September 2016

The Rest of the Riverside

It will be an awesome responsibility in November to select the candidate by whom i want my country to be destroyed.


Back in August, i posted a photo essay on the flora along the riverbank near my apartment using pics i’d taken in the late winter and spring.  I’ll finish that now with summer and fall photos.

Let’s start with some blooming grass.

blooming grass


Some golf-ball-size peaches growing half wild at the edge of the Payran Street pumping station in mid-June.

Payran Street peaches


When they ripened in early July, still the size of golf balls, I made a chutney.

Petaluma River peaches


I included in the August photoessay a shot of these plums hanging over the flood wall when they were still green.  At this point in mid-June they were ripe enough to make a chutney, and a couple of weeks later i made two batches of jam.

Floodwall plums


In that earlier river post, i included a shot of the blackberry vines hanging over the flood wall covered in blossoms.  Here they are with the first fruit on them.  I made several batches of blackberry jelly with these throughout the summer and then turned out a crisp with the last of ’em in September.

Petaluma River blackberries


The banks of the river are thick with fennel, and by mid-August it was all blooming.

Petaluma River fennel


Here’s the foot of the Lynch Creek Train bordered in fennel.  Smells great!

Lynch Creek Trail fennel


And the path along the flood wall taken from the Payran Street Bridge.



The little aspen grove at the Payran Street pumping station parklet.

Payran Street pumping station aspens


The raging torrent of Lynch Creek in late September.

Lynch Creek pouring into the Petaluma River


A Sequoia sempervirens planted outside my apartment complex when it was built in 1984.  They grow fast when they’re young.

Sequoia sempervirens on the Petaluma River


And finally, an oak tree on the riverbank beside one of the complex’s playgrounds.  There are twenty oak species native to California, but as best i can determine, the ones planted here are Quercus kelloggii.

Quercus kelloggii?


And finally, here’s yer damn flower shot.

flower shot

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snowden Festival

Gonna have to get me a pair of those frameless rectangular Snowden-style eyeglasses.


Last Friday was a great Snowden Festival.

In the morning, i watched Laura Poitras’ 2014 documentary Citizenfour.  In the afternoon, i saw Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie Snowden.

Didn’t really learn anything from either film since i’ve been an avid follower of Snowdeniana since the shit hit the fan in June 2013 and have read countless articles on him and watched clips of several of his Moscow interviews.

The movie was fluffed up what with all the focus on Snowden’s relationship with his girlfriend (who’s now living with him in Moscow) and that silly bit with the Rubik’s cube at the end.  But still, there was one brief moment that was worth the price of admission:  the movie included a video clip of James Clapper’s infamous lie to the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, 2013 in which he denied that the NSA was collecting information on Americans.  I’d read all about this, but had not had the pleasure of seeing him sit there squirming as he lied.

But on March 12, there was no evidence that Clapper was lying.  Oh no, that didn’t come until the following June when the Washington Post printed the first batch of Snowden’s purloined NSA files and, for the first time in the history of the agency, made it impossible for it to lie its way out of claims made by whistleblowers and the questions of congressmen.

Which left poor Clapper sitting there with his lies fresh in everyone’s memory, so he came up a few days later with his hilarious “least untruthful” defense, leaving many of us to wonder whether if saying “No” when the truthful answer was “Yes” was the “least untruthful” answer, what the most untruthful answer might have been.

The Post was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its revelations, and i do have to applaud it for waiting a decent time after getting the Pulitzer to call for the drawing and quartering on the White House lawn of the man who’d made its prize possible.

Do we live in ironic times or what?  Ummm, naw, that’s not irony but rather just plain hypocrisy.  Click on this link to Glenn Greenwald’s  breathtaking article skewering the Post in The Intercept.


Meanwhile, on another front our loathsome candidates for President seem to be focusing their campaigns on exposing each other’s reptilian behavior.  I call on one of my artist friends to create a graphic showing them facing each other with snake tongues extended.

Image copied from


And to be objective, i do have to point out that Trump is way ahead in the Greatest Liar competition.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Responses

Der Segelflugzeugverein

It’s only a few weeks now until we have to submit our tear-stained ballots.


A memory bubble from my life in the mid-sixties when i was stationed in Germany in the army: the German sports clubs.

When i got off the troop ship in Bremerhaven in September 1964 i already understood that my posting to Germany was an opportunity to perform my duties at an exemplary level and reflect credit upon my family, teachers, ethnicity, religion, home town, state, and country.   I also figured this was my chance to see Europe and learn more about Germany and the Germans.  Toward the furtherance of the latter goal, one of my cabin mates had given me introductory German lessons, starting with German pronunciation, counting, a set of useful phrases, and some essential beginning vocabulary.  So i hit the ground running.

And after i got settled into the BOQ in Frankfurt, my neighbor advised me that an excellent way to meet Germans was to join a German club, the Germans being so big on clubs that they had one for every human activity, so just pick something i was interested in.  He must have mentioned sports clubs, which made me think of table tennis, and he put me in contact with a Tischtennisverien that met Wednesday nights in the gymnasium of a public school.

They were happy to accept an American GI as a member and i joined the following week.

I fancied myself a good player, so when i got there i was modestly thinking that i’d probably rank somewhere in the middle.  It came as a great shock that i was near the bottom and could beat only a couple of the girls.  Omigod, these people are serious!

