pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: August 2013

28 August 2013

Breakfast of champions

Orb weaver
(aka Big Orange Spider California)
Orange County, California
28 August 2013

This is a baby. She's really still quite small, and throughout the autumn, will grow several sizes larger. And likely oranger. I love these spiders because they're useful and beautiful and make amazing webs, although I need to remind myself not to go wandering in the garden at night this time of year because one tends to walk straight into the webs. At any given time, there are usually 6 or 7 in the back, 1 or 2 in the front and at least one where we store the garbage cans. That's the one I'm most likely to walk into.

A closer view:

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, Nikkor 1:1.8G lens, natural light. And now a word on my photos: I am an amateur photographer, a hobbyist. I photograph and publish what interests me, sometimes what I think looks nice, bits and pieces of my life. Sometimes other people like these things, too. I don't make any money on this blog. There is no advertising, no revenue stream.  I've gotten very aggressive about watermarking my photos because some people think it's ok to republish my photos elsewhere (usually ad-laden spam blogs) without attribution. That's copyright infringement, folks. It does not qualify as fair use, especially if you're making money off my work without my express permission to do so, even if you do include a link back to my blog. That said, if you see something you like and you'd like to purchase a photo without a watermark, feel free to contact me. If you wish to use one of my photos for educational purposes, you may also contact me and we'll see what we can arrange. I don't bite. Much.

21 August 2013

Back in the saddle

Santa Ana, California
21 August 2013

The daughter started her junior year of high school yesterday.

None of us are ready for this.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone 4. 

13 August 2013


Somewhere in more-or-less central California
8 August 2013

So, this is a spot I've been trying to talk the spouse into visiting for...oh, 25 or so years. For whatever reason, he didn't want to go, it wasn't convenient, whatever. In trying to talk me into this little jaunt, he used this place as bait.

And I took it.

You have to book a tour to get anywhere near the property, and the tours are not inexpensive. The actual building itself...well, "monument to bad taste" was what I whispered to my family as we exited. And in truth, I was rather appalled at exactly how accurate that sentiment was. As the daughter grumped about conspicuous consumption, I tried to be a bit more generous and commented that it could be called a completely uncurated museum. And that's also accurate. In any event, it certainly wasn't attractive. But hey, if that's how the previous century's 1% chose how to live, it's their buck.

Anyway, I was perfectly happy to get back out of doors. While I can't really say much nice about the interiors, I will say that the gardens are lovely. And I love gardens. As you can see, we were blessed with a beautiful day. It was warm and clear up on the hill top, while the ocean was amazingly blue and gorgeous in the distance. The fog hung in over the horizon for most of the continuation of our drive up to Monterey, rather than doing what it does best, which is spoiling perfectly nice days. So all in all, quite gorgeous.

No regrets in visiting the small part of the interior that I did see, but I can say decisively that that itch has been scratched.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. This site put me in mind of the Winchester Mystery House, though the endless changes and unfinished building stem from a different sort of mania, and also of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, in part because of the dim interiors; the heavy, unbeautiful furnishings, and all the bloody carved cherub faces.

12 August 2013

Scene from afternoon flight

Old Mission Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
7 August 2013

It sort of worked like this: last Monday night, I made reservations at two hotels up the coast. We packed a couple of bags, left the cat to visit with the vet, and got in the car. Mid-afternoon, we stopped in Santa Barbara (stretch legs, coffee, the necessaries), and I mentioned to the daughter that Karana (also known as Juana Maria or the Lone Woman of San Nicolas) from The Island of the Blue Dolphins was buried at the mission. So, of course, we had to go up to the mission.

It's at times like these when I realize what an amazing job I did of raising my children in almost total ignorance of the faith in which I was raised. They grew up with very strong moral values, and a bent toward charity, but little understanding of Catholicism and certainly no sense of the cultural aspects of being Catholic. So I tend to be put in the position of explaining things. Like saints. And religious orders. Burial rites. Church architecture. CYO basketball. I thought that I was doing them a favor in allowing them to choose religion rather than being browbeaten into accepting it.

I still believe that I made the right decision in that regard, but it makes me a little sad. They missed the bad parts of the highly religious upbringing to which I was subjected, but they also missed the good.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone 4. And really, you should have been there when I tried to explain St. Blaise and the Blessing of the Throats to the daughter.

09 August 2013


California ground squirrel
Central California Coast
8 August 2013

In the end, we managed to escape for a couple of days and wander up the California coast. For as brief a trip as it was, it felt like a marathon. We're all more exhausted than when we left.

However, no one can say that I didn't plan a vacation this year.  It's not my fault that the summer turned out to be as wacky as it was.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40 plus telephoto. My blog is beginning to resemble Animal Planet.

