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2021 December 26

Christmas tree 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:27
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We have used live Christmas trees for a long time (see the 2015 version), but in 2018 the one we were using was getting too big for its pot and was as heavy as we could get up the stairs, so we put a “free” sign on it and left it by the sidewalk—it was gone within a week.  My wife found a new live tree in a tiny pot that someone else had left out for free, which we have used ever since (see the 2019 decoration of the tiny tree).

The tree has grown a bit, and the pot and tree now weighs something like 60 pounds—I can still lift it by myself onto the table, but if I have to repot it, it will get too heavy for that.  We used a somewhat unusual tree topper this year.


Here is the whole tree, in a much larger pot than in 2019.


The tree topper is a Buddha’s hand fruit from the New Leaf grocery store.


Here is the tree topper from the other side.

2021 December 23

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:41
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On Saturday 18 December, my wife and I  walked the Wilder Ranch walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. The walk is 3.2 miles, but we added 1.6 miles to get to the start and 2.0 miles to get home, for a total of 6.8 miles.  The walk back was longer, because we stopped to get groceries at New Leaf on the way.


I showed this industrial building in an earlier post—the graffiti has been added to since then.


Across Highway 1 a herd of cows were grazing on the newly green grass—this one stood on the top of the cliff and looked like it was contemplating jumping. I apologize for the low quality of the image—digital zoom is useless.


The horse ranch and surrounding fields are for sale (214 acres for $30 million).


This tall plant (an agave?) has a nice silhouette.


The pasture at Wilder Ranch is unusually green, thanks to the early rainfall this year.


Some of the old farm equipment at Wilder Ranch is just left outside to rust.


But some is carefully displayed under a roof—still subject to rust, but not quite as quickly.


The driveshaft and pulleys in the machine shop make a pleasant abstract image—I think I’ll add a higher-resolution version of this to my Zoom backgrounds. The power is coming diagonally up from a Pelton wheel off the bottom right of the image. The Pelton wheel is no longer connected to plumbing, so the entire machine shop is a static display.


The drill press is a particularly elegant piece of machinery. There is also a wood lathe and a number of grinding wheels.


The blooming aloe was quite attractive to birds, but I was unable to get a clear picture of any of the birds, despite several attempts. Later in the walk, I failed to get a usable picture of soaring turkey vultures.


The aloe plants have tunnels through them large enough for kids to crawl through.


This multi-trunk tree is one of my wife’s favorite things at Wilder Ranch.


The multi-trunk tree clearly had some beetles that a woodpecker was trying to get.


The fields that used to be all brussels sprouts were planted with pumpkins this year. Most of the brussels sprouts in the US come from San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties—it seems a shame to plant the much more common pumpkins instead.


On the way back, I photographed this sewage spill from the leachate line from the city dump, just a little west of Shaffer Road. I’ll be sending this photo to the City.

I tried taking a number of pictures of birds on this walk, but none of them came out well. I really have to get a new camera soon, as the cell phone doesn’t really do the job (despite being easy to carry).

We had a good lunch (panini) at 11th Hour Cafe, which replaces Kelly’s Bakery, then went to New Leaf for grocery shopping.

Secret Walks: Metro Center-Ocean View

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On Saturday 11 December, my wife and I  walked the Metro Center-Ocean View walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. The walk is 3.7 miles, but we added 2.4 miles getting to and from the official walk, plus 0.1 mile for a side trip to the Buttery, for a total of 6.2 miles.


The gingko leaves seem to have a more synchronized fall than many of the trees here, covering the pavement with a colorful carpet.


The water level in the river was extremely low—a very stark contrast to a few days later, when water rose to flood the homeless encampment visible in the background. (Allowing the homeless encampment between the levees during rainy season never made any sense.)


The mallards enjoy the duck pond in San Lorenzo Park.


Cork oaks are not native to California, but they seem to do well here, and they have beautiful bark.


The mural on the Starbucks is new (but the whole building here is fairly new).


The mosaic on the Chase bank building is pointed out in the book, but it seems rather awkwardly composed to me.


The stained glass inside the bank is a little more interesting.


I was rather amused by this sign that seems to have replaced “CHILDREN AT PLAY” with “LIMITED SIGHT”. I guess they figured that car drivers no longer care if they run over children.


This flowering shrub (probably some species of leucadendron) makes a colorful splash.


This Little Free Library (on Branciforte Ave, if I remember right) was the first of three we saw.


Another fairly recent mural on Soquel.


Branciforte Plaza is now office, retail, and restaurant space, but it was originally built as a hospital. I’ve never been inside it.


The second Little Free Library is unusually placed on a driveway off of Ocean View.


This photo shows only a tiny portion of the model railroad on Ocean View, which fills the front yard (and presumably the back yard) of the house.


The third Little Free Library is by Ocean View Park, where we stopped to eat pastries from the Buttery. The bear claw was a little disappointing, but the marionberry puff was quite good. While in the park, I had to try out the long slides, which I remembered from 20 years ago. They have put ripples in the slide so that they are now quite slow—not the way I remember them.


We’d never previously visited the little park called Riverside Gardens. We did not see anyone else there either, despite the fine weather, so I guess it is not a very popular park. (The skate park about a block away was very busy, though.)


I did like this bicycle parking sculpture in Riverside Gardens, though it is not obviously a bike parking rack and needed a sign to let people know!


I’ve often seen these mosaic-covered stairs (the Barson Street stairs) from the top , but this is the first time I’ve walked up them.


We stopped downtown for a slice of pizza and visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz, so the sun was setting as we walked home.