But they took me in hand and patiently taught me.  See, that was part of the Gestalt:  the better players had the obligation to play and teach their inferiors.  This didn’t mean that i got to play any of the good ones since they were too far out of my league, but those in the lower end of the rankings, grateful that my joining had boosted them all up one notch, pitched in willingly and my game improved significantly.  Actually, it improved enough that when i returned to Lubbock for graduate school two years later, i was one of the better players in town.

The club was also a great social outlet, a lot of fun, and an opportunity to learn and practice German.

Shortly after i was transferred to Heidelberg, a sailplaning club (Segelflugzeugverein) that flew on Saturdays from a grass field near Schwetzingen put out notice that it was accepting American members, and since i’d been interested in this sport for years, i joined.

Omigod.  It was fascinating.  And much different than i’d imagined.  In the first place, the only kind of launch i’d ever heard of was by airplane tow, but in German sailplaning clubs the launch was virtually always by cable.

My club owned an old VW bus from which the body had been removed.  They mounted on the chassis an American Chrysler V-8 engine to power a high speed winch around which was wrapped about a kilometer’s worth of steel cable.  They also owned an old VW bug which was used to unspool the cable across the field to the launch site, where it was attached to the nose of the sailplane.

Meanwhile, the occupant(s) of the plane had boarded and fastened themselves into position while a member had stationed himself at the end of each wing to hold it up.

They used an old Bundeswehr field telephone to tell the winch operator when it was time to rev up the engine and engage the winch.  At which point the men at the ends of the wings had time to walk one step and run two steps before the plane was pulled out of their grasp and launched into the air like a kite, a thrilling, at very least, experience for someone who’d never had it.

When the plane reached maximum altitude, the pilot pulled a lever to release the cable, and you were free, free, free at last to soar like a bird while the pilot allowed you to take the student controls and taught you how to make rudimentary flight adjustments.  Then he took the controls and demonstrated some of the capabilities of the craft before he brought it around back to the landing strip much too high so that he could end the demonstration with dramatic slip to lose altitude, an essential sailplaning technique since you can’t just point the nose down if you’re too high because you’ll gain too much airspeed.

For the neophytes, i’ll explain that a slip consists of applying hard aileron on one side and hard rudder on the other, which causes the plane to immediately turn sideways in mid-air and fall like a stone.  When you’ve lost as much altitude as you want, all you have to do is reverse the aileron and rudder to flip yourself back level and glide smoothly to your landing.  By the time the sailplane has skidded to a stop, your passenger will usually have regained consciousness.

After i got some color back into my face, i loved it.  Actually, my only disappointment was that i’d somehow imagined that flying in a sailplane would be totally silent, but the wind rushing past the cockpit was surprisingly loud.

Alas, after a month it sank in that participating in the club was an every weekend activity and that i had the choice of continuing in it with the possibility of returning to America with a German sailplaning license that was golden in this country but which i’d not be able to use for the foreseeable future, sailplaning in America not being government subsidized as it was in Germany.  Or, i could spend my weekends exploring Germany and learning more than just sailplaning.

So that was the end of my sailplaning, but oh, what memories of circling over the Rhine, seeking thermals.

Meanwhile, to further the aviation theme, a cute little Marine at the Petaluma airport.

Marine plane, Petaluma airport



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

Drawbridge Breakthrough

Well, yes, we have a drawbridge breakthrough.

In the first place, i finally managed to get shots of the D Street Bridge opening and added them to my Bridges of the Petaluma photo essay.

And then, just this morning, Christian posted to Youtube his video of the NWP drawbridge at the mouth of the Petaluma River opening and a train roaring over it, and i added a link to this video to the photo essay.  The previous link i’d posted required that you sign up for Dropbox, which i just hated.  Now anybody can see it without signing up for nothing.  Ta da.

Meanwhile, here’s a still shot of the D Street Bridge open.

D Street Bridge in Petaluma

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barn Swallows Revisited

Don’t we just love the Guardian! “A maroon and gold fish discovered off Hawaii has been named after Obama in tribute – a worthy honor when you consider that George W Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney have to share their names with two species of slime-mold beetles.”


I’ve written before about my delight in the barn swallow pair who built a nest in the eaves of my patio and raised a chick (Hirundo mattegrayi).

Well, they demonstrated that my patio was an excellent place to raise a family, so another pair built their own nest a couple of feet to the right of the first one.

Barn Swallow nests


And hatched a couple of chicks.

Barn Swallow chicks


Who grew rapidly.

Barn Swallow chicks


Until finally, after a good deal of sitting beside the nest and flapping their wings experimentally, they both flew.  The first landed on the patio fence.

Barn Swallow chick


The second alit on the ledge above the kitchen window.

Barn Swallow chick


And both flew away…and then realized that if they flew back to roost beside the nest, their loving parents would continue to bring bugs to them.

Barn Swallow chicks


Now they sleep every night snuggled up beside the nest and sometimes roost together on the light fixture.

The fringe benefit, and it’s for me, is that they’ve been seeing me on the patio all their lives and are even less perturbed by my presence than their parents, so i can get right up in their faces without their flying away.  I feel like a surrogate grandfather.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses