father died a big part of my mom was lost and never recovered.

In more recent years my sister continued the smörgåsbord tradition. Although last year festivities were here due to my mother's failing health and stamina. This is my 1st Christmas without my mom. Grief is an appropriate word to convey my feelings. I've found myself dealing with this by gradually taking special memories and sort of putting them on a shelf along side my grief to put that grief in its place. Here you go Mr. G I want you to sit next to some of the happiness from my childhood and adolescence and recalibrate. I'm going to take you down notch by notch. You've spent more than your fair share of time in this house and now it's time for you to take a second chair.

This is part of the reason I'm making a big deal out of cleaning and cooking and rekindling a sense of a personal and family connection for the day after tomorrow. Only a few people are coming over, my son, his love and a good old friend of some 40+ years. I don't believe in ghosts or an afterlife but I believe strongly in the here and now, friends, family and positive energy moving from the past into the present and overriding pain and ugliness from the darker side of life. We all see enough darkness. Turn on the light inside you whenever you can and share it with others even if it's only through a smile in passing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Today's walk report: 122113

"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." - Steven Wright

Well, I didn't have the time to walk into Los Angeles today and I couldn't have lugged home the two bags of groceries I bought if I had. Today I went to Olson's Scandinavian Deli which is about midway between the two neighborhoods I lived in from 1987 until I came back to my childhood home in the San Fernando Valley 2.5 years ago so I could take care of my parents. That would be midway between what is known as Windsor Square and what was always referred to as "adjacent Beverly Hills," ABH for short. Especially if you were looking for an apartment or house to rent the renters loved to call it that. Like ALMOST Beverly Hills. Yes, you've just about made it! You're so close!

Anyway both were nice neighborhoods and I felt a little homesick for both places. They yielded great walks for me too. And bicycle ride--insane bicycle rides that had me returning home sprinting against rush hour traffic on Sunset Blvd. from Whittier Dr. to N. Doheny Dr., if you're ever there at 5 PM think about it.

I took a couple of quick shots from the car of the 1st ABH apartment. I left this Valley to move here. There are only 3 units. Our apartment was the entire top floor behind the smaller front apartment. Two bedrooms, a walk in bar (which wasn't a good thing for me... ever), a nice balcony and a really large kitchen. The living room was split by French doors with the 1st 1/2 used almost exclusively as a photo studio.

We contemplated buying the place when it went up for sale. It's a rather sad story. Briefly, the owner had a clause in his will that his son could manage the building and live in the downstairs unit for as long as he wanted. However, he had AIDS and his health was waning rapidly about 6 months after we had moved in. Once he passed away his mother flew in on her broom and prepared to sell the buliding.

We moved here. That apartment was the 1st home to my son, this would be the next. Only 5 1/2 blocks away and even more ABH. We were the 1st house on the street south of Beverly Hills. That converted garage behind the house was our studio here.

My son's 1st birthday was at this house. Bigbird was the attraction. Unfortunately we had a lot of people in and out of this place and more than one housekeeper whose ethics I would question. The 1st video camera we had, the one with my son's first steps and that birthday party among other treasures was stolen from a bedroom closet. I guess I'll never forget that. Asshole.

From there we moved into "our" home or was it "her" home? Whatever you wanted to call it it was this place. It didn't have any of this overgrown sort of rampant landscaping. There was a cute little gate at the end of those steps and I had nursed 70 distinctly different rose bushes back to health when we 1st moved in. The roses were impressive after a years work bringing them back. The previous owner didn't give a shit about his home. Once again the garage became a studio and two blocks away on the famous Larchmont Blvd., a children's clothing store was converted into an Italian deli/market/restaurant named after my boy.

I ended up talking to my old neighbor at the house you see on the left when I went to take this picture. For years we were neighbors but for the life of me, I don't think I ever knew his name. He was always Nina and Michelle's dad. Anyway, we had a nice talk.

I had no idea I was going to write about this when I started. I don't expect anybody to be interested in any of this. I thought I was going to write about my walk. Which I also wouldn't expect anybody to be interested in. The point about driving into L.A. and seeing my old stomping grounds was going to lead into how much driving, sitting in a car for about 2 hours had influenced a 4.5 on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the worst, pain for the tensor fasciae latae muscles during the walk. That really sucked so I'm glad I wrote about this drivel instead.

Here's one thing from the walk though. Right in front of my house. I put down about 2 lb of wildflower seed in October and some stuff is already showing signs of flowering, alyssum especially. That's what I thought this was at 1st, a purple alyssum but now I'm not so sure. Interesting though with all the seed that went down there is only this one little spot of 6-8 flowers. The entire cluster isn't much bigger than a quarter.

EDIT: The purple flowers are a verbena I planted about 6 months ago. I thought they were a goner. I guess they like the new company coming in. I suddenly realized.