05 August 2013

Blue bear

Convention Center (with visitor)
Denver, Colorado
2 August 2013

Probably anyone who has been near the convention center has photographed this appealing (and odd) bear. So I don't think my photo is anything unique, though the bear amused us mightily.

I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I'm not, in the main because this summer has been so...difficult. The daughter and son both were left completely exhausted by their respective school years, and evidently I was, too, because once the girl had finished for the summer, I had a dream that the daughter had just finished her junior year, and I was sitting in my car, staring out over a road, thinking, "I only have to make this drive for one more year." And in the dream, I started to cry with sheer relief.

That, my friends, is stress talking. Along with the sad knowledge that I still have to make that drive for two more years since she's just starting her junior year in two weeks.

(The idea that there is only two more years of this is almost overwhelming. People keep asking me if I'll be sad to have an empty nest, and I look at them like they're crazy and say, "NO." I love my children, absolutely dearly, and my family is more important to me than almost anything, but the prospect of no more school, tests, back to school nights, school obligations, college applications...gods, the prospect. It almost smells like freedom. I won't let the door hit me as I run out of it.)


Anyway, I have plenty on my plate for the next several months. But freedom will come in a small way when I fly back to DC in mid-October (parents weekend...useful this year because I have to navigate the vagaries of semester abroad for the boy. You see?) which will mean some responsible meeting attendance but also some time to myself in a city that makes me happy. Away from my video-game afternoon high school pick up, which the lucky spouse will get to take on.

(Do you have any idea how often I also have to do morning drop-off because he's out of town? OFTEN.)

So what does all this have to do with a blue bear in Denver?

I'll be busting out again in October. And that makes me happy.

Which is enough.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

04 August 2013


Guggenheim Hall
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colorado
2 August 2013

After we saw Rush in Austin in April, D. and I decided we'd need to see them at least once more before the tour ended. I was able to manage the Baltimore show because of the serendipitous alignment of the planets and the son's need to pack up his dorm room at Georgetown but her schedule didn't allow for it. Ultimately, we decided that Denver worked out best in terms of proximity and availability and time frame. So it was a date.

Not long after we decided on this plan, the daughter asked if she might be allowed to go with us because it sounded like we had so much fun when we embarked on these mad sojourns.

(We do. Oh, we do.)

I checked with D. and she cheerfully agreed and the daughter was in. It was just a matter of getting to August.

And life got crazy as it is wont to do.

The daughter is now of the age where college planning is coming into play. She sat the PSAT as a sophomore primarily for the practice, but colleges took note of her scores and her interest in science, and she began getting lots of informational mail. Colorado School of Mines was one of the places that sent her mail and email, and since we were going to be in Denver, it seemed to make sense that we should visit.

(Of course, it didn't make sense in so many ways, but hey, I'm always game for an adventure. Or what is more properly called bringing insanity and chaos into my life.)

In any event, we flew into Denver Thursday afternoon, and after an evening of jollity with D., the daughter and I  had to get up at dawn to catch a bus, a train and another bus to arrive at Mines in time for her appointed tour. None of this really took terribly long (I did my research! And I'm pretty adept at using public transport. I also know how to ask questions, which I did with gusto), and we arrived in good order.

It's a pretty campus and it was a gorgeous day as evidenced by the photo. We proceeded through the tour and information session and then found our way back to the train station, and eventually got back to Denver in time to meet D. for lunch.

After running for trains and buses, and climbing many stairs and hills, the daughter was tired and I was aching. We went back to the hotel to rest a bit and clean up before going to the show.

(And yes, I had my cane with me, but I have a strong aversion to actually using it. It gets conveniently left in the suitcase more often than not, and I frequently live to regret that bit of pride. I have a hell of a time with stairs and crowds cause me anxiety because I can't reliably depend on keeping my balance. Falling over in front of an audience is embarrassing. And I simply can't stand for long periods. Still, I'm not one to live life as a bystander, so at least for the concert, I let common sense have the upper hand, and took the cane.)

That night, when we'd gotten to our seats, the daughter's sense of excitement was palpable. She'd been to concerts but now she was playing with the big girls.

Three hours of pure joy. We sang and danced and soaked up that beautiful noise. The daughter linked her arms with mine and leaned her head against my shoulder and sighed with happiness.

As for me, there I was with my daughter and one of my dearest friends and my favorite band.


Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

02 August 2013

From a hotel window: Denver

Denver, Colorado
2 August 2013

A good deal of my life takes place at the crack of dawn. This day was no exception.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

01 August 2013

I won't even tell you what Deb sees here

Hotel drapery
Denver, Colorado
1 August 2013