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2022 February 25

Shakespeare cookies again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:56
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I last baked Shakespeare cookies almost 18 months ago (Shakespeare cookies (whole wheat)).  I lost the cookie cutters for over a year and found them again this month (precisely where they were supposed to be—I don’t know why I hadn’t been able to find them the last time I looked).

I made some more today using my standard shortbread recipe:

½ cup butter
1 cup pastry flour
¼ cup powdered sugar

Sift the flour and sugar together.  Soften butter slightly in microwave, beat into flour-sugar mixture with a fork, and shape the dough into a smooth ball by hand. (I did not soften the butter in the microwave this time, which caused me problems—the dough would not stick together. It took a lot of working it with my hands to get the butter soft enough to hold the flour together, and then it started sticking to the rolling pin. The room temperature is lower than the summer-time cookies I made in the past, which probably increased the problem.)

On a silicone baking sheet, roll out dough to 6mm thick (using cookie sticks to set the thickness).  Cut the cookie outlines and remove dough between cookies.  Stamp the facial features. Put silicone sheet on an aluminum baking sheet. Bake at 300°F for about 60 minutes.

I made 9 cookies with this recipe (plus a little bit left over to make a small rectangular cookie).  The recipe has 480 calories for the flour, 810 for the butter, and 120 for the sugar, totaling 1410 calories, which comes to about 150 calories per cookie.


These are the best-looking 3 of the cookies.

What prompted this indulgence in shortbread is that Santa Cruz Shakespeare is having a “Wireside Chat” tonight (a benefit for the more generous donors), where we’ll discuss “The Life and Death of King John”, which has been performed in three Zoom installments, ending yesterday. Because this Zoom chat will have live cameras, I’ll want to have something to show in the background!

2022 February 20

Secret Walks: Murals

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:30
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On Saturday 12 Feb 2022, my wife and I took a more urban walk, to see some of the “Sea Walls” murals that we had not seen yet. We based our route on the map from their website:


Click the map for a higher-resolution image. Copied from, which provides a higher-resolution printable image.

We decided to skip murals 1 and 2 on the Westside and 18 and 19 that aren’t in the city at all, and concentrate on getting to 16 and 17 on the Eastside.  It turned out to be about 2.8 miles there (going out Water Street with a detour to see the mural at Lenz Arts, and 3.2 miles back (with a detour to Bookshop Santa Cruz and to photograph mural 10, which is usually blocked by a parked bus).  I only took photos of about 8 of the Sea Walls murals, as I’d visited and taken pictures of most of the downtown ones already (see, for example, Secret Walks: Downtown and Secret Walks: Branciforte-Delaveaga). I did take photos of some of the other murals along the way—Santa Cruz has quite a few murals now, and there does not seem to be a comprehensive map or photo guide to them all.

The map on the Sea Walls site does seem to have one error—murals 16 and 17 are not at 1827 Soquel, but next door at 1913 Soquel (which is still part of Community Printers).


On the way down Water Street, we saw (and heard) a lot of bees on the wild radish, so I had to stop to try to get some pictures—this is probably the best of the photos.


The electrical boxes in front of Lenz Arts are appropriately painted.


The mural on the side of Lenz Arts, Protect Our Oceans, by Jimbo Phillips, is boldy colored, though the photo with the mural in the shade doesn’t quite do it justice.


Here is detail from the mural on Lenz Arts.


This dragon mural is on a new gallery at 124 Front—unfortunately, I did not memorize the name of the gallery, and Google Maps does not have it labeled yet (nor could I find it with various searches).


The front of the gallery is covered with not-very-sublimal messages to “Buy Art”.


This mural is on the side of Hot Rod Alley Tattoo.


The bees on this electrical box point to the otherwise well-hidden pedestrian-crossing button.


This electrical box looks more appropriate for the farmers’ market than for Water Street.


Another nicely painted electrical box.


The front of the electrical box shows the lighthouse that holds the surfing museum. The artist is the same as the one who did the Lenz Arts mural.


Barrios Unidos has a mural of Cesar Chavez, a natural association for them.


Hannah Eddy’s “Protect What You Love” is a little hard to view from the narrow alley it is on.


You can get a better view of the top half from the parking lot next door.


The Guardian of the Galaxy mural is a little hard to see behind the parking line. Both this mural and the previous one are on 1913 Soquel Ave. (not 1827 Soquel as the map claims).


The Staff of Life grocery store has a rather bucolic scene that does not really represent local agriculture.


The electrical box by Staff of Life has an appropriate theme.


Bill’s Wheels Skateshop has several murals surrounding their parking lot.


The back part of the mural on the side of the building.


The back of Bill’s Wheels.