I tried taking a number of pictures of birds on this walk, but none of them came out well.  I really have to get a new camera soon, as the cell phone doesn’t really do the job (despite being easy to carry).

2021 December 7

New endowment fund at Cabrillo College

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I try to direct my charitable giving either to organizations I feel a particular affinity for (like West Performing Arts, where my son had theater classes for 15 years, or the iGEM team at UCSC) or where I feel that the small amount I have to give will have outsize impact.  I really don’t see the point of giving money to rich organizations like Stanford University, and even my giving at UCSC is limited to giving to student projects that I feel some affinity for.


Our local community college is an efficient and effective way to improve education with small donations.

I have just given a gift (and a pledge for the next 4 years) to the Cabrillo College Foundation to start a new endowment fund—one to support the Cabrillo College Extension, which provides a large number of non-credit courses for kids, for working adults, and for retirees.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken one of the Extension courses, but now that I’m retired I’m much more likely to.

The Extension has been hurting for funds ever since the legislature has focussed almost exclusively on the transfer mission of the community colleges. And philanthropy through the Cabrillo College Foundation has focussed mainly on scholarships for matriculated students, with a little directed at the splashy cultural activities like the summer musicals, and some at vocational training—little or nothing was going to the Extension.

I’m not knocking the transfer mission nor the vocational training mission—those are indeed where the legislature should be investing in the college.  Nor am I knocking the cultural activities like summer musicals centered at the college—they are important also.  But people were overlooking the “recreational education” mission—the outreach to kids too young for college and the “making life good” courses for working adults and retirees.

I see the Extension as an essential part of Cabrillo College, but one that could easily be lost (many of the other community colleges have no such outreach to people who are not seeking degrees or certificates).  Since I was planning to give a modest amount to the Cabrillo College Foundation anyway, I asked how much it would take to set up an endowment fund for the Extension.  It turned out that I could afford to set up such a fund, if I spread the gifts out over a few years—so I’m doing that!  It isn’t a huge chunk of money, and the 4%/year payout will be a rather tiny amount for the Extension, but it’s a start.

If anyone else feels as I do that Cabrillo College Extension is a community treasure that is at risk, feel free to send a check to Cabrillo College Foundation, directing that the money be added to Cabrillo Extension Endowment (or just designating it as for the Extension program, in which case they can spend all the gift immediately rather than just the interest on it).  You can mail the check to Cabrillo College Foundation, 6500 Soquel Dr, Aptos, CA 95003 (please note the program you wish to support in the memo section of your check).  They also take donations on their website

2021 December 4

Secret Walks: Bay-Lighthouse

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On Saturday 4 December, my wife and I  walked the Bay Street to Lighthouse Field walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  The walk in the book is 2.2 miles, but we did not want to retrace our route along West Cliff, so we wandered off into the circles to get home instead.  The total walk was about 5.3 miles.

There are very few photos on this walk, as my Canon G10 camera failed with “Lens error, restart camera” after the first photo.  I took a few photos with my cell phone (a moto g(7)), but the phone is not nearly as easy for me to hold steady or aim, and has only digital zoom, so I took very few pictures.


The Chabad house on King Street near our house has a somewhat rusty steel menorah out this year.


There are several Banksia spinulosa bushes along Bay in La Barranca Park. We had to use Google image search to figure out what they were.


There are also a few fine madrone trees.


La Barranca Park does not have much public art—all we noticed was this small fishing-boat sculpture.

The walk in the book starts at Bay and West Cliff and takes the path along West Cliff overlooking Cowell Beach and the Wharf. We saw a sea otter and a surf scoter in the kelp beds below West Cliff Drive, but they were too far away for me to have gotten a picture even with my Canon camera—I did not even attempt to use the cell phone camera.

We ate lunch at Steamer Lane Supply, where I had a couple of good fish tacos and my wife enjoyed the kim-chee hot dog.

We continued the walk going around the lighthouse surfing museum, past the stairs that lead to It’s Beach, and across Lighthouse Field. We checked out the monarch-butterfly habitat, but saw only a handful of monarchs.

I had planned a route home from there ahead of time and had attempted to memorize it, but I made one wrong turn (turning on Centennial rather than Columbia, even though it did not match the mnemonic I had for the route), and so I had to turn on data on my phone to look at a map to figure out how to get back on course.


This was our planned route home—past Lighthouse Neighborhood Park, moving over to Oregon to the end of the alley, then Columbia to Monterey to Continental, walking the length of Graham, then the two walkways to the center of the circles, and back out along California.

modified route

For some reason I got confused on Oxford and turned on Centennial instead of going to the end of Oxford (probably confused by all the street names starting with C). That resulted in our turning on Santa Cruz instead of Monterey, so we did not end up opposite the walkways. After getting to Gharkey, I checked the map on my phone and realized what mistake I’d made, and we got back on track. After getting an It’s It ice-cream sandwich at the little grocery store on California, we decided to take Palm Street and Mason back, rather than California to Bay.


I rather like what this house has done with with small circular window.


Another house had some pique assiette mosaics made with glass marbles, with the square tiles set into pebble-dash pavement next to the sidewalk.


The same house had these colorful concrete ornaments that appear to have been case in plastic mixing bowls (except one that seems to have been cast in a frisbee).


We saw this Little Free Library (I think it was on Laguna).


And this one on Mason Street.

I was unable to fix the Canon G10 when I got home, despite following instructions from a couple of blogs. I eventually got the camera to be able to retract and extend the lens again, though it often jammed and got the lens error again, but I was not able to get it to focus any more. So I guess this camera is now trash, and I’ll definitely have to get a new one. I’m considering an ultra-zoom camera (most likely the Canon SX 740 HS).

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