Across the parking lot at the back.


Across the parking lot at the front.


The pedestrian alley next to Midtown Surf Shop and Coffee has three murals. This one is at the front.


The second mural on the alley.


The third mural on the alley—I had to paste this one together from two photos, as the alley is too narrow to get the whole thing in one shot, even with the widest angle the camera permits.


Across the street, Clay Creation has an appropriate mural on their pedestrian alley also.


Though they have clearly been here for a long time, I’d never previously noticed the sculptures outside this dental office.


As Above–So Below is on the side of York Framing.


From the Mountains to the Sea, Keep Our Waters Plastic Free is on the back of York Framing.


The bottlebrush bushes are blooming this time of year.


I had never noticed these I-beams in the river by the Soquel Avenue bridge before—the water level was quite low, so they may usually be submerged.


The sediment on the river bottom made some interesting patterns.


I’ve not previously been able to get a photo of this mural “Beyond Boundaries” before, as there is almost always a long, articulated bus parked in front of it. (I only had about two minutes from when I took this picture until a bus parked there.)

My “Secret Walks” blog posts have been running about a week behind, because it takes me so long to select photos from the far-too-many that I take, and then prepare them for the blog. I always crop and downsample, so that the images are appropriately sized for viewing on a laptop, and I also adjust the lighting and (usually) do a little sharpening. The new camera seems to wash out the colors a bit on the autoexposure (slight overexposure), so I’m fixing that in Photoshop Elements, but I’d like to figure how to set up the camera to get better exposure in the first place. I’ll try to work on yesterday’s walk earlier this week, to try to catch up.

2022 February 18

No PVC while exercising

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:44
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In PVC: Premature Ventricular Contraction, PVC and pulse, and PVC again I posted some ECG recordings of my heart to show the premature ventricular complexes.

This week, I built a new ECG amplifier with a lower gain (especially on the first stage), with the voltage reference in the middle of the voltage range, and with a somewhat higher corner frequency for the high-pass filter, so that I would not clip the signals, even if there were fairly substantial movement artifacts.   I’m not going to provide that design here, as the design is still a lab in my textbook (and I have caught students copying not-so-great designs from earlier blog posts, without understanding what they were copying).

I also used longer wires to connect to the electrodes, so that I could sit upright on my bicycle ergometer without pulling the amplifier off the book rest on the handlebars. Because I was just recording Lead I (left arm minus right arm), I put the body-bias electrode on my sternum, halfway between the other electrodes, rather than as a left-leg electrode, so that I could keep the wires bundled together better.  This seemed to work fine for recording Lead I.

I recorded the ECG signal both resting (sitting at a table) and exercising, but I did not use the optical pulse monitor. The exercise session started out with me sitting still on the ergometer, then pedaling at about 70rpm with a resistance of about 30 N•m (about 220W).

I modified the software to report the instantaneous beats per minute (based on 6 periods):


The resting heart rate shows some fluctuation, which seems to be at lest partially due to PVCs disrupting the normal rhythm, but the normal sinus beats are a bit irregular also. The exercise shows a smooth increase from about 60bpm to 148bpm, then a gradual recovery as I stopped pedaling. The two big upward spikes and the big downward spike are places where they simple spike detector I was using either caught an extra spike or missed a spike. I looked at the bandpass-filtered signal in those places, and I did not see an easy way to improve the spike detector.


The resting recording was similar to my previous ones, showing an average heart rate of 49.5bpm, with 156 normal spikes and 53 PVCs, for a PVC burden of 25.9%. 

The exercise recording showed very few PVCs (only 4)—and those at the beginning and end of the recording, when I was not exercising.   My average heart rate was 113.5bpm, with 601 normal spikes and 4 PVCs, for a PVC burden of 0.6%.  It looks to me like normal sinus beats prevent the PVCs, and I only get PVCs when my sinus rhythm drops way down—as if my heart was trying to compensate for inadequate pacemaking at the sinoatrial node.


The averages for the normal ECG recordings are fairly similar, thought the T-wave seems to be smaller and earlier in the exercise recording. The exercise PVC average is only averaging 4 spikes, and so is very noisy. It is not clear to me whether the slightly earlier T-wave is meaningful here—though it does seem to correspond with the earlier time when exercising for the normal T-wave.

Also this week I contacted  Dr. Gregory M. Marcus at UCSF, who wrote Evaluation and Management of Premature Ventricular Complexes by , Circulation. 2020;141:1404–1418 I asked whether there were any more recent articles about risk for people in my circumstances (normal left-ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), no symptoms, >10% burden) and whether there was any information about people who developed PVCs after having sinus bradycardia.  He told me that he knew of no newer material and no known connection between extant sinus bradycardia and PVC burden.  He just repeated the suggestion to get an echocardiogram annually and not be otherwise treated until something changes. 

Now that I know that my PVCs decrease when I exercise, I went looking for papers that might make sense of that.  I found  “Significant reduction in the density of premature ventricular complex with ß-blocker medication in fast rate-dependent premature ventricular complex” by Park, Y.M., Kim, C.Y., Seo, J. et al.  Int J Arrhythm 21, 20 (2020)., in which they categorized PVC patients into 3 groups: those whose rate of PVCs went up with heart rate (fast rate-dependent PVC), those whose PVCs went down with heart rate (slow rate-dependent PVC), and those whose PVCs seemed independent of heart rate.  I believe that I fall into the second group, though I’ve not worn a 24-hour Holter monitor to determine this the way they did.  The take-away from the article is that it probably would not do any good for me to take beta-blockers (which I wasn’t planning to do anyway).

Aside: I found it rather amusing that the article in the International Journal of Arrhythmia used the wrong character for β-blockers, referring to them as ß-blockers (using the German Esszett character instead of the Greek lower-case beta). I don’t fault the authors (who were all Korean), but the reviewers and copy-editors of the journal, who should have caught the error.

2022 February 16

February tomatoes

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 07:54

I posted about my tomato plants in November, December, and January, surprised about them hanging on so long.  Here are my February tomatoes, after a week of unusually high temperatures:


We still have a lot of flowers on this plant.


This plant has fewer flowers, but the fruit was ripe—we ate the cherry tomatoes on Valentine’s Day!

The weather has been very warm and dry—after a wet December we’ve had almost no rain in January or February.  The temperature got over 80°F (27°C) twice last week, which is much warmer than our usual winter highs of 65°F (18°C).  The wet December means that the city’s reservoir is at 85% of capacity, but we really need quite a bit more rain to fill it. The river flow is down to 39.2 cubic feet/second, way below the 25%ile level of 55 cubic feet/second (median 144, mean 313).  We’re not quite a record-breaking low river levels (the drought in 1991 got us down to 4.6 cubic feet/second), but we’re down to levels that we don’t usually see until the rainy season has ended.

2022 February 13

Secret Walks: Arboretum

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:28
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On Saturday 5 Feb 2022, my wife and I walked up to the UCSC Arboretum, because the protea and banksia should be in bloom this time of year. The total walk was about 4.7 miles—1.8 miles there, 1.9 miles back, and about a mile within the arboretum.


Willow catkins on the way up the Bay Drive walkway.


Pineapple sage on the Bay Drive Walkway.


Pigeons on the Barn Theater.


Zooming in on the pigeons. The ultrazoom camera does let me get much better pictures of birds.


The texture of the layered bark here is rather extreme.


These yellow flowers are at the entrance to the arboretum.


There seemed to be fewer protea plants than a few years ago, and they were mostly pretty small, but this pink ice protea was doing well.


This incense cedar is the tree that shelters the Herm Aphrodite sculpture.


I’m not sure what sort of flower this is—I did not keep notes.


The orange flowers on this bush in the South African garden was very showy—you can see one of the small protea plants in the background.


The flowering aloe plants were more interesting shapes than the ones we usually see around town.


Another flowering aloe.


Another unidentified flower.


Another protea.


I forget the name of this pair of yellow flowers also.


Another protea—I like this variety better than the pink ice.


There were a lot of hairpin banksia blooming in the Australian garden.


I’m not sure what theses seeds are from, but they made an interesting texture.


I liked the way the branches of this pair of eucalyptus trees broke up the sky.


More hairpin banksia. I think that they look more like hair curlers rather than hairpins.


Yet another.


The banksia pods are often very interesting shapes also.


Yet another variety of hairpin banksia.


I think this was also a type of banksia, but I’m not sure (no notes).


The bees certainly liked these flowers.


These banksia were huge and soft—like oversize feather dusters.


This combination of banksia and pod would make a good flower arrangement.


Another banksia.


Some sort of bottlebrush bush.


On the way out, I took a picture of this purple flower by the entrance.


These orange flowers are also right by the entrance.


We went home via Western Drive, which still has this marvelous spider garden sculpture.


Some one discarded these devil horns on the still set up Christmas display at the corner of Bay and Escalona.


We saw a bird at the top of a tall redwood on Escalona—I managed to get a photo of it before it flew away, but the autofocus does not seem quite as good as I’d like. Still, there is no way I could have gotten even this much of a picture with my old camera—the hawk would have been just a few pixels high.

Overall, the visit to the Arboretum was worth the time and the money ($10/adult). Though I was a little disappointed at how few protea there were this year, the banksia more than made up for it.

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